The Coast Guard is a specialized branch of the military tasked with the responsibility of protecting the public, environment, and U.S. security and economic interests in the maritime region including international waters and America’s ports, coasts, and inland waterways.
In order to accomplish these missions and many more, this service has more than 40,000 active-duty men and women, 35,000 auxiliary personnel serving in a variety of job fields as well as 8,000 Reservists.
It falls under the newly-created Department of Homeland Defense, but was formerly under the Department of Transportation.
However, the Coast Guard is a military service since, in the event of war, the President of the United States can order the transfer of any or all of the assets owned by Coast Guard to the Navy.
Commanded by the Coast Guard Commandment, who is a 4-star admiral, this unit is tasked to perform the following missions;
- Drugs interdiction
- Ensuring marine safety
- Ensuring port and waterway security
- Search and rescue
- Defense readiness
- Marine environmental protection
- Law enforcement
- Ice operation
- Living marine resource
- Migrant interdiction
- Aiding navigation
On average, based on a 2013 statistic, the Coast Guard will do the following in a day;
- Carry out 109 search and rescue cases
- Protect $2,791,841 worth of property
- Save 10 lives and also assist 192 persons in distress
- Intercept 14 illegal migrants
- Board 144 vessels
- Respond to 20 hazardous chemical or oil spills
- And so much more. Read more about their everyday mission on the GoCoastGuard.com website here.
This service was incepted in 1790 and operated under the name Revenue Marine. This makes it one of the oldest continuous maritime service.
1. Coast Guard Requirements
Special Note: Click Here to read our full article that addresses the full Coast Guard requirements.
The U.S. Coast Guard is a highly selective service that does more with less. This means they have to handpick versatile and hardworking individuals to be able to perform more missions than members of other services.
To become one of the service persons in this unit, there are strict requirements you have to fulfill. Here is a summary of the coast guard requirements;
For you to join the Coast Guard, you need to be either a U.S citizen or a resident alien. A person born in the United States is a U.S. citizen, same as U.S. citizen’s children born overseas. Also, if you earned your citizenship through naturalization (passing tests in English and civics), you can qualify as well. On the other hand, a resident alien is a non-citizen who is legally residing in the United States. Those who are permanent residents are often called green card holders, and it is possible to join the Coast Guard as one.
Age, Height, Weight, Education, and Dependents
Coast Guard age limit: You must fall between 17-31 if joining for active duty, and 17-40 for reserve duty. However, 17-year-old recruits will require parental consent
Height and weight requirements: To be a member of Coast Guard, you must remain fit by maintaining their MAW (Maximum Allowable Weight). There are specific guidelines for this, click here to read more.
Dependents: They should not exceed three.
Education: You need to have a high school diploma although sometimes they accept GED under special circumstances.
- ASVAB Scores
Assuming you have met all the above requirements, you will now need to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test often called ASVAB test.
To be enlisted, you need to meet the minimum ASVAB score. This test measures your skills to help the Coast Guard determine the tasks you are best suited for.
You also need to pass the basic military medical exam to confirm you are in a good state of health for the service.
Basic Physical Fitness
Simply meeting the basic Coast Guard requirements doesn’t mean you are ready for the ‘real’ training.
You will not join the Guard unless you complete eight weeks of basic physical training at Cape May, New Jersey.
You will not graduate unless you pass the Coast Guard’s physical fitness test, or simply PT test.
Here are the physical fitness tests to complete;
- Complete a swim circuit
- Run 1.5 miles under 12:51
- Do 38 sit-ups in less than 60 seconds
- Tread water for 5 minutes
- Jump from a 6 ft. platform and swim 100 meters
- Pass a “sit and reach” test to show your flexibility level
- Complete 29 push ups in less than 60 seconds
However, some of these standards are different for women;
- Finish 15 push ups in 60 seconds
- Complete 32 sit-ups in less than 60 seconds
- The “sit and reach” exercise is slightly tougher
- Run for 1.5 miles in 15:26
- More Training
If you fail to meet the Coast Guard requirements needed for physical fitness at Cape May, your company commander will work with you to enable you to meet them.
