Repositioning Aquatic Employment

There is also the commercial aquatic sector. Waterparks and waterpark resorts are some of the fastest-growing areas of the industry. Because these organizations are typically very large, aquatic professionals are more specialized in areas such as lifeguard/employee management, programming, pool operations, business operations, etc.

Traditional resort recreation opportunities also exist in many locations, some of which are exotic. Before the recent waterpark resort boom, hotels like MandalayBay and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas hired year-round, full-time aquatic directors and pool operators to manage the pools.

Pool Service/Sales

Another world exists in the swimming pool industry–sales and service. Seemingly unknown to many aquatic managers, a lot of money can be made in swimming pools and aquatics. Most professional pool operators have equivalent knowledge and skills of the pool service and sales people, and in many cases, much more. It is an easy transition from operating public pools to servicing the smaller pools of hotels/motels, apartment/neighborhood association pools and residential pools.

An offshoot of the pool service and sales industry is pool management companies. These organizations are hired by smaller entities, such as country clubs and neighborhood pools, to manage the facility. This usually includes staffing lifeguards, operating the pools and sometimes running programs such as swimming lessons. This is a growing sector that is in need of experienced professionals capable of business administration in addition to aquatic management skills.

Open-Water Lifesaving

Swimming pool professionals and open-water lifesaving professionals tend to see their jobs as very different, but the skills required to be effective are much the same. The usual suspect–when thinking of ocean rescue–is the beach patrol. Many beach lifeguards, especially those who work all year, are full-time employees with benefits and wages similar to other public-safety lines of work, such as police and firefighters.

Numerous lakes and riverfronts with public (or private) swimming beaches also provide lifeguard services. Many of these operate through state park systems, organized camps and other government or not-for-profit entitites.

Another ocean-rescue career is that of a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, made famous by Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher in the film The Guardian. Rescue swimmers are some of the most highly trained personnel in all of the armed forces, much like Navy SEALs.

Other Recreation Careers

Another career option for those with a strong aquatics background is to venture into other areas of the recreation profession. This is a logical transition for many who work for parks and recreation departments. Recreation offers many different areas for qualified managers. Positions range from programmers to marketing specialists, and facility operations to special-event coordinators. The best way to learn more about other recreation careers is to peruse the articles in this magazine to find out what people are doing or attend conferences.

Lifeguarding: A Gateway to Public Service and Professional Safety Careers

In addition to all the aquatic and recreation career options, other careers, such as firefighting, have similar characteristics. The emphasis is on safety and prevention. This is similar to Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). That may be the reason so many full-time aquatic professionals are EMTs and volunteer firefighters in their off-time.

It is now clear that there are many different career opportunities in aquatics and other closely related fields. Professional aquatic managers should use this information to mentor staff members who exhibit the necessary skills. After all, many current aquatic professionals exist because someone recognized their passion and informed them that it can be a fulfilling and stable career. This strategy can be used to recruit new employees who may or may not choose to stay in the field, but the job skills will last a lifetime.

Matthew Griffith, CPRP, is the pool operator for Georgia Institute of Technology. He has an extensive aquatics background managing municipal, private, school district and university programs. As an instructor, Griffith has taught CPO courses around the country, and holds numerous other certifications in pool operations and service. He can be reached via e-mail at

Joseph Walker is an assistant professor of recreation at the University of North Texas. His recreation background includes aquatics, community/special event programming, facility operations/development, staff management and comprehensive planning. He can be reached via e-mail at

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