Becoming A Lifeguard: Little Did We Know

When I was younger and I went to a pool, beach or saw lifeguards on TV I thought it was the best job anyone could have. I mean come on, you’re in the sun, tanning in a bathing suit all day long, it doesn’t even sound like you’re working. Little did I know that when I grew up I was going to become a lifeguard, I also didn’t know what I was in for.

When I first started to train to be a lifeguard I didn’t know how many steps there was going to be, I did five months of training that I paid for to get this job, and forty volunteer hours. I got hired at the City of Brampton in April 2010, all the trainings were way different back than and it was all the training my friends and I did, these new guards have things easy.

The first step to becoming a lifeguard is getting your Bronze Medallion and Emergency First Aid with CPR-B. This course cost $116.15 and that’s not including the book that cost minimum $15 you NEED to do the course or else you will be completely lost.

The second step is getting yet another form of first aid, this one is called Bronze Cross and Standard First Aid with CPR-C, this isn’t the highest form of first aid, this is your basic training to pretty much prepare you for when EMS arrives. This course cost $162.10 and of course there’s a book that goes with this one as well.

The third step! This one you need to be a minimum of 14 years of age and have taken Bronze Cross (and passed the course). This step is called Assistant Instructor and it cost $95.60 plus additional fees for the book you need. When I first started working they actually had a position you could get paid for as an assistant instructor and they had a requirement that you needed to complete 40 hours of volunteering as an assistant. They for some reason took this step out and now all the instructors get thrown into the next step not having any idea of what they are getting into.

The fourth step is similar to the third step but a little bit more work, this step is called Swim and Lifesaving Instructor. All this course focuses on is, how to teach, and correcting your own strokes, I mean you can’t teach swimming if you completely suck at it right? This course you must be the age of 16 years old, have taken your Bronze Cross, and cost $164.45 (not including the massive binder of books you need for this course).

For some reason in the City of Brampton you are required to have your Airway Management (5th step by the way), imagine 16 year olds playing with an oxygen tank that could break through a concrete wall if dropped. Would you want kids doing this around your body? I don’t like the fact that we have to have this but we do so I have this qualification, this course you only need your Standard First Aid (basic first aid) and have $61.75.

You can get a job with all these qualifications but you won’t get many hours because there’s only so many instructional shifts. Most people who have been instructors for at least a year go the next step and get their lifeguarding qual.

To be a Lifeguard you need to be 16 years of age, have taken your Bronze Cross and Standard First aid with CPR-C and have $163.65 (additional for the book). In this course you learn the techniques to saving someone in the water, spinals and how to work in a team. This course includes your AED qualification, for those of you who don’t know what an AED is, it’s that thing you see in movies when people yell “CLEAR!” then shock the person. When I first started the AED wasn’t included with this course, you had to pay separate for it.

Every pool has a Deck Supervisors, they’re the person who knows all the rules, who’s in charge of all the instructors or guards and all the people in the water or on deck – needless to say this is a big responsibility. Of course this course cost $91.10 and is pretty much pointless. I took this because I was made a DS but never had the qual, I learnt more on my own then I did in this course, but we need it. For most people this is the highest they will ever go in the “poolie” world, they either stay at this position until they want to move on in life or they go even higher into actually teaching all the courses I just wrote about.

You just spent roughly a $1,000+ to get a job that only pays you minimum wage.

Here’s the catch, all those qualifications listed above expire every two years, that means we have to redo all those courses every two years. The good part was most of the time we either got it for free or 20% off the course, until they took that away from us. Yes, now that means every two years we have to pay roughly $1,000 to keep our jobs. When I first started working we would get raises every year, it was only a couple of cents but at least it was slowly going up as you moved up in the business, that only happened the first year I worked for the city. After that they made a pay freeze, meaning no more raises you get minimum wage, for four years now they’ve told us that we were going to get more money, they keep telling us oh it’s going to happen in May, May comes around and they tell us on it’s in June now, June comes around and all of the sudden it’s in January now. This has been going on for four years now. For the City of Brampton we are only allowed to work 24 hours a week max, in the summer if you are going back to school in the fall you are allowed to go to 40 hours. If you don’t plan on going back to school in the fall you must stay at 24 hours in the summer. Does that make sense to you?

Now let us get to the good part of this job, when you do all this training they don’t tell you what you’re in for. I did not know I was going to get kicked, punched, slapped, spit on, yelled at, and get chlorine burn every time I worked. I loved my job at first then politics happened and not to mention I only make minimum wage. Another thing they don’t tell you is that if a situation does happen there is a chance you can get sued by that person, we work minimum wage and HAVE to safe you if you are on city property, please don’t sue me!

The whole point of this very long post is just to get this out in the open, most people don’t realize what us lifeguards have to go through and how much we make. Most people think if you work for the city you make big bucks but that’s not how it works. All we want is more money than minimum wage and to be treated nicely and with respect.