Published 15 August 2014

Lifeguarding offers a fantastic, rewarding and potentially long-term career in the leisure industry, which has many additional benefits including international travel, excellent base wage and developing key life skills.

Access to lifeguard training has never been easier thanks to the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) and the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ). Once candidates successfully complete the NPLQ they are fully qualified to work as a Pool Lifeguard. The qualification is widely recognised as the professional benchmark in leisure and, is generally a recruitment requirement for a number of leisure centre jobs.

The NPLQ is made up of 36 hours of physical training and classroom work. This is followed by practical assessments in and out of the water covering; pool rescue, first aid, CPR and lifesaving skills.

There are numerous benefits to becoming a lifeguard. Lifeguards gain high levels of responsibility and leadership, and develop skills which offer lifetime benefits. The knowledge gained from the NPLQ can also be very beneficial from an academic perspective as 18-year-old lifeguard Lauryn Deverson explained: “The First Aid skills I gained from my NPLQ training helped tremendously when completing my health and social studies qualification at college and I will be heading to Edge Hill University in September to begin my course in Child Nursing where I will be able to build on this knowledge.”

Lifeguards are able to work casual, part-time or full-time hours meaning there are flexible options available. This is perfect for students looking to fit work around their studies and other commitments. Plus, because the NPLQ is nationally recognised, qualified lifeguards are able to apply for jobs anywhere in the UK, perfect for those who wish to continue lifeguarding after relocating for university.

Lifeguarding courses are hosted in pools and leisure centres across the country and there are few pre-requisites although candidates have to achieve the high standards expected in order to become an RLSS UK lifeguard. Candidates must be 16-years-old and able to meet basic swimming standards, these include; diving, treading water and swimming 50 metres in less than 60 seconds.

International work experience is also an option available for holders of the NPLQ with many summer camps and swim schools looking to hire British lifeguarding staff. Zak Pichon Flannery, 22, who – after being unemployed for a year – completed his NPLQ before securing a seven month, full-time contract as a lifeguard and swimming teacher at Neilson’s Holidays in Sivota, Greece. Zak said: “The skills, opportunities and experiences I have gained from completing the NPLQ have been incredible!”

In terms of progressing into a full time career, becoming a lifeguard is a fantastic entry point for a career in the leisure industry. Many leisure managers started their careers as lifeguards as well as key senior staff including Executive Director of IQL UK, the trading subsidiary of RLSS UK, Tara Dillon. She said: “The NPLQ provides a great opportunity for school leavers looking for a career in the leisure sector. If you walk into a leisure centre at any given day of the week there’s a good chance an NPLQ course will be running. Lifeguarding is a very rewarding job and equips people with key life skills which can be used in any career role.”

17-year-old Jack Cohen, from Brighton, decided to head straight into employment after completing his GCSEs and BTEC exams, and working in the leisure industry has given him a clear, structured route for career progression. Jack completed his NPLQ in the summer of 2012 and has played a key role in the lifeguarding team at Brighton Swimming Centre. Jack said: “Becoming a lifeguard and holding this important qualification is very rewarding and gives me a real sense of responsibility.

“It’s such a valuable life skill and since leaving school, I’m earning a regular wage and working in an environment that I really enjoy. I’m a very active person and for me it beats sitting at a desk for a living!”