The closer you are to meeting the targets, the better your chances of graduating.
During your 8 week stay in Cape May, you will be required to use your brain and strength.
You will receive intense theoretical instruction to equip you with entry-level skills for your role.
Also, you will learn a lot about Coast Guard history, military justice, and military ethics.
Other training you will get include:
- Hands-on training including seamanship
- Small arms training
- Safety and rescue training
- Fire-fighting and damage control.
You will also engage in team-building exercises.
If even after working with your company commander, you fail to meet the physical and academic standards, you will not graduate to join the Coast Guard. You will have to go home and choose a different career path.
Those who complete basic training successfully become E2 guard members, firemen, or seamen. From there, they proceed to their first unit where they are exposed to different career paths available to members of the Coast Guard.
2. Steps to Join the Coast Guard/Sign up process
If you are interested in joining the Coast Guard to save lives and protect the water borders of the U.S. as well as secure the borders, then here are the steps to follow so you can become a Guardian;
Step 1: Gather information about the requirement
The first thing to do before joining the Coast Guard is to determine if it is the right place for you. Research your options and understand what life will be like as a Coast Guard member.
Then, you’ll want to visit a Coast Guard recruiter and ask him or her these questions.
The USCG job involves dealing with highly-sensitive information and national security issues.
You need to meet the requirements we have discussed in the previous subtopic such as passing the ASVAB test, passing a military basic medical exam, passing a criminal record review, and much more.
Step 2- Talk to a coast guard recruiter
After knowing the requirement and the career path to follow, it is time to talk to your recruiter again.
You can find a Coast Guard recruiter near you on the GoCoastGuard.com website here.
Ask them important questions such as:
- How long should one serve in the Coast Guard?
- What does basic training entail?
- How should I prepare for the training?
- What career paths are there in the Coast Guard?
- What are the benefits of joining the Coast Guard as a graduate?
- How is Coast Guard different from other US Armed Forces?
- Can I join college while still in the Coast Guard?
- And other questions you may have
Step 3- Choose a career you want to pursue in the Coast Guard
There are several careers in the Coast Guard including;
- Coast Guard Reserve: In this field, you will be serving for 2 days a month and report to a base near your locality two weeks a year. As a reservist, you will receive valuable benefits including earning extra income and training in different fields.
- Enlisted Guardsman: This allows you to serve in law enforcement, provide air support for the Coast Guard, patrolling waterways, work in environmental operations, and much more.
- Coast guard officer: This suites civilians working in other fields, take charge leaders, or college graduates.
Learn more about the various active-duty careers the Coast Guard has to offer on the GoCoastGuard.com website here.
Step 4: Pass the ASVAB
Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test assesses your skills in general science, mathematical knowledge, word knowledge, numerical operations, auto and shop information, paragraph comprehension, mechanical comprehension, electronic information, and assembling objects.
Step 5: Pass a Background Check
The recruitment process for the Coast Guard is very thorough, and you will have to go through police background check whereby felony convictions will lead to your disqualification. Also, you will go through a credit check to disclose your financial security. A security clearance check will be run since you will be dealing with matters of national security.
Step 6: Pass a personal evaluation test
This is where you meet with your recruiter. They will be evaluating your personal attributes and skills. Consider this as a job interview. Based on your answers, a recruiter will fill out different forms to validate that you are eligible for the service. They normally test professionalism, attitude, respect, honesty, physical abilities, work ethic, and language proficiency.
Step 7: Prepare for Coast Guard Boot Camp
Here, you will be doing basic training to test if you are physically fit and mentally prepared for a transformation. It will take eight weeks. We will talk more about this in our next subtopic.
