Beach Lifeguard Job Profile

A beach lifeguard has a job which is based on life-saving and rescue operations. Lifeguards routinely save thousands of lives on the world’s beaches every year and also assist people who are injured or at risk on the beach.

The Work Environment for a Beach Lifeguard

A beach lifeguard must endure a physically and mentally demanding job. The position requires considerable technical expertise and excellent situational awareness. Many lifeguards train at an early age as junior lifeguards and later progress to senior positions.

A beach lifeguard could operate in several different environments, including:

  • Ocean beaches
  • River beaches
  • Water parks
  • Ocean or tidal lagoons
  • Open ocean (swimming off a cruise ship).

Skills Required for a Lifeguard Career

Lifeguards must be proficient in a range of operational functions, including:

  • Swimming (surf swimming)
  • Rescue techniques
  • Rescue boat and jet ski operations
  • First aid
  • Emergency medical assistance operations, including operation of some medical equipment like oxygen
  • Operation of emergency equipment
  • Beach safety regulations (local government regulations for beach safety)

A large part of the lifeguard’s work is prevention of danger to patrons. A beach lifeguard provides ongoing surveillance of the area under his or her control, looks for signs of people in danger, and anticipates risks. Lifeguards look for distressed, tired or inactive people in the water and provide assistance on a needs basis. In water parks and other public amenities, they also supervise use of park facilities like waterslides to prevent injury.

Another part of lifeguard work is patrolling the beaches and, in some cases, enforcing beach regulations. This is a safety service, which ensures no hazards to public safety are permitted on the beach. The beach lifeguard prevents injuries by keeping dangerous materials, alcohol or risky behaviors off the beach.

Rescue Operations

Lifeguards use two-way radios, megaphones and signal flares to communicate and coordinate their responses to situations. They’re trained to respond rapidly to any emergency situation and can get a rescue under way instantly. In many cases people's lives literally depend on the speed of the beach lifeguard's response.

Rescue operations involve accessing the person or people in distress and attempting a safe recovery from the water. This can be hazardous work, sometimes involving powerful currents called “rip currents,” which can take people out to sea, or an unusual event like a shark attack. In these cases, the lifeguards must operate at possible risk to themselves, while doing everything possible to assist the victim.

In some cases a person may be injured while in the water, through a surfing accident or contact with objects or other people in the water. The injured person must be recovered and receive medical assessment as fast as possible, with the rescue party reporting to emergency services on shore through a coordinator.

The Career Environment

Most lifeguards, paid professionals or volunteers, are members of life-saving clubs or associations. Career advancement in this field includes:

  • Qualifications for training positions
  • Advancement in organizational structures
  • Seniority
  • Advisory roles in government policy formulation
  • Consultancies to local governments, water park operators, and cruise ship lines