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Top Summer Jobs in Houston for Students: Lifeguarding

An Intern's Insight

Jacob Padden
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Joseph Schaefer, Karoline Hight, and Josh Tillery have grown together through their jobs as lifeguards.

Joseph Schaefer, Karoline Hight, and Josh Tillery have grown together through their jobs as lifeguards.

Editor’s note: “An Intern’s Insight” is a recurring blog by our summer interns. This unedited content is strictly the opinion of the writers, and not necessarily of The Buzz. We hope you enjoy their unique perspectives. In this blog post series, our interns interview other students on their perspectives about summer jobs in Houston. 

While students all look forward to the end of the school year, many of them find that relaxing all summer can leave them bored and broke. But where can students find success in the working world for just a few short months? The Buzz interns decided to look into what jobs are ideal for students and explore what makes them great—as well as not so great, and possibly lend insight to a student’s job-hunt.

We all remember the inaccessible yet wildly desirable lifeguard, Wendy Peppercorn, from the movie “The Sandlot”, but besides possibly getting tricked into a kiss, what does the job truly entail?

A job held mostly by high school and college students, Buzz interns decided to find out just how preferable lifeguarding is. We traveled to five pools in different areas and interviewed lifeguards at each about their experiences and asked them to rate their jobs overall.

Bellaire

Evergreen Pool

At the Evergreen Pool, Karoline Hight, a senior at Bellaire High School, is Head Guard. She said she loves to work at the pool because the people are fantastic. “I started off with a few friends, but all the lifeguards quickly become a family,” she said. When asked what advice she would give herself before starting as a lifeguard two years ago, Karoline said she would tell herself to get used to being outside all day, which is her least favorite part of the job.

Karoline’s rating of working at the Evergreen Pool: 9/10

Pay: Lifeguards make $8.98/hour and Head Guards make $9.88/hour, but an additional .25/hour pay is available for Water Safety Instructor certification.

Hours: Lifeguards can work as many or as few hours they want per week, and can decide which days and times they want to work. Additionally, lifeguards can choose if they would prefer to work at the Evergreen Pool or the Bellaire Town Square Family Aquatic Center.

Bellaire Town Square Family Aquatic Center:

Amir Henry, a student at St. Edward’s University, and Anna Walker, a student at Hendrix College, are both lifeguards at the Bellaire Town Square Family Aquatic Center. Amir said he was searching for a job and had a friend who told him about the opening at the pool. Anna said a neighbor worked at the pool and suggested she work there as well. When asked what his favorite part about working at the pool was, Amir responded with “protecting people.” Anna would remind all lifeguards to bring plenty of water and use tons of sunscreen when on duty. Both agreed that the worst part about working at the pool was cleaning the excrements of others left in and around the pool. However, both agreed that their fellow lifeguards made working at the pool a fun job.

Amir’s rating of working at the Bellaire Town Square Family Aquatic Center: 8.5

Anna’s rating of working at the Bellaire Town Square Family Aquatic Center: 8

Pay: Lifeguards make $8.98/hour and Head Guards make $9.88/hour, but an additional .25/hour pay is available for Water Safety Instructor certification.

Hours: There is no minimum hour requirement. Lifeguards can work as many or as few hours they want per week, and can decide which days and times they want to work.

West University

Southside Pool: 

Zach Pearson, a newly employed lifeguard at the Southside Pool and student at Lamar High School, said that he took the job because he lived close by and his sisters enjoyed the experience when they worked there. He said, “My favorite part about this job is being on the stand and surveying people, knowing you’re in charge.” Some advice he gave about being a lifeguard was to, “be ready for long days and a long summer. It may get boring at times but it will be a good experience.”

Since he is a new lifeguard, Zach makes about $8.25/hour, but he does not complain because his hours are very flexible and he generally works when his schedule allows. He said that the only thing his boss asks is for all guards to send in their availability for each month a couple days prior to its beginning.

Head guard, Bennett Dodson, continues working for his fifth year at Southside Pool while attending the University of Houston. Hourly wage increases to $10.25/hour for head guards. He continues to enjoy his job because he loves to hang out by the pool all day. Advice that he would have given to himself before taking the job and other newly employed lifeguards is to wear sunscreen. He said, “At the beginning I didn’t wear sunscreen very often and I got really sunburned.”

Zach’s rating of working at the Southside Pool: 8/10

Bennett’s rating of working at the Southside Pool: 8 or 9/10

Pay: The hourly wage for beginning lifeguards is $8.25/hour. Each year a lifeguard works, their salary increases by $0.50.

Hours: Working hours are very flexible for all lifeguards, meaning that can work when available. The only requirement regarding schedule is that they send in monthly availability a few days prior to each month’s start.

Colonial Park Pool:

Tara Virginillo said that working at the Colonial Park Pool is a great job. “The people are nice, and it can be stressful, but it’s a lot of fun,” she said. Additionally, lifeguards at the Colonial Park Pool make more than minimum wage and often receive free food. If Tara could give herself a piece of advice before starting her job as a lifeguard, she said she would tell herself to take the job seriously. “It’s not a chill job, but it’s a fun job.”

