How To Become A Coast Guard Officer

Coast Guard Cutter

You can earn a commission as an officer in the Coast Guard through the Coast Guard Academy, Officer Candidate School, direct commissioning, and the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI).

Applicants for all programs must be physically qualified, U.S. citizens and possess high moral character.

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy, located in New London, Connecticut, accepts about 250 young men and women 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.

Officer Candidate School

The Officer Candidate School is precommissioning training for college graduates who want to become Coast Guard officers. Candidates attend a 17-week officer training course at Yorktown, Virginia. The physical and academic curriculum is demanding. In addition to physical training, candidates study navigation, ship’s operations, seamanship, Coast Guard orientation and leadership. Upon completion, candidates are commissioned as ensigns in the Coast Guard Reserve.

Direct Commissions

Graduates from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association are eligible to receive commissions as Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Coast Guard Reserve. The applicant must be admitted to the bar of a state or federal court within one year of receiving a commission. Qualified graduates of state and federal maritime academies may also be eligible for a commission as an Ensign or Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Coast Guard Reserve. Engineers are highly sought and may be directly commissioned up to the rank of Lieutenant. Occasionally, direct commissions may be available for ROTC students at selected colleges and universities, previous military officers and qualified military pilots. Qualified military pilots may compete for direct commissions as aviators in the rank of Ensign or Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Coast Guard Reserve.


College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative

The College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) is a scholarship program for college sophomores. This program provides students with valuable leadership, management, law enforcement, navigation and marine science skills and training. It also provides full payment of school tuition, fees (that are approved), some or all of textbook costs, a salary, medical insurance and other benefits during a student's junior and senior year of college. The CSPI program guarantees training at Officer Candidate School (OCS) upon successful completion of all program requirements.

Each student is expected to complete his/her degree and all Coast Guard training requirements. Following the completion of OCS and commission as a Coast Guard officer, each student will be required to serve on active duty (full time) as an officer for 3 years.

CSPI Benefits:

Full tuition, some or all of textbook costs and approved fees paid for two years
Monthly salary of approximately $2,000
Medical and Life Insurance
30 days paid vacation per year
Leadership training

CSPI Application Eligibility Requirements:

Score a 1000 on the SAT, 1100 on the SAT I, 23 on the ACT, or ASVAB GT of 109 or higher
Be between 21 and 26 years of age at the time of your college graduation
Must be a sophomore or junior (with at least 60 college credits completed toward your degree)
Enrolled in a four-year degree program at an approved institution with a minimum 25% minority population
Meet all physical requirements for a Coast Guard Commission
Maintain a GPA of 2.5 or better
Be a U.S. Citizen
Contact a Coast Guard Recruiter to find out more about CSPI and other Coast Guard Officer Programs, or call 1-877-NOW-USCG.

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