How to Become a Certified CPR Instructor

Learn how to become a certified CPR instructor. Research the education requirements, training, certification and experience you need to start a career in CPR instruction.

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Do I Want to Be a Certified CPR Instructor?

Certified cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instructors coordinate and lead classes to teach the proper procedures to revive a person experiencing a breathing or heart function emergency. Their job duties include coordinating class times and locations, transporting and cleaning equipment, evaluating student performance and ensuring completion of required paperwork. CPR instructors often work for the American Heart Association (AHA), medical centers or the American Red Cross (ARC). They often teach classes during evenings or weekends in order to meet students' scheduling needs. Instructors must do some heavy lifting to move class equipment, like CPR manikins.

Job Requirements

High school graduates who want to become CPR instructors should earn certifications in basic life support and in instructing. Employers might seek those who already have instructor experience. The following table describes the common qualifications and requirements that certified CPR instructors need, as stated in job listings found in October 2012.

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma
Certification Basic life support and basic life support instructor certification
Experience Some employers may prefer candidates with 2-3 years of teaching experience
Key SkillsCustomer service, teaching, presentation and speaking skills as well as physical dexterity to perform CPR
Computer Skills Knowledge of how to use Microsoft Office suite
Additional Requirements Ability to lift and move class equipment weighing up to 50 pounds and possessing a valid driver's license

Step 1: Obtain Basic-Level CPR Certification

Possessing basic CPR or basic life support certification is usually required for admission to an instructor-level CPR training course. Basic courses are offered by organizations such as the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, National Safety Council and the American Safety and Health Institute. Offered courses may be designed for healthcare providers, non-healthcare providers who require certification for their job or for individuals who want to learn CPR but do not require any certification.

Aspiring CPR instructors may benefit from attending one of the former two types of courses because they provide graduates with certification upon completion. Instruction in these programs covers topics like first aid basics, adult and infant CPR methods, use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) and calling for help. Some programs require that participants pass exams.

Success Tip:

  • Contact the AHA. The AHA requires aspiring CPR instructors to contact its training center to determine if it is accepting new instructors. Contacting the AHA while completing a basic CPR program allows individuals to determine whether to pursue instructor training through the AHA.

Step 2: Take the Red Cross Pre-Instructor Exam

The Red Cross requires that aspiring instructors pass an initial pre-course exam, which is available online, before beginning instructor training. Passing this exam is a prerequisite to attending an instructor training course offered by the Red Cross. Students intending to attend a program through the AHA do not need to take this exam.

Step 3: Complete the First Required Course

Instructor training programs offered by the Red Cross and AHA consist of two courses. The AHA's first course, titled the 'Core Instructor Course', teaches planning and preparation, methods of instruction, management, assessment and cultural sensitivity through a series of 20 interactive training modules. This course can be completed online, in a classroom or via a CD in a self-directed format. Students are awarded a certificate upon successful completion of the course.

The first course in the Red Cross instructor training series is the Fundamentals of Instructor Training (FIT). In this course, students are introduced to the Red Cross as an organization and learn about its history, activities, and organizational structure.

Step 4: Complete the Instructor Course

The AHA does not offer instructor training solely in CPR. Instead, it offers Basic Life Support, Heartsaver, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support courses that prepare graduates to work as instructors. Classes are available online, in a hybrid format and in a classroom.

Most Red Cross instructor courses are designed for a specific audience and prepare instructors to work with that specific audience after completion. Examples of audiences include babysitters, lifeguards, childcare providers and emergency response professionals. These classes are offered online, in a classroom and in hybrid formats.

Step 5: Teach a Class

The AHA requires that new instructors be monitored when teaching their first course. The Red Cross does not have this requirement.

Success Tip:

  • Utilize AHA and ARC instructor resources. The Red Cross and the AHA offer instructors access to online networks. These networks may allow instructors to print certificates, manage course records, access training materials or communicate with other instructors. The Red Cross' online network also allows instructors certified by another organization to become certified by the Red Cross.

Step 6: Re-Certify as Required

ARC instructor certifications are valid for two years. They may be renewed as long as the instructor taught as least one CPR course during the certification period.

AHA instructors are required to teach at least four classes during the two-year certification period. AHA-certified instructors must pass an exam re-certify.

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