Do what you love and the money will follow.
~ Marsha Sinetar ~
Swimming instructors and coaches don't exactly earn top dollar for their classes when compared with high-flying professional careers like medicine and law, however, the wage is not insignificant when you consider the work.
Talent.com reports that the average salary for a full-time swimming teacher is around $57,000 a year. This can range from $53,000 to over $70,000 a year, depending on the individual teacher's level of experience and qualifications.
So, yes, you can earn more in other industries and jobs but will you be as happy? Will these other jobs allow you flexibility with your work hours? And will you get the same level of satisfaction as when you see the confidence and skills of your students grow?
There are many different kinds of swimming teacher jobs you can apply for, including:
- casual school holiday swim programs
- casual, after school learn to swim classes
- part-time positions running adult classes during school hours
- full-time positions working with students of every age.
You may specialise in baby or child swimming classes, stroke development for members of a squad, or adults who are complete beginners. And you could find yourself teaching a swimming class at a public pool swim school, a private backyard pool, a beach or river or even on a cruise ship or resort.
Alternatively, you may decide you'd prefer to work for yourself as a private personal swim coach.
There are benefits and disadvantages to both scenarios.
Either way, you will want to know how much you can expect to be paid, or how to determine your swimming lesson prices if you work with private students. And that's what we're about to explore.
What is the Hourly Rate for a Swimming Class?
Swimming lesson prices range significantly depending on the individual pool or swim school, age of the students, level of the students, length of each lesson, group size (or if the lessons are private) and type of lesson (e.g. aquatic fitness, water safety, stroke development, learn to swim and so on).
If you work for a swim school or other organised swimming program, you need to remember that your payment will only be a small portion of the fees charged to the students. This is because the organisers or owners of the school or program need to factor in other costs, such as administrative fees, pool hire, equipment purchase and maintenance and public liability insurance.
So do swimming schools and private swim instructors just set their own swimming lesson prices and pay rates without any guidance?
No — at least swim schools don't. (Private swimming teachers can set their own fees, but more on that in the next section.)
The Fitness Industry Award 2020 outlines a number of conditions, including pay rates, for people who work in the fitness industry, including swimming instructors and coaches. If you're a permanent full or part-time employee, you can check the Fitness Industry Award 2020 to check that you are being paid at least the award wage.
If you work as a swimming teacher in a casual position, you should expect to be paid around 23% more than your full-time counterparts. This is because casual staff do not get paid for sick leave or holiday time, nor do they have employer contributions for superannuation.
With this in mind, on average, a swimming instructor in a permanent position will earn around $29.30 an hour. A casual employee will earn, on average, around $33.57 per hour.
How does this compare with others in the fitness industry?
While people who work under the fitness industry banner are all covered by the Fitness Industry Award 2020, there are variations in the average hourly rates that are payable. Lifeguards, for example, average $29.66 an hour — roughly the same as swimming instructors. However, a fitness instructor who works in a gym, taking classes or supervising gym members on the floor, can earn an average of $40.41 an hour.
Why the difference if it's the same award?
It likely boils down to the amount of training that is required for different jobs — a personal trainer, for example, has to maintain their accreditation on a yearly basis, whereas swimming teachers have to renew only once every three years. Supply and demand also have a lot to do with rates of pay in the industry.
A few other factors come into play when hourly pay rates are determined, particularly for casual staff at swim schools. One of these is group lessons as opposed to private lessons. You are likely to earn more per hour for a private lesson than a group lesson — even if it doesn't seem to be much of a difference. Private students pay higher fees because they have the instructor to themselves. For the teacher, they only have to plan the lesson for one student. Group lessons are cheaper per student, however, the instructor still gets paid the same or similar hourly rate despite having to cater for more students in one lesson.
Your level of experience and the breadth of your qualifications may also determine how much you are paid. If you are sought after as a teacher, the swim school management might choose to pay you a higher rate or a bonus. Similarly, if you have a qualification that enables you to teach adults with physical disabilities, you may be offered more, especially if other people with the same qualification are hard to come by.
Okay, so that's a swim school but what if you're working for yourself? How should you set your swimming lesson prices?
Considerations When Setting Your Prices
The most important factor to bear in mind when it comes to setting your swimming lesson prices as an independent swimming teacher is that you want to be competitive, while also making money.
First of all, do a bit of research to see how much people are paying for swimming lessons in your area. Look at swim school fees as well as private instructor fees. Compare fees for different group sizes, ages and levels. Focus on the type of lessons you want to teach as well as the type of students you want to work with.
Once you have done your research and have some benchmark swimming lesson prices to start with, draw up a list of your expenses. This is where a lot of people who are moving from working for someone to working for themselves fail, so it's important to be aware of every hidden cost that may eat into your 'profit'.
Cost of training
While your initial training to receive your qualification may be a one-off, you still need to retrain for accreditation purposes every three years and renew your swimming teacher licence. You also need to renew your CPR certificate every year.
Cost of memberships and other fees
As an independent swimming teacher, you are not obliged to join associations such as Swim Coaches and Teachers Australia, however, there are significant benefits to doing so, including ongoing support and reductions in course fees and insurance. And, speaking of insurance, nobody is going to force you to take out insurance but if you don't, ask yourself if you'd prefer to pay a yearly insurance premium or thousands of dollars in court fines should a student decide to sue you for whatever reason.
This may well be a negligible cost but it is still worth factoring in as every cent makes a difference. Even if you don't take out a full-page ad in a glossy magazine or record an ad for the television, the cost of printing and paper to make flyers is still a cost and you will have to do at least a little bit of advertising to start finding students.
Pool hire or transport costs
You will obviously need somewhere to teach each swimming class you run. It may well be that you have to hire a lane at your local swimming pool or leisure centre. If you can't do that, you might offer a mobile 'learn to swim' service, which means that you will need to factor in the cost of your transport to and from your students' homes.
Cost of equipment
Depending on who your students are and their level, you're going to need a range of equipment, such as kickboards, flotation devices (like noodles) and dive toys. This equipment is not cheap and will need to be replaced regularly.
Your uniform is, of course, your swimwear — swimsuits, shorts, rashie, googles, etc. Again, like your equipment, these items are not cheap and need to be replaced regularly, particularly if you want to maintain a professional appearance.
That's a lot of money!
Don't let this list discourage you. Once you add up the cost of different expenses and spread them out over your desired number of students, you should still be making a decent profit. If your pricing is competitive and your lessons are top notch, the students will come.
Go and live your dream!
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