How do I Become a Red Cross Lifeguard?

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  • Written By: Amy Radishofski
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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To become a Red Cross lifeguard, or more accurately, to become a Red Cross-certified lifeguard, you'll need to pass a variety of tests. These tests include a written test, a swimming test, and an emergency medical skills test. After passing these tests, you'll be awarded a Red Cross-issued lifeguard certification. This certification will authorize you to serve in a variety of lifeguarding positions that accept Red Cross certification. To become a Red Cross lifeguard, you'll also need to be at least 15 years old.

Training sessions will be provided for the potential lifeguard. These sessions will teach you proper stroke technique, as well as first aid and other life saving techniques. Attendance at each of the training sessions is required. To find out fee and schedules for training sessions, contact your local Red Cross branch.

Swimming ability is one of the most important prerequisites to become a Red Cross lifeguard. You'll need to be able to swim breaststroke and freestyle, and have the endurance to swim for long distances during the testing process. The swimming test includes 300 yards (about 275 meters) of non-stop swimming — 100 yards (about 91 meters) of front crawl, 100 yards (about 91 meters) of breaststroke, and another 100 yards (about 91 meters) of either freestyle or breaststroke.


In addition to swimming proficiency, you'll also need to demonstrate solid emergency medical skills. For this test, you'll be trained in standard first aid, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and you'll be taught to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). These skills will be tested through drills conducted both in and out of the water.

Becoming a Red Cross-certified lifeguard also requires that you successfully complete a timed trial. The trial consists of swimming 50 yards (about 46 meters), surface dive 7 to 10 feet (about 2 to 3 meters), bring a ten pound (about 4.5 kg) weight to the surface, and swim back 50 yards (about 46 meters).

You'll also be given a written test. This test will check your proficiency in a variety of lifeguard-related rules. A score of 80 percent or higher on the written exam is required.

The Red Cross lifeguard certification and first aid certification are valid for three years while the CPR and AED certifications are only valid for one year each. Current Red Cross lifeguards may also attend training review sessions though they are not mandatory for recertification.


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