More Culture:

February 01, 2023

Philly offering $1,000 bonuses to recruit more summer lifeguards

Those who submit an application by April 15 will receive $1K at the end of the summer; later applicants could still earn $500

Recreation Swimming

The city of Philadelphia has started recruiting lifeguards to work at its pools this summer. Last year, low recruitment meant many pools stayed closed for the season. To get more people on board, they will offer up to $1,000 to early applicants.

Nothing is more relaxing on a hot summer's day than taking a dip in the swimming pool. 

But not every neighborhood in Philly got to experience that last summer. Due to a lifeguard shortage, 21 of the city's 74 pools remained closed. 

To recruit more lifeguards this year, Philadelphia is offering a $1,000 signing bonus.

The city is looking to hire 400 certified lifeguards this summer, close to double the 196 from last year, as soon as possible. For people that apply by April 15, the city will offer $1,000 at the end of the summer. Those who apply by May 15 can pocket $500 by the season's close.

"Lifeguards are the foundation of a fun Philly summer," Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said. "For two summers now, we have seen the impact the national lifeguard shortage has on our ability to open all the city's beloved free public pools. That's why we are doing whatever it takes to recruit and retain lifeguards to work at a Parks & Rec pool this summer."

The city is funding this recruitment strategy in part through the Philly Phreeze on Feb. 25, a fundraiser where registered participants pledge money and dive into the freezing water at Kelly Pool. 

The city has shown desperation in its latest recruitment tactics. Last month, they announced that teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 could apply and receive all the proper certifications free of charge. Those costs are usually about $110 per person.

They have even begun recruiting people who cannot swim, Philly Mag wrote

"There's been a lifeguard shortage, both nationally and locally, and we feel it very acutely here in Philadelphia," Ott Lovell told the Inquirer. "We've increased pay for lifeguards. There's no longer a residency requirement for lifeguards, but we still struggle and we have not been able to open all of our swimming pools for the last two summers. We literally can't find people to be lifeguards."

Last year, Philly increased its hourly wage for lifeguards from $16 to $18, but that didn't move the needle enough. Parks and Recreation was so low on recruits that a 70-year-old grandmother became a lifeguard and local celebrity. 

In May of last year, the city said it needed 60 more recruits just weeks before it was supposed to start opening pools on a rolling basis. Despite that, the city continued to host pop-up events throughout the summer, recruiting teens to become lifeguards.

To become a lifeguard in Philadelphia, candidates need to make sure their swimming skills are sharp. They must be able to swim up to 300 meters nonstop, tread water for two minutes and retrieve a 10-pound brick from the bottom of the deep end of a pool. 

Philadelphia pools are expected to open for seven weeks starting sometime in June, with rolling closures beginning in August. 

Anyone interested in applying to become a lifeguard in Philadelphia must select the pool they want to work for, work with parks and recreation's aquatics staff to complete training, and make sure all certification requirements are met. Any questions about the application process can be emailed to or by calling (215) 683-3663.