California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Recreational Protective Service Workers in California

May also be called: Beach Lifeguards; Ocean Lifeguard Specialists; Ocean Lifeguards; Pool Attendants; Pool Lifeguards; Ski Patrollers; Swim Instructors; and Water Safety Instructors (WSI)

What Would I Do?

Lifeguards and Ski Patrol Workers provide assistance, instruction, and protection to swimmers, skiers, snowboarders, and other visitors at different types of recreational locations. They also provide first aid to people who are injured. Lifeguards may work at public and private pools or beaches, while Ski Patrol Workers work at ski resorts, and Recreational Protective Service Workers are employed at campgrounds, state and federal parks, and other types of recreational areas.

Lifeguards and Ski Patrol Workers may work as part of a team or alone. They are responsible for specific sections of a beach, pool, ski resort, or other type of recreational park. They keep watch over park patrons. If they notice someone who is not obeying park or pool rules, it is their responsibility to inform the individual of the rules. If someone is having difficulty swimming then the Lifeguard rushes out to the swimmer who is in danger and brings them back to shore or out of the pool. It is important for Lifeguards to effectively communicate with fellow coworkers and, in appropriate situations, with law enforcement and paramedics.

Tools and Technology

Lifeguards and Ski Patrol Workers use a variety of tools in the course of their work, including automated external defibrillators (AED), emergency first aid kits, rescue buoys, and two-way radios. Lifeguards and Ski Patrol Workers may also operate snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, or other motorized forms of transportation.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Examine injured persons and administer first aid or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, if necessary, using training and medical supplies and equipment.Problem Sensitivity
Contact emergency medical personnel in case of serious injury.Judgment and Decision Making
Rescue distressed persons, using rescue techniques and equipment.Public Safety and Security
Instruct participants in skiing, swimming, or other recreational activities and provide safety precaution information.Education and Training
Patrol or monitor recreational areas such as trails, slopes, and swimming areas, on foot, in vehicles, or from towers.Monitoring
Warn recreational participants of inclement weather, unsafe areas, or illegal conduct.Service Orientation
Observe activities in assigned areas, using binoculars, to detect hazards, disturbances, or safety infractions.Far Vision
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Lifeguards and Ski Patrol Workers generally work outdoors in weather conditions that vary according to their job. In order to protect themselves from extreme weather conditions they should wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and appropriate clothing. They need to be in good physical condition in order to lift, carry, or pull someone to safety.

Lifeguards and Ski Patrol Workers usually wear a uniform to distinguish themselves from visitors. Some employers may provide uniforms at no cost or may provide money to purchase one. These jobs are seasonal. Lifeguards are likely to only be employed during the summer months, while Ski Patrol Workers generally work during the winter months when ski resorts are open. Due to the seasonal nature of this occupation, some workers may be required to work weekends and holidays.

Unionization is not common in this occupation.

Will This Job Fit Me?

These jobs may appeal to those who enjoy working outdoors, and who like activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. Those who enjoy communicating with, assisting, and being of service to people, might also like this type of work.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2020 for Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Service Workers in California is $32,787 annually, or $15.76 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Lifeguards and Ski Patrol Workers generally do not receive health insurance, vacation or sick leave, or retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Most job openings for this occupation will result from the need to replace existing workers who leave for other types of work. The closure of some urban public pools, due to funding shortages may reduce the need for Lifeguards in cities; however, openings will continue for jobs at private pools, schools, health clubs, and beaches. The availability of Ski Patrol job vacancies is dependent on the winter weather conditions, such as snow pack, as well as economic conditions.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Service Workers is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Service Workers are expected to increase by 7.4 percent, or 1,200 jobs between 2016 and 2026.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Service Workers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Lifeguards and Ski Patrol jobs are generally entry-level occupations, that employ high school and college students, and require no formal education other than short term certificate training. Lifeguards need to be excellent swimmers since they must be able to swim out to individuals who are in distress and be able to get them out of the water. Training requirements for Lifeguards vary by employer and by type of water, for example ocean, lake, or city swimming pool. In general, ocean Lifeguards require a demonstrated ability to swim long distances in open water, often over 1,000 yards. Ski Patrol Workers need to know how to ski and snowboard.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in becoming Lifeguards should take swimming classes at their school or through organizations like the YMCA. Those looking to work in Ski Patrol may benefit from ski and snowboarding lessons or joining a ski team. Courses in first aid training, physical and life science, and English would be helpful. Training programs are also available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) in areas such as emergency services, and travel and hospitality. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Lifeguards and Ski Patrol Workers need to re-take training courses every two years to maintain their first aid and professional certifications in specialties such as Shallow Water Attendant, Waterpark Lifeguard, and Waterfront Lifeguard.


Certification for Lifeguards and Ski Patrol Workers is not required but it may assist in getting hired and promoting to a higher paying job.

Most employers require Lifeguards and Ski Patrol Workers to have current certifications in lifeguarding, first aid, cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or professional certifications. These certifications are available through organizations such as the American Red Cross, and are valid for two years. After the two-year certification period, Lifeguards and Ski Patrol Workers will need to retake the first aid training course. Contact the American Red Cross for a list of courses and locations. Professional certifications are available, such as The Certified Park and Recreation Professional. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Service Workers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Local Government49.7%
Other Amusement & Recreation Industries16.4%
Civic and Social Organizations8.3%
State Government6.8%
Amusement Parks and Arcades5.9%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct contact with employers is a traditional means to finding jobs as Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Recreational Protective Service Workers. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Service Workers.

  • Campgrounds & Recreational Vehicle Parks
  • Health Clubs
  • Parks
  • Private Swimming Pools
  • Resorts
  • Ski Centers & Resorts
  • Swimming Instruction

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Individuals who want to advance to supervisory or managerial positions will have increased success if they possess a college degree. Some colleges offer degrees in recreation and park management, where students learn how to effectively run and operate recreational parks.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Service Workers with links to more information.

Athletic TrainersProfile
Emergency Medical Technicians and ParamedicsGuide
Recreational TherapistsGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification33-9092
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Recreational Protective Service Workers33-9092.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RSE