Lifeguard training

RNLI lifeguards are an essential part of our seamless rescue service that saves lives from the beach to the open sea.

Our lifeguards and lifeboat crews work together, responding to the thousands of incidents that happen every year around the coast.

We're always looking at ways to not only save more lives at sea, but prevent people from getting into trouble in the first place. 

Lifeguards keep beachgoers safe by spotting the dangers and preventing accidents before they happen, as well as responding instantly if they occur. That's why providing our lifeguards with first-class training is vital.

Have you got what it takes?

Whether you’ve got a beach lifeguard qualification or you’re just getting started, check our recruitment site for seasonal, volunteering and lifeguard training opportunities.

RNLI lifeguards are qualified in lifesaving and casualty care, and are highly trained and fit. They maintain a level of fitness, which allows them to swim 200m in under 3½ minutes, and run 200m on sand in under 40 seconds.

But there's still training to be done.

Most of their learning happens on the beach, but part of their training takes place at RNLI College in Poole, Dorset.

What's involved?

Our extensive lifeguard training programme includes a range of RNLI-accredited courses split into three areas: learning to be a lifeguard, operating the equipment and professional development.

Our lifeguards’ primary role is to make sure the beach can be enjoyed safely by the public. 

Their aim is to prevent accidents before they happen - up to 95% of their work is preventative.

They monitor sea conditions to set up the appropriate flags, watch the people on the beach and offer safety advice both on the beach and in classrooms through our education programmes.


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

Lifeguards can then put their knowledge into practice during a series of staged scenarios. Then they’re ready to hit the ground running on the first day of the lifeguard season.

Casualty care

Casualty Care for Lifeguards (CC4LG) is taught on the beach.

It's a bespoke course which covers injury, illness and immersion, as well as triage for when casualties outnumber lifeguards.

CC4LG also helps our lifeguards to gain confidence in using the equipment they'll find at the lifeguard units.

Want to know more?

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

All-terrain vehicles

An all-terrain vehicle (ATV), commonly known as a quad bike, allows good manoeuvrability and all-round visibility, making it ideal for busy beaches.

The All-Terrain Vehicle course teaches our lifeguards about the safe use of ATVs including pre-operational safety checks, driving techniques, risk management and trailer usage.

Four-wheel drive

The four-wheel drive (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 learn to drive a 4WD vehicle safely on the beach and in confined areas, recognise potential risks and hazards and learn how to recover the vehicle if it becomes stuck or ‘bogged in’.

Inshore rescue boats

Inshore rescue boats (IRBs) give lifeguards the speed and manoeuvrability to get to the most hazardous of rescue scenes as quickly as possible. 

Introduced at 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.

Rescue watercraft

Rescue watercraft (RWC) have become a feature of many lifeguarded beaches.

They are fast and manoeuvrable, 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 safely and effectively.


We provide development opportunities for RNLI lifeguards looking to progress to more senior positions, such as senior lifeguards and lifeguard supervisors.

Our Operational Leadership and Administration training provides them with the management skills they need for these roles. 

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

Operational Leadership

Senior 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.  As well as making sure 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.

Operational Administration

Lifeguard supervisors assist lifeguard managers in the running of a beach lifeguard unit.

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 and ensure our lifeguards receive the best support possible.


With a wide range of equipment and in-service programmes available, it is essential that the RNLI has highly skilled trainers on hand.

Our Trainer/Assessor course provides the skills to deliver training through a number of mediums for a variety of learning styles.