3. Coast Guard Boot Camp
This is where recruits transform from civilians to Guardsmen. It will be physically and mentally challenging so that you can learn the importance of teamwork and hard work.
Here is a brief of Coast Guard Boot Camp:
Schedules and Timelines
Boot camp takes 8 weeks where you will learn skills, teamwork spirit, and what it means to live in accordance with the set core values.
The training is challenging and rough, and thus you need to be prepared.
As a Coast Guard, you will be tasked with the responsibility of saving lives and enforcing laws and these tasks require you to be physically and mentally tough.
Here is a breakdown of how the training will be:
You will arrive in Cape May by bus. After getting there, your hair will be cut, and initial medical screening will be performed.
You will be issued with a uniform, and there will be other administrative tasks that will take place.
This will be your first step towards your transition from a civilian to a Coast Guardsman.
Of course, at the end of the forming stage you will not feel like a military member, but you will begin to act and look like one.
After about three days, all of you will become a Recruit Training Company. You will be assigned a company each with a Company Commander.
Your Company Commander (CC) will influence you a lot. He/she will be an instrumental figure in your growth as a Coast Guardsman.
They will teach you respect, honor, and devotion to duty.
Your CC will be demanding and tough and will help you grow in an unimaginable way.
Your first weekend with your company will, of course, be challenging since you will be learning to take and obey orders as well as act as a team member.
This might be the most difficult period of your eight-week stay in the Boot Camp.
After forming the company, you will undergo thorough physical fitness training, and you will also be given the required knowledge including military drill, basic classes, and military courtesies and customs.
Related Article – Coast Guard Grooming Standards
This happens at the end of the fourth training week. If you pass the mid-term exam, you will go ahead to fill your ADC or Assignment Data Card.
This tells the Coast Guard where you are suited to serve. You will be assigned a unit or ship depending on the needs to fulfill.
The ADC gives the Coast Guard an idea of where you would like to serve, but this doesn’t mean you will be assigned to your desired unit; the Coast Guard will assign you anywhere your services are needed.
Training at this stage is more hands-on and practical. You will learn line handling, marksmanship, firefighting, and seamanship.
The final phase
At this stage, you are already conducting yourself as a member of the United States Armed Forces. Your training is now purely practical, and you are preparing for graduation.
In the final week of training, you will be taught first aid and CPR.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Coast Guard
4. How hard is it to get in?
To join the Coast Guard, you have to meet all the requirements. You need to have a passion for serving your country.
Some of the requirements include being a U.S. national or a resident alien, be between 17-31 years for active duty Coast Guard or 17-40 for reservists.
You also need to have a high school diploma and not have more than three dependents. There are other requirements as discussed in our earlier section.
5. How hard is boot camp?
The Coast Guard Boot Camp, which last for eight weeks, is one of the toughest boot camps as compared to that of Air Force and Navy.
You need to be physically and mentally prepared since it is tough and rough.
Related Article: 18 Pros And Cons Of Joining The Coast Guard
6. What’s the pay like?
According to the official Coast Guard website, all active-duty coast guard members start out making approximately $20,000 annually.
However, your ultimate salary will depend on your rank and the length of time you’ve served.
Here’s a snapshot of Coast Guard enlisted basic pay rates for 2019:
And here’s a snapshot of Coast Guard officer pay rates for 2019:
Learn more about the Coast Guard ranks and pay here.
7. Should I become an enlisted member or officer?
Enlisted members have a clear advancement system; they know what they need to do to advance. However, on the part of officers, guarantee for promotions is complicated although promotions from ENS to LTJG is guaranteed.
Both fields have their benefits but being an enlisted member is better if you are looking to advance to a higher level.
If you’re looking to make more money, clearly the officer route is the way to go.
8. What’s a typical day like?
Being a unique force tasked with military and civilian duties, Coast Guard missions touch virtually all facets of maritime interests.
