Joining the Coast Guard: Overview

Coast Guard jobs
Petty Officer 1st Class Jordan Baptiste, a coxswain, instructs Petty Officer 2nd Class Dwayne Matthews, break-in boat crewmember, on the electronic equipment of Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf's Special Patrol Craft, July 13, 2008. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Anderson/U.S. Coast Guard)

Thinking of joining the Coast Guard? Want to know what it takes and what types of jobs in the Coast Guard are available? Get the lowdown in this fact sheet.

Coast Guard Basics

The Coast Guard is comprised of nearly 42,000 total Coast Guardsmen.

Directory of Coast Guard bases -- Get a feel for the Coast Guard community with this directory of Coast Guard bases around the country.

Coast Guard Unit pages on -- Interested in a particular unit? Check out pages maintained by Coast Guard veterans.

The latest news on the military, including the Coast Guard -- All the latest headlines about life in the Coast Guard and the military.

Coast Guard equipment guide -- From the famous class cutter to the MH-60 Jayhawk, get the details on the equipment used by the Coast Guard.

Joining the Coast Guard

Coast Guardsmen can serve as a full-time, active-duty service member or as a member of the Coast Guard Reserve.

Active duty is similar to working at a full-time civilian job. You will have your own rate and fill a specific role within your unit. Your length of service may range from 2-6 years. Active-duty members fall into two general categories: enlisted personnel and officers.

Enlisted Coast Guardsmen

Enlisted Coast Guardsmen are the backbone of the Coast Guard, with each member having his or her own specialized training and filling a role within his or her unit. Officers are the Coast Guard's leaders. They guide enlisted Coast Guardsmen during missions and provide the know-how and expertise to get the job done. Active-duty service terms typically last 2-6 years.

Military officer programs

There are three paths to becoming a Coast Guard officer. The Coast Guard does not offer an ROTC program.

Direct Commission -- Direct commission provides leaders in professional fields, such as law, medicine and religion, the opportunity to become Coast Guard officers. At completion of an officer training program, they are commissioned at a rank determined by their career branch.

Officer Candidate School -- Officer Candidate School allows college graduates to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to be commissioned as Coast Guard officers. Through classroom instruction and training exercises, candidates learn to become leaders.

U.S. Military Academy -- The Coast Guard Academy provides full scholarships and four-year bachelor of science degree programs. The smallest military academy out of the five U.S. armed forces branches, roughly 200 students graduate each year and receive a commission as an ensign.

Serving in the Coast Guard Reserve is similar to working a part-time job. You can live where you want, focus on your civilian career and stay close to your family. You also will have access to many of the benefits of active-duty Coast Guardsmen, but your time spent on duty is decreased greatly. In the Reserve, you will spend one weekend a month in training and two weeks a year attending a field training exercise (FTX). Coast Guardsmen in the Coast Guard Reserve may be called to active duty to provide their expertise. Your service in the Coast Guard Reserve may range from 3-6 years, depending on your Coast Guard Reserve job.

Coast Guard Careers

Coast Guard jobs -- Search the Coast Guard's database of available careers for enlisted, officer and Reserve members.

Special careers in the Coast Guard

Below is official information about specialized careers in the Coast Guard.

Aviation survival technician

Marine science technician

Operations specialist

Boatswain's mate


Ready to Join the Coast Guard?

We can put you in touch with recruiters from the different military branches. Learn about the benefits of serving your country, paying for school, military career paths, and more: sign up now and hear from a recruiter near you.

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