1 May 2024

From this May, the RLSS UK’s National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) will carry UCAS Tariff points for the first time, making the most popular lifeguarding certification in the UK and Ireland even more appealing to students.  

The enduring popularity of lifeguarding among 16- to 21-year-olds represents a huge opportunity for pool operators grappling with ongoing recruitment and retention issues 

Working as a lifeguard is already a popular choice for further and higher education students. Two-thirds of the 2,456 current lifeguards we interviewed for our 2023 Lifeguard Survey are in full or part-time education. According to our research, 96 per cent of lifeguards intending to go to college or university in the next two years are interested in continuing their lifeguarding duties alongside their studies. 

The study, which gives insight into what matters most to lifeguards, shows that working as a lifeguard can be incredibly satisfying, with 84% of respondents rating their experience as good or excellent. Lifeguards value the diversity of the role and the transferrable skills it offers - 93% of those who took part in our survey said lifeguarding enhanced their communication skills, 92% believed it had improved their teamwork skills, whilst 89% said it had boosted their self-confidence.  

Now elevated to a Level 3 qualification and officially registered with UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), the NPLQ carries eight UCAS Tariff points, helping students secure a place at university or onto further studies and bolstering its appeal. Several other RLSS UK Level 3 qualifications are now on the UCAS Register, including First Aid at Work, sometimes combined with the NPLQ and offered by pool operators, carrying even more UCAS Tariff points!     

The shortage of lifeguards continues to be a pressing issue for the UK health and fitness industry. The 2023 Workforce Insights Report from CIMSPA (Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity) - the most comprehensive analysis of trends in the UK sport and physical activity workforce – found that lifeguarding is one of the most sought-after skills by employers. In fact, 40% of all job postings for sports and leisure assistants in 2022 required lifeguarding skills, demonstrating just how critical these skills are to the sector and the safety of facilities.  

Students are a viable solution for operators looking to address lifeguard shortages and fill vacancies.  Recognising that students are much more likely to relocate for university and college, we urge operators to assist lifeguards in transferring to other swimming pools during their studies to retain these skills and return to their jobs during holiday periods or after studying.   

A staggering 92% of the lifeguards we spoke to have already recommended a job as a lifeguard to others. Reflecting on their experience, one lifeguard told us: “It is the best job ever. It’s so much fun, and you are never bored because there is always something to do.” 

By developing robust retention strategies, we believe operators will increase the likelihood of student lifeguards sharing the benefits and opportunities of lifeguarding with their peers, helping to attract even more students into the profession.  

More than 90 per cent of all pool lifeguards in the UK and Ireland hold our National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ). Open to anyone over sixteen years old, NPLQ courses cover all elements of pool rescue techniques, lifeguarding theory, first aid. and CPR,and they run at leisure centres and venues across the UK and Ireland.  

Now carrying UCAS Tariff points and with skills that last a lifetime, the NPLQ presents even more opportunities for students, opening doors both during their studies and in their future careers