How To Become A Qualified Swimming Instructor In The UK

So you’re looking at how to become a qualified swimming instructor? That’s great news.

Becoming a swimming instructor is a challenging and rewarding job that helps people to learn a valuable life skill. Not only is swimming teaching a bunch of fun, but few roles deliver the satisfaction of seeing somebody develop into a skilled swimmer before your eyes.

Swimming is becoming more and more popular in the UK, which means you’ll be in high demand over the next few years, so there’s never been a better time to get yourself qualified.

Here at Swim Now, we currently operate across the country offering swimming lessons in Manchester, swimming lessons in Coventry and swimming lessons in Leicester amongst many others. So we know what’s needed to become qualified.

However, resources that contain all the information you need to start your new career as a swimming instructor are hard to find. So, in this guide, we’ll lay out a step by step approach to gaining your qualification and answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

Sounds good? Then let’s dive in.

Why become a swimming instructor?

Why become a swimming instructor?

There are many reasons why people become a swimming instructor – some love to teach kids, others enjoy working with adults. But whatever the reason, here’s four benefits of working as a swimming instructor

Flexibility to suit your own schedule

Whether you’re a student, a parent with kids, a full-time employee or just somebody who values choosing their own working hours, swimming teaching can fit in perfectly around your current lifestyle.

It pays a solid wage

While you probably won’t transform your life into one of extravagant luxury, fully-qualified swimming instructors are typically paid between £14-20 per hour. It’s not Richard Branson level money, but it beats most other jobs in the leisure industry. Compare it to lifeguards for example, who are paid on average about £7-9 per hour.

You develop transferable skills

Nowadays, a job for life is truly a thing of the past. People are switching careers more frequently and employers are looking for candidates with tangible skills. As a swimming instructor, you’ll develop your public speaking & communication skills, you’ll improve your planning ability and you’ll learn how to work independently to reach goals.

Where can you work as a swimming instructor?

Where can you work as a swimming instructor?

Well, this seems a little obvious – you’re probably thinking ‘ugh…in a swimming pool, right?’. Technically that’s correct, but in reality, becoming a swimming instructor opens up a variety of work and travel opportunities that many people overlook.

Here are just some examples of where a career as a swimming instructor can take you :

• Health clubs
• Leisure centers
• Holiday resorts
• Schools
• Cruise Ships

Don’t forget that people all over the world need to learn how to swim. So if you’re planning on taking a gap year, career break or just would like to move abroad, being a qualified swimming instructor opens up a way to earn a living that isn’t tied to one specific location.

Two routes to becoming a swimming instructor

Currently, in the UK there are two routes to become a qualified swimming instructor. Both Swim England and the Swimming Teachers Association (STA) offer courses that allow you to teach swimming. There are various levels of qualification and things like cost and duration can vary both within each organisation and also between the two bodies. So, let’s try to lay the information out as clearly as possible so you can decide which is the best route for you.

Become a swimming instructor with Swim England Qualifications

Become a Swimming instructor with Swim England

Swim England Qualifications is created by the national governing body of the sport of swimming in the UK. They’re the largest awarding organisation of swimming teachers in the UK and their qualifications are generally pretty comprehensive and well received by those who take them. They place a strong emphasis on practical training with over half of their qualifications dedicated to hands-on poolside teaching.

They offer two swimming instructor qualifications: The SEQ Level 1 Swimming Assistant (Teaching) and The SEQ Level 2 Teaching Swimming Qualification which can only be undertaken after you’ve completed the first course.

Here’s a quick overview of each course:

Level 1 Swimming Teacher’s Assistant Course

This course builds your skills, knowledge, and abilities as an assistant swimming teacher. This means you can teach with the supervision of a qualified swimming teacher (i.e. someone who’s done the level 2 qualification).

Think of it as a provisional driving license for swimming teaching. To enrol, you need to be 16 years of age at the start of the course. The fees can vary according to location but you should expect to pay about £380 for the tuition.

You’ll learn about things like:

  • The legal aspects of assisting in swimming lessons
  • The responsibilities of a Swimming Assistant
  • The swimming pathway, fundamental movement, core aquatic skills and component parts of strokes
  • Scientific principles of swimming
  • What makes up a lesson plan, equipment and communications skills
  • How to identify anxiety and use of motivational techniques
  • The type of assistance you can provide

You have to undertake this course before you can advance on your level 2 swimming teacher.

The total qualification time is 30 hours of which 26 hours are face-to-face guided learning hours. The delivery formats vary dependent on the approved training centre (deliver site) you choose to attend, it could be a full face to face course or blended course which consists of online learning and studying followed by a practical assessment face to face. These courses generally run for 4 days and the assessment is completed through theoretical questions, observation record and review record.

Level 2 Teaching Swimming Course

This qualification builds on the skills developed in the Level 1 and teaches you how to plan and deliver swimming lessons on your own without supervision. You will gain skills on developing lessons for SEND swimmers, how to differentiate and adapt your lessons for varying abilities and how to deliver engaging and fun swimming lessons to maintain motivation and retain swimmers for longer.

