Water Safety Instructors

Please Note: Canadian Red Cross has decided to wind down our involvement in swim and lifeguard training in order to direct more attention to surging humanitarian demands in other areas.  Red Cross is supporting its water safety Training Partners and those looking for certification to transition to the swim and lifeguard training programs of the Lifesaving Society Canada through the course of 2022.  Please check with your local provincial/territorial Lifesaving Society for more information on training. For information on how to transition your Red Cross certification to Lifesaving Society: Swim Transition pathways.

The Canadian Red Cross has a long history of developing well-trained professional instructors who love swimming as much as they love to help others learn.

Red Cross Water Safety Instructor Course

The Water Safety Instructor (WSI) Course prepares candidates to instruct the Red Cross Swim programs. Candidates focus on strategies to introduce and develop fitness activities, skills and water safety, and swimming skills in the Red Cross Swim Preschool, Red Cross Swim Kids, Red Cross Swim @ School, Red Cross Swim @ Camp, Red Cross Swim for Adults & Teens, and Red Cross Swim Adapted programs.

Click infographic for more detail Infographic flowchart that illustrates the steps required for Instructor Development Program, Water Safety Instructor Certification.
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Course Components & Length

  • WSI—Skills Evaluation* – 3–6 hours
  • WSI—Online – 14–20 hours
  • WSI—Teaching Experience – minimum 8 hours
  • WSI—Classroom and Pool – 9 hours classroom, 12 hours pool.

* WSI—Skills Evaluation can be completed before, during or after the WSI—Online or WSI—Teaching Experience, but must be completed before attending the WSI—Classroom and Pool.

Pre-course Requirements

15 years or older by the last day of the WSI - Classroom and Pool, ability to perform Red Cross Swim Kids 10 strokes and skills, and hold one of the following certifications: Red Cross Assistant Lifeguard or higher, or Bronze Cross or higher (certifications do not need to be current). Note: Bronze Cross is required in Quebec.

Completion Criteria

  • Attend, participate in, and complete 100% of all four course components.
  • WSI—Teaching Experience: complete a minimum of 4 hours** in each of a Red Cross Swim Preschool and a Red Cross Swim Kids class within 6 months of finishing the WSI—Online.

** Red Cross recommends completing an entire session


All course components are evaluated against specific evaluation criteria on a pass/fail basis.

Course Materials

  • Water Safety Instructor Workbook
  • Red Cross Swim Deck Book
  • WSI—Online


Upon successful completion, candidates are certified for 2 years as a WSI, which allows them to teach Red Cross Swim programs without direct supervision.

Complete 3 Water Safety Instructor—Online Professional Development Courses:  Evaluating Strokes, Supervising the Teaching Experience, and Teaching Parented Classes, before attending the WSI Recertification Course.


Attend a recertification course every 2 years (2 hours classroom, 3 hours pool).

NCCP Swimming Teacher Certification

The Canadian Red Cross, Swimming Canada and the Coaching Association of Canada have completed an agreement to offer an accelerated training track to become a swimming coach. If you are a current Red Cross Water Safety Instructor, you can follow the steps outlined in the process to earn your National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) Swimming Teacher certification.

The NCCP Swimming Teacher certification is the minimum certification standard for coaches working for community swim clubs. The Red Cross is proud to be the first training organization to earn recognition for this program and to offer our instructors enhanced employment opportunities within the aquatics community.

For additional information, current Red Cross WSIs should refer to the following website: Swimming Teacher – Red Cross, I Can Swim, & Lifesaving Society – Swimming Canada.