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Lifeguard training

The RNLI has always responded to changes in the way that people use the sea and now, with more people using beaches for recreation, we are building a world-class lifeguard service.
Since 2001, the RNLI has been operating a high quality and effective lifeguard service and it is now an integral part of our commitment to saving lives at sea.

Responding to thousands of incidents every year, RNLI lifeguards work with lifeboat crews to provide a seamless service from the beach to the open sea. 
From providing proactive advice and delivering education programmes to performing a rescue, the RNLI is dedicated to enhancing the safety of the beach-going public. 

Have you got what it takes?

If you're a qualified lifeguard and want to put your lifesaving skills to good use, check our recruitment site for seasonal and volunteering opportunities. 

Be an RNLI lifeguard


RNLI lifeguard training buoyancy aids. Photo: Nathan Williams / RNLIAll lifeguards come to the RNLI with an internationally recognised lifeguard qualification. But in addition it is important they are trained to use the equipment specifically used by the RNLI.  

Most of the training is carried out on the beach where they work and some is carried out at RNLI College in Poole, Dorset.

Lifeguard training is key to the quality of the RNLI’s frontline lifeguard service. It is a vital component to ensure that RNLI lifeguards are able to respond appropriately and effectively to any foreseeable incident they are likely to encounter. And it also gives them the tools to respond to unforeseeable incidents.  

What’s involved?

Our extensive lifeguard training programme includes a range of RNLI-accredited courses split into these three areas.  

Learning to be an RNLI lifeguard

RNLI lifeguard on the beach giving safety advice to a family with young children. Photo: Nathan Williams / RNLIAll lifeguards new to the RNLI receive the following RNLI-accredited training. 

The courses are coastal-based and give our lifeguards the foundations they need to understand exactly what it means to be an RNLI lifeguard. 

• Lifeguard Induction

• Casualty Care for Lifeguards (CC4LG)  

Operating the equipment

Close up side view of RNLI four wheel drive (4WD) lifeguard patrol vehicle. Photo: Nathan Williams / RNLIDepending on their experience and location, RNLI lifeguards receive specialised training on how to operate a variety of rescue equipment.

These RNLI-accredited courses are coastal-based and lifeguards must hold a valid driving licence. 

Equipment training

• All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV)

• Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)

• Inshore Rescue Boat Crew (IRB C)

• Inshore Rescue Boat Helm (IRB H)

• Rescue Watercraft Operator (RWC)


Professional development

RNLI lifeguard unit on Avon Beach, Dorset. Photo: Stephen McGrathWe encourage and support RNLI lifeguards looking to further their careers and provide the following development opportunities.

Courses are RNLI-accredited and involve a combination of college and coastal-based training

Leadership and management


• Operational Leadership – for senior lifeguards
• Operational Administration – for lifeguard supervisors
• Trainer / Assessor 


See our Trainer / Assessor course for more information on the courses below. 

• All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Trainer/ Assessor
• Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) Trainer / Assessor
• Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) Trainer / Assessor
• Rescue Watercraft (RWC) Trainer / Assessor


A row of RNLI lifeguard jackets hanging in lifeguard station. Photo: Steve Berriman / RNLI

A lifeguard’s primary role is to make sure the beach, as an amenity, can be enjoyed safely by the public.

As such, their aim is to prevent accidents before they happen by being proactive. As much as 95% of a lifeguard’s work is preventative and key messages about beach safety education help to prevent members of the public getting into trouble.

Communication is key to lifeguard operations so the lifeguard’s image and interaction with the public is important, as is using the correct communication tools and appropriate manner.

Our Lifeguard Induction covers seven key areas which provide lifeguards new to the RNLI with the information they need to carry out their work safely and effectively.

On completion of these areas lifeguards put all their knowledge into practice in a controlled environment during a series of staged scenarios. This ensures they are ready to hit the ground running on the first day of the lifeguard season.

Want to know more?

For more detailed information on this training course, download an example of our course details:

pdf-icon.jpgLifeguard Induction

RNLI lifeguards treating a casualty during a casualty care training exercise. Photo: Nigel Millard / RNLI

Casualty Care for Lifeguards (CC4LG) is taught to RNLI lifeguards on the beach where they work. 

Lifeguards use a symptom-based approach to safely and effectively administer immediate aid and ongoing intervention, until they are able to pass the casualties onto medical professionals. 

This bespoke course covers aspects of injury, illness and immersion, as well as triage for when casualties outnumber casualty carers. 

And it allows lifeguards to gain confidence using the equipment provided at RNLI lifeguard units.  

Want to know more?

For more detailed information on this training course, download an example of our course details: 

 Casualty Care for Lifeguards (CC4LG)  

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs)

RNLI lifeguard driving an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) vehicle during a training exercise. Photo: Nigel Millard / RNLIAn all-terrain vehicle (ATV), commonly known as a quad bike, allows good maneuverability and all-round visibility, making it an ideal tool to use on busy beaches. 

Towing trailers also forms an integral part of ATV operations. 

On our All-Terrain Vehicle course RNLI lifeguards are instructed in the safe use of ATVs including pre-operational safety checks, driving techniques, risk management and trailer usage.

Want to know more?

