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How to get YMCA Swim Instructor Certification

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If you want to get your YMCA Swim Instructor Certification, you should first apply to a local YMCA to work as an instructor. Certification is generally only available to YMCA staff or those who are applying for a job as a swim instructor. Getting the YMCA Swim Instructor Certification includes written tests, along with on-site demonstrations of your swimming and resuscitation skills. YMCA swim instructors learn to analyze the fundamental mechanics of a swimmer's skills at different ages and levels, as well as being able to respond to emergency situations in and around the pool. There is a fee for the certification, which is about $110.

Certificate Prerequisites

Before applying to work as a YMCA swim instructor, you should have three certifications.

  • First, you should be certified as a lifeguard, either through the YMCA or the American Red Cross. You can use the American Red Cross Lifeguarding Certificate toward getting your YMCA Lifeguarding Certificate after 90 days of working for the YMCA.
  • Second, you should have CPR certification for professional rescuers from the American Safety and Health Institute, the American Red Cross, or the American Heart Association. 
  • Third, you should have First Aid certification from the American Safety and Health Institute, the American Red Cross, or the American Heart Association.


Getting your YMCA Swim Instructor Certification does involve study time, most of which may be done online using YMCA e-learning resources. To get your certification, you need an 80 percent grade or better. The four courses you need to study and pass exams for include:

  • Principles of Youth Development
  • YMCA Swim Lesson Instructor: Orientation
  • YMCA Swim Lesson Instructor: Observe and Communicate 
  • CPR-Pro, Oxygen and First Aid.


Before getting a position as a swim instructor for the YMCA, you should be prepared to pass a variety of tests that include:

  • Tread water for two minutes.
  • Swim the front crawl for 250 yards.
  • Swim the front crawl with your head up for 50 yards.
  • Swim the breaststroke with your head up for 50 yards.
  • Swim the inverted breaststroke with your hands on your belly for 50 yards.
  • Dive feet-first from the surface into deep water, and swim underwater for 15 feet.
  • Sprint 60 feet in the water, and then do an arm-over-arm surface dive into deep water.
  • Retrieve a dive ring from the bottom of the pool, and then tread water for one minute using just your legs; then return the ring to where it was.
  • Perform CPR for two minutes.

Additionally, you should expect to complete various rescue scenarios like rescuing an adult male from the water, rescuing a panicking child from the pool, or rescuing a non-swimmer or an unconscious swimmer from the pool.

Once you pass the required tests and demonstrations, your YMCA manager or instructor will let you know when you will receive your certification.


A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.

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