The United States Coast Guard regularly performs many functions vital to maritime safety. The Coast Guard’s most visible job is saving lives and property in and around American waters. The Coast Guard also enforces customs and fishing laws, protects marine wildlife, fights pollution on our lakes and along the coastline, and conducts the International Ice Patrol. The Coast Guard is also responsible for monitoring traffic in major harbors, keeping shipping lanes open on ice-bound lakes, and maintaining lighthouses and other navigation aids.
The Coast Guard is a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In time of war it may be placed under the command of the Navy, which operates within the Department of Defense. A vital part of the Armed Services, the Coast Guard has participated in every major American military campaign. The Coast Guard is the smallest of the armed services. Currently there are over 5,580 commissioned officers and 1,490 warrant officers. Coast Guard officers perform in many different occupations to support the mission of the Coast Guard. Each year, the Coast Guard has openings for about 300 new officers (in addition to Academy) in a wide range of challenging careers.
BECOMING AN OFFICER
Whether you’re graduating college, leaving a civilian job or already in the armed services, one of the fastest ways to make it to the top is by becoming an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. In the Coast Guard, everything we do is in support of our nation’s peacetime security. That’s why, after receiving your commission, you’ll get opportunities unmatched by any offered by an entry-level civilian job—like protection - law enforcement, taking charge of life-saving search and rescue missions, protecting the environment from oil and chemical spills, or stopping illegal drug shipments. And because the Coast Guard is the smallest armed service, you’ll never have to worry about getting lost in the crowd. Every mission you lead can earn you recognition, reward and satisfaction.
Of course, there’s more to becoming an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard than real missions and real responsibility. There are great benefits, such as:
The Coast Guard offers several paths to a commission. No matter which you choose, you’ll earn the kind of responsibility that can get you to the top fast. It can all be yours as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. For more information on any of the following career choices, eligibility requirements and application process, visit the corresponding link or call 1-877-NOW-USCG and ask to speak to your local recruiter.
The U.S. Coast Guard Academy
The U.S. Coast Guard Academy, located in New London, Connecticut, accepts about 250 young men and women into its program each year. The four-year academic program leads to a bachelor of science degree in a variety of majors. Approximately 75 percent of the academy graduates earn degrees in technical areas such as engineering, sciences, and mathematics.
Each major provides a sound undergraduate education in a field of interest to the Coast Guard and prepares the cadet to assume initial duty as a junior officer. Upon graduation, the cadet is commissioned as an Ensign in the Coast Guard.
Appointment as a cadet is based solely on an annual nationwide competition. It is not necessary to obtain a nomination from a Senator or Representative. The competition includes either the College Board Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Testing Assessment (ACT), high school rank in class, community service, and leadership qualities. Interested students should apply during the fall of their senior year in high school.
Blue21 Flight Training Initiative
The BLUE 21 Guaranteed Flight Training Initiative was established May 9th, 2003, to address the need for greater minority representation within the Coast Guard aviation corps. Recruiting for the program is conducted at colleges and universities that meet the 25% minority population of U.S. citizen guidelines associated with the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative. Visit Blue21 Flight Training Initiative web site
College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI)
The College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) is a full scholarship program for students who have completed at least two years of college and who are attending four-year Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other approved four-year institutions with a significant minority population. The objective of the program is to increase the representation of minorities and women within the U.S. Coast Guard officer corps. Upon acceptance, selectees are enlisted in the Coast Guard at the pay grade of E-3 and complete Recruit Basic Training as Officer Trainees. Selectees will then return to their college or university to complete their degree program. After graduation, Officer Trainees complete Officer Candidate School and are commissioned as ensigns in the Coast Guard Reserve with a three-year active duty obligation. Visit College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) web site.
Officer Candidate School (OCS)
At Coast Guard Officer Candidate School (OCS), you’ll have a combination of intensive classroom study and hands-on training in leadership theory, nautical science, piloting and navigation, firefighting, law enforcement, and Coast Guard history and organization. OCS Graduates may be assigned to a cutter, flight training, a staff job, or to an operations ashore position. The selection process to gain an appointment to OCS is very competitive. Graduates of the 17-week OCS program are commissioned as ensigns in the Coast Guard Reserve, and incur a three-year active duty obligation upon commissioning. Visit Officer Candidate School (OCS) web site.
The Coast Guard has direct commission programs available for professional lawyers, aviators, engineers, environmental managers, maritime academy graduates and former military officers. You can become a Coast Guard officer from the outset. No boot camp. No OCS. Just a short, four-week orientation course earns you a commission as an ensign, lieutenant junior grade or lieutenant, depending on your education and experience. You may qualify for a direct commission through one of the following programs:
Selected Reserve Direct Commission (SRDC) Program
The Selected Reserve Direct Commission (SRDC) Program is designed for individuals wanting to serve part-time in the Coast Guard Reserve. As citizen-sailors, Selected Reserve (SELRES) officers continue in their civilian employment while serving an average of two days a month and two weeks a year on military duty.Selectees attend Reserve Officer Candidate Indoctrination (ROCI), a three-week course convened twice each summer at the Coast Guard Academy (CGA) in New London, CT. Commissions are contingent upon acceptance of an assigned position.
Newly commissioned officers are offered a wide variety of mission opportunities for their first assignment. This duty will be in one of the Coast Guard’s primary missions, such as search and rescue, marine law enforcement, drug interdiction, or aids to navigation. All officers are encouraged to apply for postgraduate education or specialized training. The Coast Guard provides training in a range of career areas. Coast Guard pilot training is available to selected graduates of the Coast Guard Academy or Officer Candidate School. Pilot trainees attend 14 months of basic and advanced flight training at naval air stations in Pensacola, Florida, Mobile, Alabama, or Corpus Christi, Texas. Many other courses are provided to instruct officers in specific skills needed for a particular assignment. In addition, there are opportunities to participate in professional military education at schools such as the Armed Forces Staff College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, or one of the colleges run by another branch of the service.
The Coast Guard believes strongly in the continued education of its members. The Coast Guard offers several education assistance programs, including the Tuition Assistance Program, the Physician’s Assistant Program, and the Post-graduate Education Program.
Tuition Assistance Program
The Coast Guard sponsors a tuition assistance program for off-duty education within the limits of available funds. This program allows Coast Guard members to enroll in off-duty courses at accredited colleges and universities. The tuition is paid by the Coast Guard for all courses not in excess of six credits per semester (or quarter) or for any course not extending beyond one semester or a maximum of 17 weeks, whichever is longer.
Physician's Assistant Program
The Physician’s Assistant Program is a two-year, full-time course of study at Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, Texas, offered to warrant officers in the medical specialty. The program includes 12 months of study and 12 months of clinical rotation at an Air Force hospital. Upon successful completion, Coast Guard graduates receive their certificates as physician’s assistants and promotion to Lieutenant (O-3). Completion of the program results in a bachelor’s degree in Health Science.
Postgraduate Education Program
The Coast Guard offers qualified officers an opportunity to obtain advanced education on a full-time basis at the Coast Guard’s expense. Each year, approximately 125 officers are selected for this program. They attend various colleges and universities in over 30 major curriculum areas. Entry into this program is competitive, and only the best qualified officers are selected.