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All You Need to Know About the Lifeguard Life

If you are going home for the summer like I am, you are probably going to be looking for a summer job. Summer only lasts a few months, so finding an employer that will take you in for that time is a little difficult. The easiest job to look for is a seasonal one, a place only open during the summer, and the first one that comes to most people’s mind is being a lifeguard.

I was a lifeguard for three summers in high school, and it was one of the most fun jobs I’ve had so far. Now, from my experience, it is fairly easy getting this job. All you have to do is show enthusiasm, pass all the tests, and boom, you get a red swimsuit and a whistle. If you are interested in becoming a lifeguard for the summer, here are some things you should know before you commit.

GIF Courtesy of Giphy

There is a lot of training to go through.

You have to learn CPR, basic first aid, different saving techniques, company protocols, pool rules, how to use the AED, the whistle commands, and many more. All of this training will lead up to your final test, that you have to pass before you can become a guard. The tests include, grabbing a brick/dummy from the bottom of the pool and lifting it above your head, treading water for two minutes without using your hands, performing a CPR/rescue breath scenario, performing first aid scenarios, performing each save properly (including using a backboard), and a written test. After all of that is done, you will get your certificates and submit your sizes for your new guard suit and gear.

Your first day will be nerve-wracking.

You will come to the realization that you are in charge of a lot of lives, and it is your responsibility to make sure everyone lives. You will have to jump in and save a kid from actively drowning (flailing above the water, struggling to swim). You will have to get out the stinger of a bee or fix a scrape. Things can go bad and it is possible that a situation comes up when you have to call 911, and everything becomes very real, very fast. Personally, the first week I started I had stress dreams about it. It got so bad that I almost quit. If that happens to you, don’t worry, you will get used to it and you will start to have fun.

The training you do before you start the job doesn’t end there.

Throughout the course of the summer, there are sessions that you are required to go to. We called them “in-service”, but they are used to test the guards to make sure they still know what to do in emergency situations. Along with that, you will get random tests during the week. “Baby drops” are very common, the head guard will ~secretly~ drop a baby doll in the water you are watching, to see if you are properly scanning your area. There are also scenarios in which a fake drowning will happen and all the guards in the break room have to go through the emergency protocol in order to “save” the victim before medics come to take over the situation. All of this is to make sure you are still doing your job well, and are prepared for any situation to happen.

GIF Courtesy of Giphy (In real life lifeguards don’t dive in, you will never see one dive, it is improper saving technique.)

Each month there are audits.

Someone higher up on the lifeguard ladder comes to observe the guards and tests them to make sure they are still doing their job well and that it is safe for the public. These audits are random and no one knows when they happen, so you always have to be alert and on your A game.

The days you work are long.

It will get hot and you will be tired. The really hot days, you have to make sure you are constantly drinking water and putting on sunscreen. Heat strokes are a real and dangerous thing, so you not only have to make sure the patrons are well, but yourself as well. You don’t want to pass out while on duty (it has almost happened to me on multiple occasions). You can seriously injure yourself if you don’t use sunscreen, drink water or eat food, so be cautious and listen to your body.

There will be cold days.

Yes, people will come in on windy, cold days. Sometimes, they can be worse than the very hot days. Be prepared for those as well. Get a guard sweatshirt. There are less personal dangers on cold days, but it is really annoying, so bundle up.

Although there are a lot of responsibilities with the job, it is a lot of fun as well.

You will become really close to the guards on your team, creating new bonds and friendships. You will get a great tan, besides the horrible tan lines of the one piece (tan circle on your back, but with a pale stomach, not too cute). You are in charge, it is nice to get to yell at kids if they aren’t following the rules. If your bosses are cool, you get to play on all of the stuff at the end of the day. You get to break all the rules after hours, so have fun (slide races are the best)! After a long day of work, eating anything will taste like the best thing ever and you will have the best sleep of your life.


Overall, being a lifeguard, even for a summer, is simply the best. If you are interested in a summer job that is easy, yet full of responsibilities, then this is for you. I make being a lifeguard sound a lot scarier than it actually is, but I’m just telling you the truth.

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Tory Appel

Columbia Chicago

Hello! My name is Tory Appel and I am a student at Columbia College Chicago studying advertising and photography. I am also working at 101.9 the Mix and 100.3 WSHE as a Promotional Assistant, and I'm loving every minute of it! In my free time I like to take portraits, read, and watch scary movies.
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