Tara’s rating of working at the Colonial Park Pool: 9/10

Pay: Lifeguards make a starting salary of $9/hour. However, each lifeguard gets a paid 15-minute break every 30 minutes he or she works.

Hours: Each lifeguard at the Colonial Park Pool is responsible for letting supervisors know when he or she is available to work. Lifeguards have the option of working day, evening, or night shifts during the week or weekend, but there is no weekly minimum hour requirement.

Memorial

Memorial Park Swimming Pool

Leonard Castleberry, a recent college graduate of Sam Houston State University, has been working at the Memorial Park Swimming Pool for two years. He took the job because his sister held a similar pool job and encouraged him to follow her footsteps. His favorite part about being a lifeguard is the fact that it keeps him active and forces him to stay in good shape.

Some important advice he gives is to “take the screening test slow because when I did it I wore myself on the first couple laps and was almost unable to complete it.” One disadvantage he brought up about his job was that the sun makes him really dark at the end of the summer.

Leonard’s rating of working at the Memorial Park Swimming Pool: 8/10

While most enjoyed getting to work on their tan and making friends with co-workers, lifeguarding also requires long hours and specialized training prior to landing the job. However, most lifeguards seemed happy in their jobs and gave it a high rating due to a good hourly wage and the various perks of working poolside with fellow students.

Conclusions: Lifeguarding

We give lifeguarding as a summer job an 8.5 out of 10. 

Things to Know

In order to be hired as a lifeguard you must have completed a lifeguard certification class, which includes CPR, AED, and first aid training. If you work at an amusement park or at a body of water that is not a pool, such as a lake or beach, your training might vary slightly, but the prerequisite for taking the course is the same.

Before you even set foot in a classroom, you must be able to do the following: continuously swim 300 yards in front or breaststroke, tread water for two minutes, and complete the brick test. The brick test is for most the most daunting part of the test because it is not only timed but also physically challenging, regardless of how good a person is at swimming. To complete the brick test, the trainee must swim 20 yards without goggles to retrieve a brick that is submerged in 7-10 feet of water. After retrieving the brick, the trainee must swim back with the brick in two hands to the starting point while keeping the brick above water. Then they must get out of the water without using a ladder or steps.

Although this might all seem overwhelming (especially the brick test) anyone in relatively good shape who truly wants to do it can succeed. The trick, according to Buzz intern Sarah Jane Knowlton, who has lifeguarding experience herself, is to take your time during the first two tests and then during the brick test to stay calm and swim out and retrieve the brick quickly, then swim on your back with the brick on your chest to the finish line. Of course, anyone who wants to be a lifeguard would benefit from some swim endurance training before taking the prerequisites and the course, since learning the lifesaving maneuvers in the actual course requires even more time in the water. See more helpful information on lifeguard training here.

Being a lifeguard is not just about saving drowning people, but also caring for anyone who needs assistance in the area and being able to continue lifesaving procedures once a person is taken from the pool. Although it is very unlikely that the average lifeguard will have to do anything besides sit on the stand, it is important for them to stay fit and alert at all times.

  • Amir Henry and Anna Walker both dislike having to clean the pool; however, they both enjoy lifeguarding.

    Amir Henry and Anna Walker both dislike having to clean the pool; however, they both enjoy lifeguarding.

  • Tara Virginillo likes her working conditions and the friends she has made through lifeguarding.

    Tara Virginillo likes her working conditions and the friends she has made through lifeguarding.

  • Leonard Castleberry uses his job as a lifeguard to stay in shape and become a better swimmer.

    Leonard Castleberry uses his job as a lifeguard to stay in shape and become a better swimmer.

  •   Zach Pearson enjoys knowing that he is in charge when sitting on the stand.

    Zach Pearson enjoys knowing that he is in charge when sitting on the stand.

     

  • Amir Henry and Anna Walker both dislike having to clean the pool; however, they both enjoy lifeguarding.
  • Tara Virginillo likes her working conditions and the friends she has made through lifeguarding.
  • Leonard Castleberry uses his job as a lifeguard to stay in shape and become a better swimmer.
  •   Zach Pearson enjoys knowing that he is in charge when sitting on the stand.

Amir Henry and Anna Walker both dislike having to clean the pool; however, they both enjoy lifeguarding.

Amir Henry and Anna Walker both dislike having to clean the pool; however, they both enjoy lifeguarding.

Tara Virginillo likes her working conditions and the friends she has made through lifeguarding.

Tara Virginillo likes her working conditions and the friends she has made through lifeguarding.

Leonard Castleberry uses his job as a lifeguard to stay in shape and become a better swimmer.

Leonard Castleberry uses his job as a lifeguard to stay in shape and become a better swimmer.

  Zach Pearson enjoys knowing that he is in charge when sitting on the stand.

Zach Pearson enjoys knowing that he is in charge when sitting on the stand.

 

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