Train with the best and prepare to make a real difference by the pool.

Explore flexible Lifeguard Certification and Recertification courses across St. Louis and Southwest Illinois below.

Now hiring lifeguards ages 15 and older. Plus, become eligible for a $300 staff-referral bonus!





How to Become a Lifeguard

1. Take a Lifeguard Certification Course

  • We offer YMCA and American Red Cross certifications.

  • Learn CPR, First Aid, emergency oxygen, rescue skills, accident prevention, and more.


2. Prerequisites:

  • Must be at least 15 years old to take an American Red Cross Course. Must be 16 years old by the last day of the course for YMCA Lifeguard Certification Courses.

  • Demonstrate strong swimming skills (details listed below).


3. Course Options:

  • Full Certification: For new lifeguards.

  • Recertification: Renew your existing certification.

  • Blended Learning (Red Cross): Combine online and in-person training.



  • Swimsuit
  • Towel
  • Whistle with lanyard
  • Pen
  • Picture ID (proof of age)
  • Minor Participants Permission Form (for participants 16-17 years of age)

Swim Test
Students must successfully demonstrate and complete the Physical Competency Requirements and rescue skills check, conducted in class on the first day.

  • Phase 1 – Tread water for 2 minutes – Swim 100 yards of front crawl.
  • Phase 2 – Swim 50 yards of each: 
    • Front crawl with the head up 
    • Sidestroke 
    • Breaststroke 
    • Breaststroke with the head up 
    • Elementary backstroke kick with hands on the chest.
  • Perform feet, first surface dive, in 8 to 10 feet of water (or maximum depth of training facility). Then swim underwater for 15 feet.
  • Phase 3 – Participants start in the water at the shallow end. – Sprint for a distance of approximately 60 feet, and then perform an arm-over-arm surface dive in 8 to 10 feet of water (or maximum depth of training facility).
  • Pick up an object (dive ring) from the bottom of the pool, surface, tread water for at least 1 minute with legs only, and replace the object back to the bottom of the pool where it was found.
  • Swim the remaining length to the end of the pool, and hoist yourself out of the water.
  • Immediately begin compression on an adult manikin for 1 minute or 100 compressions, and stand and listen to directions from the instructor.

Please note there is a minimum of 8 hours of online pre-assignments.
Participants will need to complete the 9 Y Lifeguard eLearning lessons. The links to these can be found on the details page of the class in LCDC and are active once the participant has registered for the class.

Participants will need to complete the online course for American Health & Safety Institute (ASHI) for the Basic Life Saving (CPR & AED), Basic First Aid, and Emergency Oxygen portions of your training. Once registration closes the links for the online ASHI course will be emailed to participants by the trainer. 

All online assignments must be completed prior to attending class.

Registration for each class closes 7 days prior to the start date. There is a detailed swim test that each participant must be able to pass to attend class. Refunds will not be given to those who fail to attend the course. Refunds will not be given to those who attend the course but are unable to successfully pass. You must provide a copy of your payment receipt to the administrator to receive a refund. Please note an administration fee of $35.00 will be deducted from all refunds if cancelling after the deadline.

Make-ups for missed classes are not available. Participants that miss any portion of this course will not be able to continue with the course and a refund or credit will not be issued.

*If you are not sure you can pass the physical competency test please schedule an appointment with our Aquatics Department prior to registering. After day 1 of the course, no refunds or credits will be issued for failure to complete online training or not successfully completing any other aspect of this course.

 The following certification is good for two years:

  • YMCA Lifeguard

  • Basic First Aid

  • Emergency Oxygen Administration

 The following certifications are good for one year:

  • Basic Life Support- BLS (formerly CPR PRO) 

American Health & Safety Institute (ASHI) is the required certifying agency when renewing for Basic Life Saving (CPR & AED), Basic First Aid and Emergency Oxygen for the YMCA Lifeguard certification. Please contact your local YMCA for class offerings to renew annually. 

To become a YMCA certified lifeguard participants must be able to accomplish:

  • Sit for extended periods of time in an elevated chair. A candidate must remain alert and focused on the entire zone of responsibility for extended periods of time, even under conditions of high heat and humidity, with no lapses in consciousness. Move safely to various locations, including entering and exiting an elevated chair, while scanning the zone of responsibility.
  • Communicate with others immediately when responding to an incident or an emergency. Candidates must be able to communicate verbally, including projecting their voice across distances; communicate swiftly and clearly with emergency personnel over the telephone and/or in person, and effectively give and receive directions.
  • Hear noises and distress signals in the aquatic environment, including in the water and anywhere around the zone of responsibility. Candidates must understand that significant background noises exist in all indoor and outdoor aquatic environments. In addition, lifeguard candidates should have a minimum hearing threshold of no more than an average of a 25-decibel loss in both ears over a range of frequencies (500Hz, 1000Hz, 2000Hz, 788, and 3000Hz). Candidates who use hearing aids or other corrective devices for hearing should be able to perform all rescue skills and emergency procedures without interruptions to adjust, retrieve or install or attach hearing aid/corrective device.
  • Observe all sections of an assigned zone or area of responsibility. Candidates who use corrective eyewear should be able to perform all rescue skills and emergency procedures without interruptions to adjust, clear, or retrieve corrective eyewear.
  • Perform all rescue, resuscitation, and survival skills. Candidates must be able to perform basic first aid such as manual suction, use a bag-valve-mask resuscitator, administer emergency oxygen, use an AED (automated external defibrillator), and perform professional rescuer CPR.
  • Think in the abstract, solve problems, make quick decisions, instruct, evaluate, supervise, and recognize, the potential for danger or injury.
  • Have adequate memory skills and be able to retain and apply knowledge learned in lifeguard training.
  • Act swiftly in an emergency and take action even when unsure whether a person is really in danger.