US Coast Guard Job Requirements in California

Stretching from Crescent City to San Diego, the Coast Guard maintains 24 facilities in California, one of the highest concentrations of any state in the nation. 6,773 active and reserve Coast Guard members work throughout the state in a variety of roles – inspection, enforcement, search-and-rescue, and environmental protection – helping to keep California’s maritime territory safe and free of criminal activity. Last year operational costs in the state totaled nearly $750 million, with the organization spending some $128.8 million into the local economy in the form of contracts, awards and grants.

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In California, US Coast Guard job requirements start at having a good personal history and being between the ages of 17-27. From here potentials increase as candidates have professional experience and college degrees. To-date the California Coast Guard has inspected 212,000 short tons of maritime commerce, serviced 539 navigation aids, and performed 4,183 search-and-rescue operations.

Requirements for a Coast Guard Career in California

Enlistee – Coast Guard jobs in California start at the basic enlistee level where those accepted attend eight weeks of basic training and then move on to specific instruction in their new career in one of four career fields:

  • Hull and Engineering
  • Deck and Ordinance
  • Aviation
  • Administrative and Scientific

Officer – Candidates with a bachelor degree are eligible to enter at the officer level, which comes with a higher pay grade and the rank of ensign, providing they are accepted and complete 17 weeks of Coast Guard training at the Officer Candidate School. Officers interested in any of the following four-year bachelor degrees may be eligible to pursue a related career:

  • Engineering degree for mechanical, civil, and logistical engineering
  • Law degree for legal careers
  • IT or Computer Science degree for network specialists, computer operations, and systems analysts
  • Communications degree for command and control officers
  • Aviation degree for pilots
  • Mathematics and the sciences for an intelligence officer
  • Biology for an environmental sciences officer

Civilian – Civilians are also welcome to apply, and Coast Guard requirements do not stipulate a training academy for these employees. Having a relevant bachelor degree is also required for many of civilian positions, including:

  • Accounting
  • Business Administration
  • Health Services
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electronics
  • Law and family advocacy

The Coast Guard Reserve is for officer- and non-officer-level candidates who are interested in serving part-time and possibly getting help with funding for their college education.

Training in Petaluma

Although initial Coast Guard basic training and education is conducted in New London, Connecticut and Cape May, New Jersey, the US Coast Guard Leadership Development Center is located in Petaluma. As the Coast Guard’s largest West Coast training facility, new recruits will learn the intricacies for several vital positions:

  • Electronics Technician
  • IT Technician
  • Yeoman
  • Operation Specialist
  • Food Service Specialist
  • Health Service Technician
  • Storekeeper


Drug Interdiction

For Coast Guard units based out of southern facilities in San Diego, Corona Del Mar, Long Beach, and Los Angeles, drug interdiction missions are particularly important. As border security becomes tighter, drug and human traffickers have increasingly turned to maritime routes to conduct their illegal trade. Two recent missions highlight this problem:

  • Drug smugglers recently attempted to outrun Coast Guard units based out of San Diego in a small 38-foot home-made fiberglass and wood boat sporting three 200-horsepower engines. Initially spotted by a C-130 search plane, two CG cutters were dispatched to give chase, and a 45-foot interceptor boat made the eventual arrests. Coast Guard officials state that in 2012 the amount of drugs intercepted between Morro Bay and San Diego has increased by a factor of five.
  • An 87-foot Coast Guard cutter and a 45-foot response boat recently engaged in a short pursuit off Catalina Island. The targets were a pair of boats that had shown up on radar in the middle of the night. Eight people were ultimately arrested and Coast Guard Officials were surprised to find nearly one ton of marijuana aboard the two vessels.

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