Becoming an Open Water Lifeguard is increasingly popular and opens up a wealth of future career opportunities for lifeguards within this expanding leisure industry sector. With an open water lifeguard qualification, you can work at an open water swimming venue, an aqua park, watersports centres, or a lifeguard at events and festivals.  

“Open water lifeguarding has opened doors to places I never imagined, from lakes and rivers at swimming venues to festivals and events.” Open Water Lifeguard[i]

To train to become an Open Water Lifeguard, you can complete the RLSS UK Open Water Lifeguard (OWL) qualification, which has been specifically designed to equip open water lifeguards with the skills required to supervise and provide rescue cover for planned, organised and risk-assessed activities in still or non-tidal water. The skills learned in the OWL training and the daily tasks required of an open water lifeguard have many additional benefits that can assist you in many other aspects of your life.

Some of the main benefits of being an open water lifeguard, as told by lifeguards we spoke to, are outlined below:[ii]

The chance to work outdoors

54% of open water lifeguards told us they were attracted to the role by the chance to work outdoors[iii] and reflect a passion for outdoor water/water-based activities:

“Working as an open water lifeguard is a great way to help people and enjoy the outdoors.”

“I think it gives the opportunity to have a fun work environment outside.”

“I love being outside on the water.”

Meet new people and develop teamwork skills 

Working with others is essential to being a lifeguard and keeping the public safe whilst they safely enjoy activities in water. Many open water lifeguards recognise the social benefits of the role;

“(You) meet lots of new people all the time; my best friends were made through my jobs as a lifeguard in various locations.”

“It is a great job that allows you to meet new people.”

“I've found working for the aqua park enjoyable and have made great friends.”

“It’s a great way to meet new friends and interact with new people.”

Working well as a team offers lifeguards the chance to develop valuable skills and provides support, especially in rescue situations and different points of view on dealing with scenarios – these skills are vital not just for the job but also in many other aspects of your life. 92% of current lifeguards believe the role has helped improve their teamwork skills[iv]. One aqua park lifeguard stated: “Lifeguarding is a good job, develop skills, meet people, work in a team, fun, responsibility, feel that what you're doing matters.”

Lifeguarding offers flexible working hours

The working patterns of a lifeguard can also allow for working part-time, full-time, or on a casual basis to fit around other commitments, such as work whilst home from studying, travelling or pursuing other hobbies or sports is particularly valued by lifeguards. The seasonal nature of outdoor lifeguarding especially fits the lifestyle of individuals who wish to travel the world, and the training gives them the skills required to work in a similar role abroad, with more than 50 per cent of lifeguards who would consider working aboard would like to lifeguard in Australia or the USA. 

92% of lifeguards who responded to a recent lifeguard survey said they would recommend the job to others[v].

“It’s a great way to travel and meet new people.”

Every day is different for an Open Water Lifeguard

The duties of a lifeguard also mean that two days are never the same, especially as many sites offer a variety of activities, including swimming, aqua park and watersports, and the role also means that you need to adapt to many different scenarios. The job is very rewarding, with 92% of lifeguards working at lakes feeling like they made a difference[vi]. One Open Water Lifeguard commented about the role: “I like making a difference. Ensuring that everyone can exercise and play around safely.” Another said, "Lifeguarding gives me a sense of responsibility and duty of care, which is extremely rewarding.”

“I enjoy helping people overcome challenges and use their skills. I also really enjoy the life saving part of the job and doing rescues.”

Train to become an Open Water Lifeguard

The RLSS UK Open Water Lifeguard (OWL) qualification gives candidates the skills and knowledge required to be an open water lifeguard. The course is at least 18 hours of training followed by a practical assessment and covers; the environment, hazards and supervision, responding to an emergency and taking action, and CPR and First Aid. Before starting the course, candidates should be competent and confident in open water, able to submerge under the water confidently and swim at least 400 metres in a pool/ open water, swimming continuously on their front and showing urgency. Once completed, the qualification is valid for two years. 

Open water lifeguard (OWL) courses are held at locations across the UK and Ireland. 

Find OWL courses near you

Open Water Lifeguard jobs

Spring is the main time of the year for open water lifeguard recruitment in preparation for the summer season. There are external job opportunities on the RLSS UK website, or contact your local open water facilities to enquire about any jobs they have available.

Book yourself onto an OWL course today and take the first step to becoming an open water lifeguard.  

Find out more about the Open Water Lifeguard (OWL) qualification

[i] Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) Lifeguard Surveys (2022-2023)
[ii] Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) Lifeguard Surveys (2022-2023)
[iii] Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) Lifeguard Survey (2022), n=186 OWL qualification holders
[iv] Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) Lifeguard Survey (2023), n=2,456 RLSS UK qualified lifeguards working in a lifeguard role
[v] Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) Lifeguard Survey (2023), n=2,456 RLSS UK qualified lifeguards working in a lifeguard role
[vi] Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) Lifeguard Survey (2023), n=65 RLSS UK qualified lifeguards working at a lake