In Australia, the rate of drowning deaths each year is alarming.
Earlier this year, the Royal Life Saving Society and the Surf Life Saving Society put out a joint report that showed there were 294 drowning deaths across Australia in 2021. This included drownings in coastal areas, inland waterways and pools and was a 20% increase from the previous year.
What this points to is that Australian people lack the swimming skills to ensure safety in the water. Some of this increase can be attributed to COVID causing children to miss out on swimming lessons, and for adults and teenagers to have reduced pool access leading to losing swim fitness and water confidence. However, the number of people in Australia who cannot swim well enough to save themselves should they get into trouble is a cause for concern.
What does this mean for you?
If you are a confident and strong swimmer and feel you have good teaching skills, you may want to consider training as a swimming instructor.
This article will give you the lowdown on how to become a swimming instructor, including the qualifications you need, where to find students and swimming instructor jobs and how much you might expect to earn, both as a casual instructor and as a career swim coach.
What Qualifications are Needed to Become a Swim Coach?
The first question you might be wondering about is: Are qualifications mandatory to work as a swimming instructor?
In short, although some people might be teaching privately without qualifications, in Australia if you wish to work for a swim school or to be covered properly by insurance, swimming teachers must have the correct qualifications and must also receive updated accreditation every three years.
There are two nationally recognised associations where you can gain these qualifications — AUSTSWIM and Swim Australia™. Other organisations provide training as well, however, these two are recognised throughout Australia and overseas.
It is recommended that you begin with the basic qualification and then further your skills in specialised areas with extension courses in areas including:
- infant and preschool aquatic training
- aquatic access and inclusion
- competitive stroke development
- adult teaching
- aqua fitness instructor.
In addition to the basic and extension qualifications, people who want to gain employment in swimming instructor jobs must also:
- be at least 16 years of age
- have a reasonable level of fitness
- demonstrate swimming ability
- hold a current CPR certificate
- hold a current Working with Children or Working with Vulnerable People check (or the state equivalent)
- hold a current certificate in the base qualification (Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety).
What about personality traits?
Aside from the formal qualifications, it's also important to ensure you have the right sort of personality and attitude to work as a swimming teacher.
Teaching beginners how to swim is not everyone's cup of tea — particularly if they are nervous or have had bad experiences in the water or with other swimming teachers or courses in the past.
Similarly, working with young children or teenagers is also not for everyone. Teenagers can have attitudes, particularly in a group and young children are often so excited to be in the pool that they don't listen and potentially endanger the safety of the other students or pool users. With children, a swim instructor not only needs to know what they are doing in terms of the lessons but they also need to have teaching skills and a good level of behaviour management skills.
It's super important as a swimming instructor working with any level that you never show your frustration — even if the students are not listening. If students feel that you are frustrated or impatient, it will impact their confidence and make them less likely to try new things and to learn.
Always being encouraging and supportive is also key. If your tendency is to roll your eyes when a student makes the same mistake for the fiftieth time, this job is probably not for you because not only will the student lose confidence but you simply won't be enjoying your work.
What are the Benefits of Training and Working as a Swimming Coach?
Let's not beat around the bush here — working as a swimming instructor or swim coach can be immensely rewarding but can also be incredibly stressful. We would like to think, however, that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
The great things about working in a job where you get to teach people how to be confident and focus on safety in the pool or other bodies of water include:
- helping people enjoy swimming and their time in the water
- making a difference with children
- flexible work hours
- working in a job that keeps you fit and active
- building relationships with your students
- variety in your workday
- the knowledge that your job could be saving lives.
Most of the disadvantages centre around personalities. In jobs where you are working with children, the parents can be the most difficult to deal with — especially those who don't want to be involved in managing their child's behaviour. Dealing with the fear and anxiety (and frustration) people may bring can also be stressful for the instructor. With the right training and support, however, you can learn how to manage these factors.
Where Can I Find Swimming Instructor Jobs?
As a swimming instructor with the required qualifications and accreditation certificate, you can work in almost any water environment from a private backyard swimming pool to a public pool, swim school, school holiday pool program and a beach or river program where you might be involved in teaching water safety and survival to surfers, kayakers or trainee lifeguards. You may even find a job at a resort or on a cruise ship, with the kids club or adult activity program.
The vast majority of swim teachers, especially those who work on a casual basis, tend to work at a swim school run by their local pool or swim club.
The swim school or club will have a set program that you will be required to teach. Often these include step-by-step lessons, followed by instructions for assessment in order to gain a competency certificate for each specific level. In some cases, a swim school or club may also offer private lessons, where there is likely to be more flexibility for the instructor to work with what is required by each individual student.
If you're looking for a casual role as a swim teacher, your best bet is to visit each swim school in your area, chat with the coordinating instructor or owner and leave your resume. Don't be afraid to call back every so often to show you are still interested.
For people looking to make a career out of teaching and coaching in swimming, you can also leave your resume at swim schools and aquatic centres but it would be a good idea to register with your state swimming organisation or a similar body that oversees swimming instruction and coaching. The Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA), Swim Australia and AUSTSWIM are all highly recommended.
If you want to build a business offering private, one-on-one swimming lessons, you would need to go about finding students in the same way as tutors or instructors of other subjects and recreational or sports activities. These include word-of-mouth, traditional advertising and online advertising.
Be aware that many pool complexes run their own swim school and squad training, and prefer not to have private instructors using their pool for lessons. If they do allow this, it is likely to attract a sizeable fee but it is always worth asking as you will need somewhere to run your lessons.
What are the Pay Rates for Swimming Instructors?
The rates charged for swimming lessons vary widely depending on the individual swim school, the location, the level of the students and whether or not the lessons are large group, small group or private. In the same way, pay rates for instructors vary as well.
As a general guide, talent.com reports that, in Australia, the average annual salary for a full-time swimming teacher is $57,525; this equates to approximately $29.50 per hour. If you want to work in a casual role, indeed.com has casual swimming teacher jobs advertised from between $23 to $50 an hour.
Of course, if you are working for yourself as a private swim teacher, your hourly rate for lessons would need to incorporate any insurance you pay, transport, equipment, preparation time and, if required, pool hire.
Decide what you want. Write it down. Make a plan. And then do something ...
This applies to everyone in every aspect of life. If you love the water and want to help others develop that love of swimming, working out how to become a swimming instructor to achieve this goal will absolutely be worth it.
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