Being a lifeguard isn't as glamorous or adventurous as "Baywatch" reruns suggest -- and you may not look as good as Pamela Anderson in a bathing suit -- but you can still provide a valuable service to the public in this field. Your primary duties would include ensuring patrons or visitors abide by safety rules of the pool, rescuing swimmers who need assistance, ensuring all swimming and lifesaving devices work properly and monitoring the chemical levels in the pool. Once you pass the practical and written exam after lifeguard training, expect to earn slightly over $20,000 per year.
Income and Qualifications
Lifeguards usually get paid by the hour. Those who worked year-round earned average annual incomes of $20,720 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or $9.96 per hour. To become a lifeguard, you only need to be 15 or 16 years old in most states. Many employers, however, prefer hiring applicants with high school educations or GEDS for permanent positions. You'll also need to be certified in lifeguard training and CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Other essential qualifications include physical stamina and keen observation and communication skills.
Income by Industry
Average incomes for lifeguards vary somewhat by industry. They earned the highest annual incomes of $30,790 working for state government agencies, according to the BLS. If you worked for an assisted living facility for the elderly, you'd make $23,210 per year. As an employee of local governments, which own and manage most city swimming pools, you'd earn $22,100 annually. Lifeguards earned $19,110 working for RV parks and recreational camps, while those employed at amusement parks earned $18,660 per year.
Income by State
Lifeguards earned the highest annual incomes of $35,640 in Hawaii. Your salary as a lifeguard would also be relatively high in California or the District of Columbia, at $27,650 or $25,290 per year, respectively. Expect to earn slightly less in Florida or Colorado -- $22,500 or $20,800, respectively. If you worked in Ohio or Texas, you'd earn only $18,410 or $18,050 per year, respectively.
Jobs for lifeguards, ski patrol and other recreational protective service workers should increase 12 percent in the next decade, according to the BLS, which is about average. Job opportunities rely heavily on state and local budgets. Therefore, you'll probably find more lifeguard job opportunities when the economy improves. Seasonal jobs are usually available at beaches, while indoor water parks and pools need lifeguards year-round.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Data for Occupations Not Covered in Detail: Lifeguards, Ski Patrol and Other Recreational Protective Service Workers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Recreational Protective Service Workers
- American Lifeguard Association: Lifeguard Course Overview
- American Red Cross: Lifeguarding
- YMCA of Greater Dayton: Lifeguard
- Great Wolf Lodge: Lifeguard
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images