The Royal Life Saving Society UK's (RLSS UK) NPLQ is the most awarded lifeguard qualification in the UK and Ireland and is also internationally recognised. More than 46,000 pool lifeguards qualify with the RLSS UK course every year, and there are currently more than 90,000 pool lifeguards qualified in the NPLQ – 95% of all UK pool lifeguards.  

RLSS UK is regulated by Ofqual, Qualifications Wales and CCEA in Northern Ireland.

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Completing a Lifeguard course?

Lifeguard Course Prerequisites  

Every candidate attending a National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) course must be 16-years-old or above at the time of taking the NPLQ final assessment and be able to:

  • Jump/dive into deep water
  • Swim 50 metres in less than 60 seconds
  • Swim 100 metres continuously on front and back in deep water
  • Tread water for 30 seconds
  • Surface dive to the floor of the pool
  • Climb out unaided without ladder/steps and where the pool design permits

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What is it like being a lifeguard?

Lifeguards benefit from varied working hours, which can easily fit around other commitments, the experience of working within a team, and the opportunity to progress within the leisure industry - most leisure managers start as pool lifeguards.

If you’d like to learn more about being a lifeguard, read Katie’s story.

Learn skills for life

There is the option to obtain additional qualifications during an NPLQ course, these will require additional hours:


  • An excellent starting point for a career in the leisure industry
  • Opportunity for career progression as most leisure managers start as Pool Lifeguards
  • Varied working hours
  • Work within a team
  • The NPLQ is recognised around the world, so potential to work and travel
  • A great way for students to fund studies
  • Learn essential life skills, including First Aid and CPR

About the NPLQ 

The NPLQ covers all elements of Pool Rescue Techniques, Lifeguarding Theory, First Aid and CPR. The course is physically demanding and will include swimming to set times, lifting casualties and diving to the deepest part of the swimming pool. Training and assessment for the NPLQ are in three sections, and candidates must successfully pass all to attain the qualification.

About the assessment

Assessment for the NPLQ takes place at the end of the course. It determines your knowledge and understanding of the principles of working as a pool lifeguard and assesses your ability to apply the skills and knowledge in a work-related environment.

The assessment is split into three sections:

  • Practical pool assessment
  • Theory Assessment for all three sections
  • Practical First Aid & CPR assessment

How do I renew my NPLQ?

NPLQ renewal candidates may renew their qualification within the period of validity of their existing qualification as stated on their certificate. This will include a full assessment of lifeguard knowledge and skills by an independent assessor. Candidates must have access to the most up-to-date copy of ‘The Lifeguard’ manual prior to assessment.

The following is required to be completed by candidates prior to the renewal assessment of their qualification to demonstrate their ongoing professional competence:

20 hours of Continued Professional Development (CPD) within the last two years from the date of the previous assessment covering content from the NPLQ syllabus:

  • In-water swimming pool rescue skills (at least 4 hrs)
  • CPR (at least 4 hrs)
  • First Aid (at least 4 hrs)
  • Lifeguard theory (at least 4 hours)

Continued Professional Development can be achieved by:

  • Attendance at Lifeguard ongoing training and competency assessment* (strongly recommended)
  • Attendance at alternative training, face-to-face or online, relating to In-water swimming pool rescue skills, CPR, First Aid and Lifeguard theory

Approved Prior Learning (APL)

In some circumstances, candidates may be able to show evidence of prior achievement to exempt themselves from sections of the course. Exemptions may apply to holders of the following awards and qualifications (guided learning time credits are shown in brackets):

  • RLSS UK National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (12 hours)
  • RLSS UK National Rescue Award for Swimming Teachers and Coaches (6 hours)
  • RLSS UK Emergency Response Pool Qualification (6 hours)
  • RLSS UK Open Water Lifeguard Qualification (6 hours)
  • Regulated First Aid at Work Certificate or Occupational First Aid Certificate (9 hours)
  • Regulated Emergency First Aid at Work Certificate (3 hours)
  • Regulated Paediatric First Aid Certificate (6 hours)
  • Regulated Emergency Paediatric First Aid Certificate (3 hours)
  • STA Pool Lifeguard Qualification (9 hours)
  • HABC Pool Lifeguard Qualification (9 hours)

Where candidates wish to claim a training exemption, they must provide the course trainer with original qualifications prior to the start of the course. A maximum of 12 hours of accreditation for prior learning may be claimed.


NPLQ accredited details with Ofqual and qualification specification

National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) is the marketing name for Ofqual Register titles - RLSS UK Qualifications Level 3 Award in Pool Lifeguarding (NPLQ Gen 10).

NPLQ Gen 10
RLSS UK Qualifications Level 3 Award in Pool Lifeguarding Qualification (Qualification number: 610/2603/7, COO Number: COO/4788/7)

Note: the minimum number of credits required to achieve a ’pass’ = 5 credits

This qualification comprises the following units:

  • Unit 1 - Swimming Pool Safety Operation and Supervision (F/650/6714 - credit value = 2)
  • Unit 2 - Pool Lifeguard Emergency Rescue Skills (L/650/6709 - credit value = 1)
  • Unit 3 - First Aid, Illness and Injury Management in a Pool Environment (D/650/6713 - credit value = 2)

Click here to download the qualification specification for the RLSS UK Qualifications Level 3 Award in Pool Lifeguarding Qualification.

Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) 

NPLQ meets the CIMSPA professional standards for lifeguarding.

How to get your certificate

New candidates (with no prior history with RLSS UK) will need to create a RLSS UK Account. Anyone who already has a RLSS UK award, qualification, or RLSS UK Membership only needs to activate their RLSS UK Account using their Society Number. Your Society Number is on any previous certificate or correspondence from RLSS UK - it begins with a 3.

Please carefully input or check your email address to ensure you receive your account verification email. Verification is the crucial final step. You can then log in to your RLSS UK Account and access your certificates by clicking on ‘Awards & Training’, then ‘Training’ (from the list), then finally, the green circle with a white arrow to download your certificates. Any problems, please do not create another account; contact us at [email protected]

Log in to my RLSS UK Account

How to download my certificate

Ongoing support with Lifeguard Membership

Qualified lifeguards can access our UK-wide lifeguard network by joining our Lifeguard Membership for just £16 per annum. 

Click here to find out more information about RLSS UK Lifeguard Membership


Many successful people started their careers as lifeguards and their journeys have taken them to fantastic futures. Find out who boasts being a lifeguard on their CV.

Next steps

There is the option to obtain additional qualifications during an NPLQ course such as First Aid at Work, Emergency First Aid at Work, Anaphylaxis Management, and Automated External Defibrillation (AED)

On completion of the NPLQ, you can use Approved Prior Learning (APL) to complete other lifeguarding or first aid qualifications. To further your career in the leisure industry, you may also want to consider completing a National Pool Supervisor Qualification (NPSQ) and then a National Pool Management Qualification (NPMQ), or become a Trainer Assessor and train the next generation of NPLQ holders. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click here for FAQs about NPLQ

Click here for more information about becoming a Trainer, Assessor, or quality assure RLSS UK qualifications and awards

Click here to become a RLSS UK Approved Training Centre or Provider

Click here to view all our qualifications