How do I become a Lifeguard?

Life guarding for the Milwaukee County Parks is an ideal job for anyone who wants to make good money while spending the summer outdoors.  As a lifeguard, you will deal with life-saving issues and be responsible for the safety of thousands of people on a daily basis. You must have good public-relations skills and be able to work under pressure, keeping in mind that the public will look to you as a role model. 

Skills you will acquire working as a Milwaukee County lifeguard will transfer to future positions. Among the qualities you will develop are good communication skills, working cooperatively with a diverse group of co-workers and patrons, and a responsible attitude.

2024 Lifeguard pay starts at $17.13/hour. The County Parks also offers the following incentives:

  • Entry into a drawing for $100 worth of merchandise and gift cards for those who pass the test and commit to the 2024 Lifeguard Corps in January, February, or March.
  • Exclusive swag for those who pass an in-water training in January, February, or March and start working in the spring of 2024.
  • Two tickets to Milwaukee County Parks attractions - such as the Mitchell Park Domes, Boerner Botanical Gardens, Cool Waters, etc. - for those who attend the training in January, February, or March.
  • Additional bonuses for all returning and referring employees.

In-Water Training Sessions for 2024:

Develop your skills in a 12-hour, FREE in-water training, where you will learn all rescues and releases required to pass the Physical Performance exam. Advance registration is required!


Qualifications for Training

To qualify for training as a lifeguard for the Milwaukee County Parks, you must be:

  • at least 16 years old by July 2024
  • in good physical condition
  • able to swim 100 meters in less than 1 minute 45 seconds

The Lifeguard Training Program

All lifeguards are required to complete their training and testing through the Milwaukee County Parks four-part program, developed from over 50 years of outstanding lifeguarding experience. While we don't accept outside certificationssuch as those by the Red Cross or YMCA, we do welcome all applicants who are seeking to enhance their lifesaving skills through the Parks program.  

The 4-Part Program:

  • In-Water Training
  • Civil Service Physical Performance Exam
  • Emergency Medical Responder Course
  • On-Site Training

Because of our in-depth and extensive training program, lifeguards are not fully certified until the end of the summer season.

Sessions are offered at

  • Pulaski Pool, 2701 S. 16th St.
  • Noyes Pool, 8235 W. Good Hope Road
NOTE: Testing is at same location as the training.

Civil Service Physical Performance Exam

After mastering all the skills presented in the In-Water Training Program, you will be well prepared for the Physical Performance exam. First, you must be able to swim 100 meters in less than 1 minute and 45 seconds. You will then have to demonstrate and pass the rescues and releases taught in the class. 

You will want to do well on this exam because you will be ranked according to your score. This score and ranking will determine if you will be hired and assists in assigning you to a location. Passing the exam does not guarantee employment.

Emergency Medical Responder Course

After passing the Physical Performance exam, you will take an Emergency Medical Responder training course. With this 40-hour course, you will be prepared to perform CPR and other emergency first aid. This course goes above and beyond other first aid training, such as Red Cross training, and is required. There is a cost associated with this course, but if you are hired as a lifeguard and complete the summer season, you will be paid for your 40 hours of classroom training at your hourly rate. 

On-Site Training

After you have been assigned to a location, you will use all the skills you have learned from the in-water course and Emergency Medical Responder and apply them to site-specific policies and procedures. Time will be scheduled for crews, as a whole, to teach, learn, and practice these procedures. Before July 4th, each crew will be assessed showing that they can appropriately react and provide care following the procedures in different scenarios. Every member of the crew will have a role in at least one of the scenarios.

More About Being Hired as a Lifeguard

Eligible List

After successfully completing the Physical Performance exam and Emergency Medical Responder training, your name will be placed on the eligible list and you will be ranked according to your Physical Performance exam score. The Parks Department will hire from this list as lifeguard vacancies occur. All new lifeguard hires occur in the spring, with new employees starting work in the summer.

Work Schedule

First and foremost, lifeguards work for the Milwaukee County Parks and are assigned to a specific location.  Ultimately this means that all lifeguards are needed to assist in staffing all locations from Memorial Day to Labor Day, regardless of where they are assigned for the summer season.

The department makes assignments to cover every day of the week. The normal schedule includes 6-8 hour shifts covering 5-6 days a week. You will be expected to work more or fewer hours if the weather dictates. Milwaukee County pools and beaches are open 7 days a week and holidays.

Pool or Beach Assignments

If you are hired, you will be assigned to work at one location for the summer season. Up to 4 locations may be requested. Requests cannot be guaranteed, but we do our best to place all staff at one of their requested locations.


The Aquatics Division provides, for free, one set of all necessary personal items for the uniform. The set includes a helmet, whistle, lanyard, swimsuit/trunks, jersey, t-shirt, and sweatshirt. You will need to purchase any duplicate equipment. The division also furnishes locations with jackets and rain jackets for employees to use as needed.  

You will be required to furnish your own sunglasses. They must have black or brown frames with reflective lenses.  The frames should not have additional metal or color, including the areas on the arms. We recommend that you invest in a pair of polarized sunglasses. You may also want to have a spare pair of sunglasses for practice.

Reinstate Test

As a returning lifeguard, you MUST pass a reinstate test and complete CPR re-certification every spring.

If you are returning for your second or third season, we recommend that you refresh your in-water lifeguarding skills  before taking the reinstate test. To refresh your skills at one of the free lifeguard training classes, contact the Aquatics Office. Class sizes are limited!

You will need to pre-register with the Aquatics Office for a reinstate exam. Reinstate Exams will start at 7 a.m. and run until about 11 a.m. Plan to arrive early to complete mandatory paperwork. Please contact the Aquatics Office to register for the reinstate exam.

Emergency Medical Responder Refresher

You must refresh your Emergency Medical Responder certification every 3 years.  Pre-registration is required for the refresher. Please contact the Aquatics Office to register for a refresher course.

For more information,  call the Aquatics Office at (414) 257-8098

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