On an average day, the Coast Guard;
- Conducts 45 rescue cases
- Seizes 214 pounds of marijuana and 874 pounds of cocaine
- Saves 10 lives
- Conducts 57 patrols on water bodies
- Interdicts 17 illegal migrates
- Investigates 35 incidents of pollution
- Conducts 105 inspections at the dock
- Completes 26 examinations on foreign vessels
- And much more…
9. Pros and Cons Coast Guard
- Like other military members, the Coast Guard offers its enlisted personnel and officers a steady pay, significant allowances, and job security
- Members also receive tax-free housing allowance or free government-provided housing and food allowances
- They are offered comprehensive health care
- Ability to select your desired carrier path, although this is limited only by your physical abilities, aptitude, and security clearance
- You get an opportunity to serve your country
- You cannot choose where you will be posted unless you are a reservist
- The job can be hazardous since Coast Guard involves interdicting drug trafficking, protecting terrorist threats, and interdicting illegal immigration
10. Popular Jobs in the Coast Guard
There are 20 enlisted coast guard jobs, often called ratings divided into 4 major categories;
- Deck and Ordnance: Boatswain’s Mate, Enforcement Specialist, Intelligence Specialist, and Operation Specialist.
- Hull and Engineering: Electrician’s Mate, Damage Control person, Machinery Technician, and Informative System Technician.
- Aviation: Aviation Maintenance Technician, Avionics Electrical Technician, and Aviation Survival Technician
- Administrative and Scientific: Health Services Technician, Food Service Specialist, Musician, Marine Science Technician, Yeoman, Public Affairs Specialist, and Storekeeper.
- Rescue Swimmer: Officially known as an Aviation Survival Technician, rescue swimmers are responsible for rescuing people at sea.
Related Article: 5 Best Coast Guard Jobs
Deciding to join the Coast Guard comes down to your commitment and your passion for serving your country. While members of the Air Force and Army may go to foreign theaters of war to defend the United States, Coast Guard members defend the US within its territories.
Therefore, if you are passionate about serving your nation and feel that you can meet all the requirements needed, the Coast Guard offers a great opportunity for that. We hope that our guide clears all the question you had about joining the Coast Guard.
Coast Guard Active Duty Careers
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A small-town Missouri native, Katie is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy with a degree in English. She served 5 years as a Surface Warfare Officer, including 2 deployments onboard a Guided-Missile Destroyer and Aircraft Carrier. She has a Master's Degree in Education from Johns Hopkins University.
Connect with Katie @katiebwriter or at www.katiemelynnbegley.com.
Latest posts by Katie B. (see all)
- Coast Guard Ranks and Pay for 2022 - March 20, 2022
- Coast Guard Grooming Standards - August 13, 2019
- Attending the Naval Academy Preparatory School - July 4, 2019
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Can I join the Coast Guard with kids? ›
The Coast Guard and Family Life
Starting and raising a family is compatible with service in the Coast Guard. The experience is similar to that of most high-functioning dual career couples in the civilian workforce.
Coast guards enforce a country's maritime laws and help vessels that are wrecked or in distress on or near its coasts. Other duties include giving emergency aid to people on ships and to victims of natural disasters—such as floods and hurricanes—and maintaining lighthouses, buoys, and other navigational aids.Why is it so hard to join the Coast Guard? ›
Joining the Coast Guard is more difficult than other branches because it accepts much fewer new recruits than the other branches of the military, and enrollment requirements are tough and strict. You will even have to go through a credit check and pass a security clearance check.What disqualifies you from joining the Coast Guard? ›
Psychiatric and Personality Disorders
Attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder or learning disability such as dyslexia, which interferes with perceptual or academic skills past the 14th birthday. Use of medications to reduce symptoms of ADD or ADHD within the previous 24 months.
Age Limits for Enlisting
The oldest you can be to enlist for active duty in each branch is: Coast Guard: 31. Marines: 28. Navy: 39.
