What You Need to Know
- To work as a swimming instructor, you need to hold a relevant qualification awarded by either the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) or the Swimming Teachers Association (STA).
- To begin with, you will need to earn a Level 1 Certificate, either in teaching swimming or in coaching experienced swimmers.
- A Level 1 Certificate allows you to work as a teaching assistant to a fully-qualified instructor.
- In order to be able to work unsupervised, you will need to take and pass a Level 2 course.
- A Level 4 Certificate from the ASA, meanwhile, will qualify you to coach competitive athletes at the highest level.
- Overall, swimming instruction courses can cost up to £400 to complete. However, the ASA offers a range of bursaries and grants.
- Teaching assistants with a Level 1 certificate can expect to earn around £7 an hour, while Level 2-qualified instructors may earn around £10 an hour.
What Do Swimming Instructors Do?
Swimming instructors teach people of all ages and abilities to swim. As an instructor, you may find yourself working in a number of locations, including local public swimming pools, private leisure centres and schools, either on a part-time or a full-time basis. Far from simply teaching beginners the basics, the work will often be varied. For instance, in this line of work, your responsibilities may also include:
- Identifying the ability of your students and then planning and delivering lessons at the appropriate level.
- Observing students technique, offering feedback and working with them to improve their strokes.
- Ensuring that safety standards are followed at all times and making sure that life-saving equipment is in order.
- Supervising any swimming assistants and helpers, including students parents.
Qualifications and Experience
To work as a swimming instructor, you need to hold a relevant qualification awarded by one of two bodies, namely:
- The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA)
- The Swimming Teachers Association (STA)
To begin with, you will need to earn a Level 1 Certificate, either in teaching swimming or in coaching experienced swimmers. Level 1 courses are available through both the ASA and the STA and can be taken on a part-time basis, to fit around other work or studies. Once you have your Level 1 Certificate, you will be qualified to work alongside fully-qualified teachers or coaches.
In order to be able to work unsupervised, you will need to take and pass a Level 2 course. Again, the ASA and STA websites set out how you can train for this certificate. Overall, swimming instruction courses can cost up to £400 to complete. However, the ASA offers a range of bursaries and grants.
Alongside the relevant training and qualifications, prospective employers will also expect you to have personal characteristics and the right aptitude for teaching swimming. For example, they may look for:
- Excellent communication skills and the ability to work with students of all ages and backgrounds.
- A high level of patience and perseverance and the ability to motivate struggling swimmers.
- A keen interest in swimming, as well as strong swimming skills.
Again, once you hold your Level 2 certificate, you are qualified to work unsupervised as a swimming instructor. For many instructors, this is enough to find regular, satisfying work, though you may want to push on ahead with your chosen career.
The Level 3 Certificate for Coaching Swimming from the ASA will allow you to qualify as a senior coach, opening up new professional opportunities and boosting your overall earnings. A Level 4 Certificate from the ASA, meanwhile, will qualify you to coach competitive athletes at the highest level, with this paying much more than teaching beginners. Alongside formal certificates, the ASA also runs regular training days and seminars in a range of subjects, including child protection and working with disabled swimmers, all of which are designed with continuing professional development (CPD) in mind,
Note that if you want to work with children or other vulnerable people, you will also be required to have clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Information on getting this clearance can be found on the Home Office website.
Pay and Benefits
Rates of pay for newly-qualified swimming instructors is rarely very high. Teaching assistants with a Level 1 certificate can expect to earn around £7 an hour, while Level 2-qualified instructors may earn around £10 an hour.
At the top of the pay scale, specialist coaches can earn as much as £30 or £40 an hour, with the rewards for Olympics-level coaches potentially even greater.
Aside from the pay, most instructors do the job as they have a passion for swimming and want to share this with others. Others, meanwhile, enjoy the flexibility the job allows, with many instructors working on a part-time basis and fitting the job around other commitments.
Potential employers can include local councils, private health clubs, schools and outdoors pursuits centres. Some of the best places to look for new opportunities include the UK Sport website and the ASA website, as well as the jobs pages of local authorities.
At the highest level, professional coaches are often head-hunted, so be aware that if you want to reach the top you will be judged by the success of any students or teams you coach.
Find out more about becoming an instructor and find a swimming club near you with the help of the ASA website: http://www.swimming.org/asa/
Make sure you’re getting paid what you’re owed with this guide to the National Minimum Wage: http://www.uknetguide.co.uk/Employment/Article/Entitlements_to_National_Minimum_Wage-105443.html