The United States Coast Guard, organized under the Department of Homeland Security, is a military force responsible for protecting the maritime interests of the United States and maintaining the law in virtually all of America’s coastal regions and major inland lakes and waterways.
The U.S. Coast Guard, which has more than 43,000 active duty employees and another 17,000 reservists and civilian employees, oversees a vast number of responsibilities and duties, including:
- Search and rescue
- Port security
- Military readiness
- Maritime law enforcement
- Ice breaking
- Environmental protection
- Aids to navigation
Due to the size of the Coast Guard and the responsibilities encompassing its mission, this federal agency employs individuals from many backgrounds and specialties. In fact, the Coast Guard has a wealth of opportunities for doctors, lawyers, engineers, operations specialists, marine science technicians, maritime enforcement specialists, health services technicians, intelligence specialists, and marine science technicians, just to name a few. For this reason, degree requirements for careers in the U.S. Coast Guard vary as well.
Coast Guard Educational Programs
College and Degree Requirements for the Coast Guard Academy
Individuals may enter the U.S. Coast Guard through the Coast Guard Academy. The Coast Guard Academy, which accepts about 300 high school graduates each year, is a competitive program that results in a bachelor’s degree. Individuals who complete the Coast Guard Academy must commit at least 5 years upon graduation to the Coast Guard.
Although the Coast Guard Academy program grants a number of degrees, the Coast Guard notes that about two-thirds of all graduates complete degrees in technical programs, such as:
- Operations research/computer analysis
- Naval architecture and Marine engineering
- Mechanical engineering
- Marine environmental science
- Electrical engineering
- Civil engineering
College and Degree Requirements for Reserve Officer Opportunities
Individuals who either possess their bachelor’s degree or are about to earn their bachelor’s degree may become reserve officers in the Coast Guard. Reserve officers serve part-time in the Coast Guard in a variety of positions once they have completed the Reserve Officer Candidate Indoctrination at the Coast Guard Academy.
There are a variety of areas in which individuals can serve as reserve officers, depending on their bachelor’s degree program or area of study. Just a few of the fields include:
- Information technology
College and Degree Requirements for Officer Candidate School
The Coast Guard’s Officer Candidate School is a competitive, 17-week training program that provides intensive study in areas such as law enforcement, nautical science, leadership, and seamanship. Upon completion of the Coast Guard’s Officer Candidate School, individuals must commit to three years of active-duty work as a cutter, prevention officer, staff officer, or pilot.
To qualify for Officer Candidate School, applicants must possess, among a number of other things, a bachelor’s degree or higher. Individuals may also qualify if they have completed at least one year of college and have completed at least one college-level mathematics course (or have received the ACE recommended score on the college math CLEP exam) or if they have received the ACE recommended score on all general CLEP exams.
College and Degree Requirements for Direct Commission Officer Programs
To gain entrance into one of the Coast Guard’s Direct Commission Office Programs, individuals must meet specific requirements, including education requirements. The highly specific programs within the Direct Commission Office Programs include:
- Prior Trained Military Officer
- Direct Commission Selective School
- Direct Commission Physician Assistant
- Direct Commission Lawyer
- Direct Commission Intelligence Officer
- Direct Commission Engineer
- Direct Commission Aviator
College and Degree Requirements for Enlisted Personnel
Enlisted positions within the Coast Guard are plentiful. Although enlisted positions generally do not require the completion of a formal degree program for admission, a background in a specific area, accomplished through either a college degree or relevant experience, may prove valuable for placement or advancement.
For example, the Coast Guard recommends that individuals interested in operations specialist positions have an aptitude for working with computer-based applications and possess an above-average ability in solving mathematical problems. Therefore, individuals interested in this Coast Guard enlisted profession may benefit from the completion of a degree program in computer science, information technology, or a related program.
Another example is maritime enforcement specialists, who are responsible for providing maritime law enforcement, anti-terrorism force protection, and port security and safety. This Coast Guard position requires individuals with a strong interest in law enforcement and security; therefore, attaining a degree in a related field, such as criminal justice, police science, or criminology, may be quite advantageous for individuals interested in this profession.
Just a few of the enlisted programs available through the Coast Guard include:
- Avionics electrical technician
- Intelligence specialist
- Damage controlman
- Gunner’s mate
- Electrician’s mate
- Health service technician
- Electronics technician
- Machinery technician
- Marine science technician