Coast Guard boot camp is mentally and physically demanding. It is not uncommon for a recruit to be reverted during their time at training. When a recruit is reverted, they are sent to the Recruit Aptitude and Motivation Program (RAMP).Is Coast Guard the hardest? ›
While the Coast Guard might be considered the easiest military branch in terms of physical fitness, it is by far the hardest to join. What is this? Because this branch is the smallest, their recruiting requirements allow them to be a bit more picky about who they let in (and who they don't).Is Coast Guard Academy Easy? ›
The acceptance rate at United States Coast Guard Academy is 14.2%. For every 100 applicants, only 14 are admitted. This means the school is extremely selective.What are 4 benefits of joining the Coast Guard? ›
- Full medical, dental, and vision coverage for you and your dependents.
- Discounted life insurance.
- Retirement plan options.
- Financial counseling.
- Mental health support.
- Legal services.
- The US Air Force is considered the easiest military branch overall. ...
- The US Army is considered the easiest military branch to get into, Image: Wikimedia.org.
- Air Force basic training is considered the easiest out of all of the military branches. ...
- The US Air Force is considered the easiest branch for women.
Is joining the Coast Guard a good idea? ›
The Coast Guard is a great place to get job security and start your career. They offer excellent benefits and decent pay with many opportunities to make more money.How many questions is the Coast Guard exam? ›
Pattern for Section I.
|Time Duration||45 minutes|
- Sea-going Officer. As a sea-going officer, you lead ship-board operations on USCG cutters. ...
- Pilot. ...
- Shore Response Officer. ...
- Shore Prevention Officer. ...
- Cyber Officer. ...
- Intelligence Officer.
The average Indian Coast Guard salary ranges from approximately ₹1.3 Lakhs per year for a Office Assistant to ₹21.7 Lakhs per year for a Commandant. Salary estimates are based on 447 Indian Coast Guard salaries received from various employees of Indian Coast Guard.Why will the military reject you? ›
Reasons the Military Won't Accept You
The reasons the Army won't accept you are numerous; they include age and weight restrictions, medical and criminal histories, and even certain tattoos, according to the team at We Are the Mighty. Similar reasons exist for the other branches, as well.
The ideal height requirement for men in the military is between 60-80 inches / 152-203 cm. Anyone above or below this requirement is likely to get rejected.Can Coast Guard have tattoos? ›
The Coast Guard permits one tattoo behind the ear that is no larger than 1 inch. permits a single tattoo on each hand, no larger than 1 inch. Air Force permits one ring tattoo on one hand. The Coast Guard permits one tattoo on one finger of each hand.How long is a Coast Guard contract? ›
TEN YEARS OUT
Generally speaking, enlistees do not stay for this long and do not make the Coast Guard a career for themselves, since in most cases, enlistees commit to 8 years of service. Depending on the terms of the contract, 2 to 6 years are spent on active duty and the rest spent in the Coast Guard Reserves.
Recruit training is a 53-day program designed to transform America's civilian volunteers into military members of the United States Coast Guard.How fast can I join the Coast Guard? ›
Varies from person to person. Generally, it takes and individual 1 year to go through the testing and physical exam requirements before making it to recruit training. Even after arrival you will be evaluated for an 8 week period with no guarantees of continuation in to the fleet.