Again, you need to be at least 16 years of age to enrol, and it’s usually recommended that you have at least 3 month’s experience as a teacher’s assistant before you undertake the Level 2 qualification.

At Level 2 there’s a much larger workload and you’ll be expected to self-direct your learning a bit more. You’ll cover topics like:

  • The responsibilities and role of a swimming teacher
  • How the scientific principles of swimming impact on learners development
  • How to develop core aquatic skills and the four strokes
  • How to identify and correct common swimming faults
  • How to assess ability and use a variety of teaching techniques and equipment to suit different needs
  • How to plan and deliver inclusive lessons for different levels of ability. Includes adaptations for learners with special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Key teaching and management skills including class management and assessment, safety and safeguarding, time management and organisational skills, behaviour management, communication skills, teaching methods and motivational techniques
  • National curriculum swimming lessons and how they differ from learn to swim lessons
  • How to plan for your professional development

Costs vary according to location but expect to pay about £680 for the tuition fees. After finishing the course you can expect to earn an average of about £15 per hour.

The total qualification time is 63 hours of which 55 hours are face-to-face guided learning hours. The delivery formats vary dependent on the approved training centre (deliver site) you choose to attend, it could be a full face to face course or blended course which consists of online learning and studying followed by a practical assessment face to face. These courses generally run for approximately 8 days.

Both of Swim England Qualifications above are endorsed to CIMSPA’s Professional Standards and on completion of the Level 2 Teaching Swimming learners can take advantage of a 12 months CIMSPA affiliate membership for FREE.

Become a Swimming Instructor With The Swimming Teachers Association

Become a Swimming Instructor With The Swimming Teachers Association

The STA was founded in 1932 with the aim of providing good training for swimming teachers. The organisation has lots of experience and trains thousands of new swimming teachers each year. Like Swim England, they also have two courses.

Let’s take a quick look at what their courses have to offer:

Level 2 Award in teaching swimming

This is the first step in starting a career as a swimming instructor with the STA. You don’t need any previous experience to enrol but you do need to be 16 years old and a member of the STA which costs £44 per year.

The Award will develop your vocational skills and technical knowledge, so you can independently teach your very own class of 12 participants from non-swimmers/beginners up to improvers (children and adults).

The course is run over 5 days and again the price varies – but in general, expect to pay £250-350 in course fees depending on the region.

The STA uses the International Learn to Swim Programme as their curriculum which means that your qualification will be recognised in many countries outside of the UK too.

Level 2 Certificate in teaching swimming

Once you’ve completed the Award in teaching swimming, you can progress onto the Certificate, which enables you to teach advanced lessons, extended skills and advanced awards. The benefits of taking the Certificate course are:

• Further build your expertise in teaching competitive strokes
• Develop survival and rescue skills
• Learn to teach competitive starts and turns
• Learn the technical aspects of swimming
• Gain confidence in teaching swimmers of all abilities
• Meet CIMSPA’s professional standards

You need to be 16 years of age to join and have completed the Award in Swimming Teaching course. It’s important to note that the Swim England Level 1 qualification doesn’t count here, so it’s wise to carefully choose which governing body you’d prefer to train with at the start.

The course costs vary from about £350-£450 depending on the region, and is run over 3 or 4 days as an intensive course or alternatively over a number of weekends which might suit people who are working full time better. You also have the option to add additional specialised qualifications later – which will teach you how to instruct people with disabilities or pre-school children.

One of the biggest draws of the Certificate course is that you can take advantage of 12 months free CIMSPA affiliate membership which offers access to benefits from the UK’s leisure industry body.

Where can I find a swimming instructor job?

Where can I find a swimming instructor job?

If you’re recently qualified as swimming instructor and would like to find work as a swimming instructor then you’ll find a great range of job vacancies available nationally and internationally at the following links:

Leisure opportunities UK
Swim England careers 
Opportunities further afield

In Summary

Becoming a swim instructor is a great career move that offers a rewarding, flexible and well paid job. It offers the opportunity to work abroad, and beats working at just any old boring desk job. You’ll derive great satisfaction from seeing your students develop from water-shy beginners into fully fledged confident swimmers.

Currently in the UK, you can choose to undertake your education with Swim England or The Swimming Teachers Association (STA). Both accretions are recognised by almost all employers – although certain pools may have a preference for one over the other. So make sure you enquire before you take the plunge.

Have you any questions about becoming a swimming instructor? Simply drop them in the comment box below and we’ll do our very best to get back to you with an answer.

by Alistair Mills

In 2016 I saw an opportunity for a new swimming company that did things a little bit differently and here we are almost 4 years later, having built a family of teachers and clients that we are all really proud of.


  • Louise Williams July 9, 2020   Reply →

    Hi I live in North Wales and I’m looking into training to become a swimming instructor. Could you advise me on qualifications I would need please or how I can start training. Many thank

    • Alistair Mills July 13, 2020   Reply →

      Hi, have you read the part of the article which highlights the different courses available?
      Do you have a preference to STA or Swim England qualifications?
      What’s you local area?

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