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Foreign Lifeguard Employment Information
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The United States Lifesaving Association is America's nonprofit, professional association of beach lifeguards and open water rescuers. We often receive inquiries from lifeguards in other countries wishing to work as lifeguards in the United States. The information on this page is primarily intended to assist foreign lifeguards interested in working in the USA at beaches, but also mentions possibilities at pools and other locations.

In the US, beach lifeguards are paid employees. Most often, the employers are state or local governments, but some private companies also employ beach lifeguards. Each lifeguard employer sets minimum requirements and conducts a local lifeguard training program for those they wish to hire. These requirements and training programs can vary substantially, but most major beach lifeguard employers meet minimum standards developed by the USLA. These standards include the requirement that all lifeguards must be able to meet and maintain the ability to swim 500 meters in 10 minutes or less, and that they be trained locally by the employer in a course involving at least 21 hours in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation for professional rescuers, and a 40 hour course which meets the curriculum requirements of USLA. We maintain a current list of lifeguard agencies certifed as meeting those standards.

On our Job Bulletin Board you can find current job listings. You can also review the requirements listed by employers to determine if foreign lifeguards are eligible, or contact the listing departments to inquire if they are interested in employing foreign lifeguards. 

Under the US system of local control over beach lifeguard training and hiring, there is no standard recognition of certifications of lifeguards from other countries. The fact that a lifeguard may be trained and certified as a beach lifeguard in another country will not normally qualify them to work for a lifeguard employer in the United States.

A US lifeguard employer may consider foreign lifeguard training or experience as an indicator of a person's potential for work as a US lifeguard. Regardless, the foreign lifeguard will usually be required to go through the local hiring and training program, successfully completing it prior to working as a lifeguard, just as a US lifeguard candidate is required to do.

The normal process to gaining employment as a beach lifeguard in the US is that the candidate first applies and takes a swim test. Swim tests vary by employer, but usually meet or exceed the minimum standard of USLA. The employer may then conduct interviews or use some other method to choose among candidates who apply. Candidates who are selected through this process are usually then invited to attend a lifeguard training academy, with some or all of those who successfully complete the academy offered employment.

Different areas of the US have different seasons and levels of lifeguard employment. On the East Coast of the US, north of Florida, on the northern West Coast, and on the Great Lakes, most beach lifeguard work takes place only in the summer months of June, July, and August, when the water is warm enough for swimming. In these areas, beach lifeguards are employed only during the summer season.

In California, Florida and Hawaii, beach lifeguard work takes place year-round, and there are many lifeguards who work full-time in jobs that are considered similar to police or firefighting jobs. There are also lifeguards in these areas who work part time. In California, particularly Southern California, most lifeguard employers have a corps of full-time lifeguards who work year-round, and a much larger group of lifeguards who work only in summer, when beach attendance is higher. In Hawaii, most lifeguards work full-time, year-round, but there are some who work on an hourly basis.

These are only some of the major areas of the US where beach lifeguards work. There are also beach lifeguards working along the Gulf Coast and on inland lakes and rivers.

If you are interested in working at a pool, the circumstances are much different. In this case, the lifeguard first takes a training course, usually sanctioned by the American Red Cross or YMCA, and is given a certificate of course completion. With this certificate, the lifeguard can apply for work at most pools in the US and be hired without limited additional training.

The greatest challenge to gaining employment in the US for a foreign person is work regulations set by the US government. A foreign citizen must have a work visa for an employer to hire them. Foreign lifeguards must recognize that it can be quite difficult for a US employer to arrange to hire a foreign lifeguard. Many lifeguard employers lack the time or resources to make these arrangements, especially in cases where they already have adequate numbers of US lifeguard candidates available locally.

Employers which are more likely to be interested in hiring foreign lifeguards are those who wish to cultivate an exchange of lifeguard skills or those having substantial difficulties recruiting US lifeguard candidates. Normally, a foreign lifeguard is most likely to have success if an employer is wilingl to assist in helping the foreign lifeguard obtain a work visa. Some companies advertise opportunities to foreign lifeguards to work in the US, but these are not normally at oceanfront locations. They are more typically at summer camps, for example.

US work visas are issued by the US State Department. Their website explains the various types of work visas that are available and the requirements.

One option which may be of interest is training without employment. Sometimes we find that foreign lifeguards are interested in taking a course in beach lifeguarding in the US, even if they are not able to work in the US. In a few areas of the US, lifeguard training is open to persons regardless of whether they intend to become employees. One of these is the San Diego (California) Regional Lifeguard Training Program, which provides training for several employers in that area. A number of foreign lifeguards have taken this course purely for their own information and skill enhancement.

We thank you for your interest in working as a lifeguard in the USA. Obviously, it can be challenging for a foreign person to gain employment to work as a lifeguard in the US, but it is not impossible. We wish you the best of luck!

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