Can you fail Coast Guard boot camp? ›
Yes, it is possible to fail basic training. You could go through the trouble of leaving your home, job, family and friends and come back a failure. In fact, this happens to about 15% of recruits who join the military every year. Too many recruits I speak to think that it is impossible to fail basic training.Do coast Guards carry guns? ›
Yes, members of the Coast Guard use small arms such as shotguns, machine guns, handguns and rifles when needed, so members have to be trained in firearms use.Do you get paid during Coast Guard training? ›
All cadets are paid a salary while attending the Coast Guard Academy. Spend smart and, rather than debt, you'll actually graduate with savings.Do coast guards fight? ›
As one of the country's six armed services, the U.S. Coast Guard has deployed to support and fight every major U.S. war since 1790, from the Quasi-War with France to the Global War on Terrorism. As of December 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard's authorized force strength is 44,500 active duty personnel and 7,000 reservists.What is the hardest boot camp? ›
Marine boot camp is extremely challenging -- both physically and mentally -- and considered to be tougher than the basic training programs of any of the other military services.What GPA do you need for Coast Guard? ›
Average GPA: 3.81
With a GPA of 3.81, United States Coast Guard Academy requires you to be near the top of your class, and well above average. You'll need mostly A's, ideally with several AP or IB classes to help show your preparation at a college level.
Normally, it takes about two full years to complete all the requirements to become a USCG aviator. For a Coast Guardsman to be considered for a position, they must first be commissioned, either through Coast Guard Officer Candidate School, the United States Coast Guard Academy, or a college ROTC program.What questions are asked in Uscga interview? ›
Question 1 – What is a meaningful activity for you? Why is it meaningful? Are there any other aspects of your life where you experience a similar passion? Question 2 – Everyone will experience success and failures in their lifetime.Can you join the Coast Guard with 3 kids? ›
The Marine Corps and Navy require waivers for any dependents, and the Air Force lets married applicants have two dependents or three with a waiver. The Coast Guard will allow no more than a total of three dependents.How long are you away from family in Coast Guard? ›
The reality is that Coast Guard missions are often away from home. CG members do not get to go home every night. Depending on their unit, they may be gone from a couple of days to upwards of a year.
Can a single mom join the Coast Guard? ›
Joining the Coast Guard as a Single Parent
The Coast Guard will not allow single parents with dependents to sign up for active duty. However, if there is a proper family plan in place, a waiver may be available for the Coast Guard Reserves.
The Training Center is open to the invited family members and guests of the graduating class every Friday starting at 8:15 a.m. Please do not try and come through the gate early as the security guards will make you turn around and reenter at the right time. Government-issued photo ID is required to get on base.How long does it take to become an O 3 in the Coast Guard? ›
10 U.S. Code § 619: The minimum time-in-grade (TIG) requirements for promotion of officers on the active-duty list (ADL) are as follows: O1: 18 months. O2: 2 years. O3 through O5: 3 years.Does Coast Guard pay for housing? ›
Coast Guard members on active duty entitled to Basic Military Pay may be authorized a monthly Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) based on a member's pay grade, dependency status (with or without dependents) and duty station location.
5/4-9 CWS: A full-time civilian or military member must work eight, nine-hour days and one, eight-hour day for a total of 80 hours in a biweekly civilian pay period.How hard is Coast Guard boot camp? ›
Coast Guard boot camp is mentally and physically demanding. It is not uncommon for a recruit to be reverted during their time at training. When a recruit is reverted, they are sent to the Recruit Aptitude and Motivation Program (RAMP).Does Coast Guard fly at night? ›
OF THE U.S. COAST GUARD, the service's cutters, aircraft, and boats are stand- ing by 24/7 to respond to safety and security threats in all weather condi- tions, day or night.Do you have to be fit to join the Coast Guard? ›
All Coast Guard boat crewmembers are required to meet the standards of physical fitness shown in Table 4-5. Physical fitness standards are required to ensure crewmembers have sufficient strength and endurance to safely perform duties during normal and adverse conditions.What happens if you get pregnant in the Coast Guard? ›
No service member shall deploy or remain aboard a ship, including small boat duty, beyond her 20th week of pregnancy.Do coast guards get free college? ›
The Coast Guard will fund tuition cost not to exceed $250.00 per semester hour, or $166.67 per quarter hours or $16.67 per clock hour.
How many weeks is Coast Guard boot camp? ›
Recruit training is a 53-day program designed to transform America's civilian volunteers into military members of the United States Coast Guard.