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Most everyone likes swimming. Swimming in pools, swimming in lakes, rushing down waterslides at water parks, swimming at ocean-side beaches. There are so many nice things about swimming. You get exercise, you can cool off in the summer heat, you can play and frolic with your friends and family. Of course, swimming has its downsides. People can dive incorrectly and injure themselves. They can run on the slippery deck and fall, cracking their heads. And they can get tired, go too far out, and drown.

Luckily, there are lifeguards, so called because when we go to public swimming pool and beaches, they guard our lives. They monitor the behavior of people swimming and playing at the facility, ensuring that no one goes home hurt. They also monitor the water, looking for strong tides and undertow, dangerous animals or chemicals in the water, as well as dangerous behavior. They explain and enforce facility rules in an effort to keep everyone safe, and sometimes deal with rowdy, disobedient patrons.

In case of an accident, lifeguards perform first aid. They may only have to apply a bandage, but they may be called upon to perform CPR. Lifeguards are highly trained, and re-certify each year to ensure their knowledge is fresh and up-to-date.

Some lifeguards also take entrance fees, answer questions, clean and maintain pools, and complete paperwork regarding things like chlorine content, tide conditions, pollution assessments, or pH levels. They may also work part of the time as first aid instructors or swimming teachers, helping adults and children learn about proper swimming techniques and safe behaviors around the water.

Lifeguards do not spend each day languishing poolside or working on a beach tan. They are alert, attentive, and trained to handle any situation, big or small. They are experts in accident prevention and life preservation, watching over us as we frolic, ensuring we only ever have a good time at the beach.
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Grand Canyon University
Which career path will you take – Business, Nursing, Education, Psychology? Something else? GCU offers more than 100 majors to get you started!
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  • B.S. in Behavioral Health Science - Trauma
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a lifeguard? Lifeguards need to be calm and work well and efficiently, even under pressure. They should be friendly and patient, with excellent communication and listening skills. They need to be warm, gentle, as well as firm and authoritarian when necessary. They should be good leaders, and enjoy taking charge. They need to be able to work well within a team. Lifeguards need to be aware of safety issues, be observant and, of course, they need to be excellent swimmers.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Monitor water and public at a variety of swim environments
  • Drain and clean pool
  • Clean up beach front area
  • Monitor pH of water
  • Discipline disobedient swimmers
  • Teach swimming classes
  • Re-certify training regularly
  • The typical day for a lifeguard involves a lot of watching, waiting, and very little acting. Usually, a whole shift will go by and they only thing the lifeguard will do is warn a few children about dangerous activity. Still, they are constantly on the look out for anything serious. They may teach classes after guarding for a while, and do some routine maintenance and safety checks of equipment. They don't do much travel, unless they work at a number of places throughout the community. Many lifeguards work outdoors during the summer in water parks, wading pools, splash pads, and outdoor pools.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Lifeguards work at indoor and outdoor spools, water parks, wave pools, ocean and lakefront beaches, and wading pools. They may work part-time, or only during the summer months. They may also work as swimming instructors. They work in all conditions, including under the hot sun and during cold, windy days. They work in teams, although at small beaches or wading pools they may work alone. They often work in shifts, depending on the facility. They may teach for a few hours, guard for a few hours, and then teach some more.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Lifeguards can become swimming teachers, lifeguard instructors, CPR and first aid instructors, water sports instructors and coaches, and manage public pools and recreation centers. They can get into teaching public schools, camp administration, fitness training, fitness instruction, marketing, or public relations. They can become paramedics, nurses, or doctors.

  Educational Paths  
There are specific guidelines for lifeguards, and the more training they have, the more responsibility they get.

Some lifeguards also obtain the Red Cross Lifesaving Instructor's Certificate, St. John's First Aid Certificate and training in CPR. Serious lifeguards may want to pursue university or college programs in things like kinesiology, biology, physical education or recreation and fitness programming.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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