Swimming certificates in Germany

From the so-called seahorse to the snorkeler - we have the overview for you

by Johanna | Restube

published on january 15, 2024

Swimming is not only a popular leisure activity, but also a vital skill. Swimming certificates have been used in Germany for many years to assess swimming ability. In this article we will introduce you to the different swimming certificates in Germany, their requirements and their significance. We also take a look at Austria and Switzerland to see the differences between the swimming certificates in these two countries.

What do swimming certificates stand for?

Swimming certificates are seen as an important demonstration of an individual's ability in the water. But they are much more than that: they are a sign of confidence and responsibility. Possession of a certificate signals not only the ability to move safely in the water, but also the willingness to take responsibility for oneself and others. Certificates help children develop an awareness of their abilities in the water. This leads to greater safety in the water, and as a result, accidents in the water can be avoided.

Since 1977, the Federal Association for the Promotion of Swimming Education (BFS) and the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs have set the requirements for swimming certificates in Germany.

Swimming certificates in Germany are divided into four levels, starting with the Early Swimmer certificate, followed by Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each level has different swimming requirements. The Early Swimmer requires only basic swimming skills such as jumping into the water, retrieving an object from shoulder-deep water and swimming a distance of 25 meters. The Bronze and Silver badges involve more difficult techniques, and the Gold badge requires more advanced skills, including rescue techniques and swimming longer distances.

Be careful! Swimming schools often offer their own swimming certificates. Although these can motivate children to learn to swim better, these certificates are not subject to any standardized examination regulations.

For professional rescuers, there are special swimming certificates in Germany that go beyond the regular certificates. These certificates are often required for professions in which rescuing people from the water is a central task, such as lifeguards, water rescue services or professional divers. The requirements for these certificates are particularly high and often include additional qualifications such as advanced first aid, rescue techniques in special conditions and effective communication in an emergency.

Overview: The theoretical and practical requirements for the different swimming certificates


Early Swimmer also called Seahorse

The Seahorse is an early swimming certificate and is not yet proof of safe swimming! Anyone who has the seahorse is still considered a non-swimmer and must be supervised in the water at all times!

  • Knowledge of swimming rules
  • Jump from the edge of the pool followed by a 25 meters swim in any style.
  • Pick up an object with your hands from shoulder deep water.
Kids on the side of a pool waiting for their swimming lessons with swim boards

Bronze certificate

The Bronze badge is the next level badge and lays the foundation for the other levels.

  • Knowledge of swimming rules
  • Head dive from the side of the pool
  • Jump from the starting block or 1 meter diving platform
  • Swim a minimum of 200m for 15 minutes (150m breaststroke or backstroke; 50m in a different position the position must be changed in the water).
  • Bring up an object from a depth of approximately 2 meters (e.g. diving ring)

You can get a swimming certificate at most public swimming pools and it costs around 3 to 8 euros. It's best to check the dates at your nearest indoor swimming pool!


Silver certificate

For the Silver badge, swimmers need to improve their skills. In addition to swimming longer distances and diving, this includes knowledge of self-rescue.

  • Knowledge of swimming rules
  • Knowledge of self-rescue procedures
  • Head dive from the pool edge
  • Dive from the 3 meter tower or optionally two different dives from the 1 meter tower.
  • 20 minutes of swimming, at least 400m (300m breaststroke or backstroke; 100m in a different body position the body position must be changed in the water).
  • Dive twice to a depth of 2 meters and bring up an object each time.
  • Dive 10 meters and push off the side of the pool while in the water.

Gold certificate

The Gold Badge is the highest award in swimming. A Gold Badge holder is considered an expert swimmer and is able to cope with difficult situations.

  • Knowledge of the rules of swimming
  • Knowledge of the rules of self-rescue and rescuing others
  • Head dive from the edge of the pool
  • Jump from the starting block and 25m crawl swim
  • 30 minutes swimming, of which at least 800 meters must be swum (650 meters breaststroke or backstroke; 150 meters in a different body position the body position must be changed in the water).
  • 50 meters of carrying (pulling or pushing a person)
  • Jump from the starting block and 50 m breaststroke in max. 1:15 minutes
  • 50 m backstroke with no arm movement or back crawl
  • 10 m distance dive without pushing off the edge of the pool
  • Bringing up three small objects from 2 meters of water in three minutes, max. three attempts
  • Jump from the 3 meter tower or optionally two different jumps from the 1 meter tower.

The acquisition of official swimming certificates will be documented in the German Swimming Pass, which has been the same for both children and adults since 2020.

Swimming certificates in Austria and Switzerland

Austria and Switzerland have their own swimming certificate systems, which differ in some respects from the German system. However, the basic swimming techniques and skills that are assessed by the certificates are very similar in all three countries.

In Austria, the Austrian Water Rescue Association provides specific information about the various swimming certificates. Representatives of the ARGE organise the examinations for the swimming and lifesaving badges.

In Switzerland, the swimming certificates are defined by the Swiss Lifeguard Association. The certificates are divided into five levels, from the "Penguin certificate" for beginners to the "Certificate of Honor" for advanced swimmers. The requirements are in many ways similar to those in Germany, but the emphasis is on rescue skills and first aid in the water.

Special certificates for lifeguards

These certificates are for people who are committed to rescue and safety in the water.

The DLRG provides a detailed list of requirements for each certificate.


Junior Rescuer

The Junior Lifeguard certificate is an introduction to the world of lifeguarding. It is generally aimed at young swimmers and provides a basic knowledge of first aid and rescue techniques. Requirements include swimming certain distances, rescuing people and learning basic rescue techniques. The Junior Lifeguard is the foundation forfurther lifeguard trainings.

Lifeguard: Bronze to Gold

The Lifeguard certificate is very important and goes far beyond the basics. It is for people who are prepared to help people in distress in the water. Requirements include advanced rescue techniques, first aid skills, long-distance swimming and towing.

Diving certificates

For those who wish to combine their swimming skills with the adventure of scuba diving, diving certificates offer an excellent opportunity. Often awarded by diving organisations, these certificates require specific knowledge and skills in the field of diving. This includes mastering diving techniques, recognising and solving underwater problems and understanding the physical aspects of diving.


The Snorkeler certificate is for watersport enthusiasts who want to explore the fascinating underwater world without the depths of scuba diving. It requires the safe mastery of snorkeling, fin diving and knowledge of basic diving techniques. Snorkelers have the opportunity to discover the colourful diversity of marine life in shallow waters without the extensive training of a professional diver.

The exact requirements for special certificates can vary in each country and each organisation. In Germany, many certificates are awarded by the German Swimming Association (DSV) and diving associations. Austria and Switzerland also have similar systems tailored to the needs of water sports enthusiasts.

Taucherin mit Restube am Gürtel taucht in Rückenlage und lässt Luftblasen aufsteigen

There is no doubt that swimming certificates are an excellent recognition of acquired skills. However, they are only the beginning of a lifelong learning process. Ongoing training and regular practice are essential to maintain your swimming skills and face the challenges of the water with confidence.

Special care must also be taken in open water, as the conditions are very different from those in an indoor pool. Away from pool edges and floor markings, many unpredictable events can occur and take swimmers by surprise - no matter what certificates they have. No one is immune to a strong current, a painful cramp or a sudden change in the weather. Everyone should therefore be vigilant and always carry extra buoyancy aids in the water to protect themselves and others. More safety tips for open water adventures can be found here.

Looking for a swimming certificates outside Germany, Austria or Switzerland? We recommend you to contact your local authorities or ask at a swimming centre nearby.

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