Government Job Profile: Head Lifeguard

Image by Maritsa Patrinos. © The Balance 2019

Aquatics managers are responsible for everything that goes on at an aquatics center. They cannot directly manage all the center’s employees all the time, but they rarely have managers underneath them. To help manage the center’s lifeguards, aquatics managers appoint head lifeguards to provide direction to lifeguards when the aquatics manager is performing other duties.

The Selection Process

Head lifeguards are chosen from among the city’s lifeguards. They have proven themselves trustworthy and ready to lead. In government, it is rare for someone to be promoted without an open competition, so even if an aquatics manager has someone in mind to promote, the hiring process must still be followed.

Lifeguards who have been a head lifeguard in other organizations may come in as a head lifeguard, but it is more common for a head lifeguard to be appointed from among the city’s ranks.

Head lifeguards often do not have hiring and firing authority over other lifeguards. That power remains with the aquatics manager. Therefore, head lifeguards are leaders without much authority. This can be challenging even for someone with extensive management experience.

Education Required

Education is unimportant to aquatics managers when they are selecting head lifeguards. A strong working relationship between the hiring manager and applicant and demonstrated leadership skills are much more important.

Experience Required

Those desiring a head lifeguard position should have strong lifeguarding skills because they direct the work of other lifeguards. Those taking direction must see the head lifeguard as someone with the technical knowledge necessary to give sound instruction.

Leadership experience is important as well. This experience can be acquired in many ways. Examples include being a team captain on a high school sports team, an officer in a civic organization or a mentor to at-risk children. Just because someone has not had a management role in a workplace setting does not mean they have not managed people.

What You'll Do

Head lifeguards perform the same duties as a lifeguard and also provide direction to lifeguards. They watch the water and surrounding area to spot swimmers in distress and people acting unsafely. When individuals act unsafely, lifeguards tell them to cease their reckless behavior.

Because they can delegate tasks, head lifeguards often get out of some of the less desirable tasks of a lifeguarding job such as adding chemicals to pool water and cleaning restrooms. Head lifeguards can’t always avoid these tasks, but they usually can. Sometimes they need to volunteer for these tasks to show the other lifeguards that they do not consider themselves above such work.

What You'll Earn

Head lifeguards can expect to earn a few dollars more per hour than the lifeguards they lead. The pay difference tends to exist because head lifeguards have more experience and more stature in the organization.