A lifeguard keeps watch over bathers at Jones Beach State...

A lifeguard keeps watch over bathers at Jones Beach State Park last July. The new pay rates take effect immediately and cover swimming facilities operated by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Credit: Barry Sloan

The state is raising pay for lifeguards at its pools, beaches and campgrounds to address a staffing shortage, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday.

The increase for some lifeguards downstate — which covers Long Island — is 21%: $22 an hour, up from $18.15, Hochul’s office said in a news release. The increase is even higher for some upstate, 34%: to $20 from $14.95. 

Those raises are for lifeguards in their first and second seasons of employment. Hochul’s office said pay is going up “for lifeguards with more than two seasons of experience, ranging from five percent to 30 percent, depending on location and experience,” according to the release. 

The new pay rates take effect immediately and cover swimming facilities operated by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Long Island has eight locations run by the state that offer swimming: Jones Beach, Robert Moses, Orient Beach, Heckscher, Hither Hills, Sunken Meadow, Montauk Downs and Wildwood. None of those locations, which employ 500 lifeguards, has a staffing shortage this year.

A total of 74 new lifeguards were hired out of about 100 applicants, according to George Gorman, regional director for the state park system on Long Island. Typically, there are over 140 applicants.

The minimum age on the Island is 17; it’s 15 in some parts of the state, but Island lifeguards must physically be able to rescue beachgoers from the Atlantic Ocean and its strong currents. About 80% of the prior year’s lifeguarding staff return the next year, Gorman said.

The pay increase is expected to bring future seasons’ applicant pool back to typical numbers.

“We're competing with McDonald’s, and we’re competing with Burger king. We’re competing with so many seasonal employers,” Gorman said.


The lifeguard exam, which on Long Island was held June 12, consists of a 100-yard timed swim, a 50-yard cross-chest carry, a ¾-mile run and a 350-400 yard timed ocean swim. All components are timed, with a score based on a candidate’s finish time.

Candidates don’t need prior certification but must be at least 17, have at least 20/70 uncorrected vision in both eyes and not wear glasses or contacts.

Last year, Newsday reported that on Long Island and nationwide, there was a shortage of certified lifeguards. Managers at local swimming pools, beach clubs and camps said it was the worst they’d seen. The coronavirus pandemic was a major factor, with training classes being shut down last year. 

New York City under Mayor Eric Adams has a lifeguard shortage, which is resulting in limited operations at beaches and pools.

With Robert Brodsky

Latest Videos