What does a Swim Instructor do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A swimming instructor provides instruction in swimming to people at all levels of ability, from young children taking basic swimming classes to adults who want to learn new swimming techniques or expand their swimming skills. Swim instructors are generally excellent swimmers themselves, and in order to work as swimming teachers, they usually need to take some safety and certification courses in lifeguarding, first aid, and related topics, to make sure that their students will be safe while in the pool.

Swim instructors often have a background in aquatic sports.
Swim instructors often have a background in aquatic sports.

A swim instructor's goal is to get people comfortable swimming at the level that they are aiming for. For an instructor who works with young children, this might revolve around making sure that children are safe in the water so that if they fall into a pool or are swept overboard while out boating, they will be able to swim until an adult comes to help. For swim instructors who work with adults, their classes can include lessons in advanced swimming techniques.

A swim instructor must know how to perform CPR.
A swim instructor must know how to perform CPR.

Some swim instructors act as coaches, helping their students prepare for swimming competitions, while others focus on teaching basic skills, with less of an emphasis on competition. In addition to providing instruction in swimming, a swim instructor may also teach diving and basic safety so that their students feel comfortable in the water and so that they can help other people in an emergency. Swim instructors can also teach safety and lifeguarding classes which are specifically designed for people interested in water rescue.

Swim instructors should be able to make people feel comfortable in the water as well as learn techniques.
Swim instructors should be able to make people feel comfortable in the water as well as learn techniques.

Swim instructors can help people find the appropriate equipment and gear for swimming, and they may also administer tests to determine how fit students are, and to allow them to take a class in the next level of difficulty. A swim instructor may also supervise water safety programs for the pools or health centers they work for, and they may be involved in water safety programs for the general community, including classes in basic water rescue topics for emergency responders.

Some swimming instructors will work with adults who wish to learn new swimming techniques.
Some swimming instructors will work with adults who wish to learn new swimming techniques.

Someone who is interested in working as a swim instructor should take swim classes to get familiar with instruction styles, and to progress to the highest level of swimming ability. He or she should also take safety certification classes, including CPR, first aid, and water rescue. It may help to work as an assistant instructor or aid with an experienced instructor to get familiar with the process before seeking employment as a swim instructor, and some swim instructors also join professional organizations which provide them with certification and access to continuing education.

Swim instructors may also work as lifeguards.
Swim instructors may also work as lifeguards.
A swim instructor working with children must always be sure that a chid is safe in the water.
A swim instructor working with children must always be sure that a chid is safe in the water.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I was thinking about getting a private swimming instructor for my daughter last year, so I looked into some prices in the area. A couple of well qualified instructors charged only around $30 an hour, and that didn't sound so bad to me. That's about what I paid for guitar lessons, so I could swing that.

However, I dug a little deeper and found that group lessons are actually cheaper, if you plan to take a lot of them. They are usually sold by the package, and different packages include different numbers of sessions.

So, I purchased a package of eight sessions and paid about $50 less than an equal amount of time would have cost with a private instructor. I figured the social aspect of the shared lessons would do my daughter good, anyway.


@seag47 – Most city pool swim instructors are really good at what they do. I got my lessons from one, and I learned how to keep my head above water in just one lesson.

I went on to become such a good swimmer that I joined my school's swim team. I could never have done this without the help of my instructor.

One thing that makes the city pool instructors in my area so good is that they also serve as lifeguards. They are highly trained and capable of saving lives, so of course, they know how to teach people to swim.

They sit in lifeguard chairs all day, looking out for everyone. At 2 p.m., they climb down from their chairs and clear out the pool for people who have purchased group lessons. I like to sit and watch young children learning to swim, because they remind me of myself at that age.


I used to go swimming at the city pool with my friends when we were young teenagers. I was too terrified of getting water up my nose to take a lesson myself, but I got to witness several people getting group lessons, one of whom was my good friend.

The swim instructor would start out with her hand under a person's belly, and she would have the girl extend their arms and legs. Then, she would tell her how to make proper swimming motions, and she kept promising her that she would not let go.

My friend was hesitant at first, but once she learned that she could trust her, she loosened up and did as she was told. Finally, the instructor asked if my friend was ready for her to remove her hand from her stomach, and once she had permission, she let my friend go. We were all amazed to see her swimming across the pool.

The instructor was not astounded like we were. She does this all the time, and this is normal for her. However, my friends and I knew how scared this girl had been prior to her lesson, and we understood the significance of this accomplishment.


I really wish my parents had let me take lessons from the local swim instructor. My dad knew that I had a crush on him, though, so he refused to let me participate in a lesson that would involve him touching me.

I nagged him so much about needing swimming lessons that one day, he picked me up and threw me in our pool. As he was carrying me out back, he told me that the best and simplest way to learn how to swim was out of necessity, and then, he tossed me into the deep end!

I came up sputtering, and I think I only floated to the top because I had taken a big breath before being thrown into the water. I splashed around sporadically and managed to tread water to the edge of the pool.

However, this made me terrified of water for many years. When I moved out on my own, I did take swimming lessons, and the instructor was so good at his job that I overcame my fear and got a pool of my own. I think that the best quality a swim instructor can have is patience, and mine definitely had plenty of that with me.


I have fond memories of taking swimming lessons from a swim instructor when I was younger. I learned how to do all the various strokes, how to tread water, and all about water safety.

I think it was really beneficial, because I'm not scared of the water now, and I can obviously swim as an adult. I have a few friends that never learned how to swim, and they're at an obvious disadvantage in water situations. If you know how to tread water you have a way better chance of surviving if you somehow get stranded in the water than if you don't know how to swim at all.


@indemnifyme - I've had a few friends who started out just lifeguarding and then progressed to doing swimming lessons. It's actually not a bad paying gig, especially if you can work as a private swim instructor.

Private swim instructors usually do one on one lessons with kids as opposed to teaching a whole class. In some wealthier areas where a lot of people have pools, I've heard of private swim instructors actually going to people's homes to do the swimming lessons. That's quite the contrast to taking your kids to a public pool and doing a group lesson!


My stepsister worked as a lifeguard and children swimming instructor when she was just out of high school. She had to do some pretty serious swim instructor training (CPR, safety classes, etc) but she really enjoyed the job.

Her favorite thing was teaching beginners. It was always really rewarding for her when everything "clicked" and her students learned how to swim! She told me sometime she would witness kids go from being totally scared of the water to swimming around like little fish and never wanting to get out of the pool! Those were her favorite success stories.

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