For more detailed information on this training course, download an example of our course details:

 All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV)

Four-wheel drive (4WD)

RNLI lifeguard moving a four-wheel drive (4WD) patrol vehicle that is stuck in the sand. Photo: Nigel Millard / RNLIThe 4WD patrol truck is the most high profile piece of lifeguard kit. It can be used for patrols, public safety announcements, launch and recovery or just as a base for lifeguards to work from at the water’s edge.

Through our specialist Four-Wheel Drive training, RNLI lifeguards gain the skills required to drive and operate a 4WD vehicle safely, with or without a trailer, on the beach and in confined areas.

Drivers are trained to:
• apply correct 4WD driving techniques
• recognise potential risks and hazards
• and safely operate a 4WD vehicle on a beach around members of public.

They also undertake pre and post-operational checks and learn how to use various methods to recover the vehicle should it become stuck or ‘bogged in’.

Want to know more?

For more detailed information on this training course, download an example of our course details:

 Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)

Inshore rescue boats (IRBs)

Inshore rescue boat (IRB) training for RNLI lifeguards. Photo: Phil MoncktonInshore rescue boats (IRBs) give lifeguards the speed and manoeuvrability to get to the most hazardous of rescue scenes as quickly as possible.  

Introduced into the RNLI in 2001, they are sturdy enough to operate in heavy surf conditions, yet light enough to be launched from the shore by two people. 

Our training courses - Inshore Rescue Boat Crew and Inshore Rescue Boat Helm - provide RNLI lifeguards with the skills and knowledge required to operate an IRB in surf conditions safely and effectively. 

Want to know more?

For more detailed information on these training courses, download examples of our course details:

 Inshore Rescue Boat Crew (IRB C)


 Inshore Rescue Boat Helm (IRB H)  

Rescue watercraft (RWC)

RNLI lifeguard recovering a casualty onto a rescue watercraft (RWC) during a training exercise. Photo: Nigel Millard / RNLIRescue watercraft (RWC) have become a feature of many lifeguarded beaches. 

They are fast, manoeuvrable craft which, in the hands of a well-trained operator, are ideal in almost any condition. 

They are especially capable of moving through very large surf and across big stretches of water quickly. 

They are normally operated by a single lifeguard. But if an emergency arises, they can quickly pick up another lifeguard from anywhere on the beach to help with complex rescues.  

RWCs are equipped with a detachable foam rescue sled for ease of recovering and transporting casualties.  

Our Rescue Watercraft Operator course provides lifeguards with the skills and knowledge required to handle an RWC in an operational environment safely and effectively. 

Want to know more?

For more detailed information on this training course, download an example of our course details:

 Rescue Watercraft Operator (RWC)

We provide development opportunities for RNLI lifeguards looking to progress to more senior positions, such as senior lifeguards and lifeguard supervisors. And our Operational Leadership and Administration training provides them with the management skills required for these roles.  

Lifeguards can also become local trainers or assessors, making training on the coast much more flexible. 

Operational Leadership

RNLI lifeguards during casualty care training exercise. Photo: Nigel Millard / RNLISenior lifeguards supervise the running of a beach lifeguard unit ensuring that the RNLI lifeguard service is effective and efficient. 

They are responsible for leading teams of lifeguards in day-to-day tasks and providing a coordinated rescue response in emergency situations. 

They have to be able to deal with conflict situations with members of the public and also act on low level personnel issues with their teams. 

Dealing with paperwork is important, making sure daily logs, written reports and incident logs are maintained correctly by the lifeguards. 

And the senior lifeguard must also ensure that daily and weekly equipment maintenance is carried out.   

Our Operational Leadership course provides the skills required for senior RNLI lifeguards to carry out their role.

Want to know more?

For more detailed information on this training course, download an example of our course details: 

 Operational Leadership 

Operational Administration

RNLI lifeguard supervisor with lifeguards training in background. Photo: Owen HowellsLifeguard supervisors assist lifeguard managers in the management and provision of a seasonal RNLI beach lifeguard service within a geographically defined area. 

They maintain stock levels of operational equipment and set up, monitor and close down the lifeguard facilities and equipment. 

They help with the recruitment, induction and training of RNLI lifeguards.  

They ensure beach safety training is provided and beach safety and education campaigns are actively promoted.  

Our Operational Administration course provides the skills required for RNLI lifeguard supervisors to carry out their role so that lifeguards receive the best support on a day-to-day basis. This is critical due to the unforgiving environment that lifeguards operate in. 

Want to know more?

For more detailed information on this training course, download an example of our course details:

 Operational Administration 

Trainer / Assessor

RNLI international lifeguard training programme taking place in Bangladesh. Photo: Mike Lavis / RNLIWith a wide range of equipment and in-service programmes available, it is essential that the RNLI has personnel highly skilled in training and assessing.  

A trainer’s skill in instruction will influence the interest and effectiveness of the lifeguard’s ability to learn and develop skills.  

Our Trainer / Assessor course provides RNLI lifeguard candidates with the necessary skills required to deliver training through various media types for a variety of learning styles. 

Want to know more?

For more detailed information on this training course, download an example of our course details: 

 Trainer / Assessor