A lifeguards raft floats in the pool

Pros and Cons of Being a Lifeguard

While it might seem like being a lifeguard is largely a way high schoolers and college kids get paid for working on their tan, there’s a lot more to it than that. It can be a way to make money in the summer, or a potential full time gig, depending upon where you want to work. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of being a lifeguard.

Pro: Lifeguards get to spend every day at the beach (or pool or lake or…).

Lifeguards are there to make sure everyone follows the rules and that nobody drowns. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy sitting in the sun or hanging out on the edge of the water. If you’re not an outdoor person, but love the water, you might check into local indoor pools or gyms who employ lifeguards. Plus, most lifeguards get the benefit of swimming for free.

Con: You’re going to get tanlines and sunburns—or have to sit in the rain and wind.

If you’re there to work on your tan, ladies, be warned: you don’t get to wear a bikini. While it’s a great way to get brown for the summer, if you haven’t been out much, you’re going to want to slather on the sunscreen. Being outside during the hottest part of the day for a full shift of work is almost a guaranteed sunburn. You should also think about the risks of skin cancer later on in life. Also, not all pools close down for a rainy day (and the ocean certainly doesn’t). There may be days when you have to sit in misery, freezing and getting drizzled on while nobody comes to swim.

Pro: You’re literally at work to save lives.

Being a lifeguard can be extremely rewarding. While saving someone may be a (hopefully!) rare occurrence, it can be an amazing event. You aren’t just there to fish people out of the water, either. You may be needed to bandage scraped knees, bloody noses, or even more serious injuries like a broken arm.

Con: A lot of parents mistake “lifeguard” for “babysitter.”

Not everyone seems to read the sign that says not to leave your kids unattended. The really miserable part about this is that many parents will expect that you should have been keeping an eye specifically on their child. If you’re going to be a lifeguard, you have to be bold, but polite. You also have to be prepared to be put into some awkward situations.

Pro: You get to show off your swimming skills and become CPR, First Aid, and AED trained.

Just because the majority of a lifeguard’s time is spent sitting and watching doesn’t mean they didn’t spend a lot of time getting certifications. To be a lifeguard you have to shell out around $100 to get the required certifications—but most of those are something that can help you out in almost any emergency situation. Most places require their lifeguards to have a certain degree of swimming abilities, as well as knowing how to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to adults, children, and infants, handle first aid situations, and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) if someone’s heart stops.

Con: You have to be prepared to enforce rules, deal with blood, pick up trash, and be really, really bored.

If you’re afraid to tell people they aren’t following the rules, you’re going to have trouble being an effective life guard. On top of that, a lot of kids don’t feel inclined to listen to a stranger, so you have to be ready to really make yourself heard. Many lifeguards are horrified to discover that they are also in charge of the pools janitorial needs. This might mean cleaning bathrooms, emptying trash cans, or picking up after impolite people. Ultimately, however, most lifeguards find that their biggest enemy is boredom. You can’t swim, you can’t play, and you can’t watch videos on your smartphone. You just have to sit, and watch, and wait.

Last Updated: January 11, 2017