US Coast Guard Training and Education Standards

The United States Coast Guard, since 1790, has worked toward the sole mission of safeguarding our nation’s maritime interests and world’s environment. This military force has a steady presence along our nation’s waterways, ports, on the high seas, and in coastal regions. The crucial missions of the United States Coast Guard cannot be successfully implemented without the efforts of its 43,000 active duty, 8,000 reservists, and 8,800 civilian employees.

Sponsored Content

In FY2012, the Coast Guard:

  • Responded to nearly 20,000 search and rescue cases
  • Conducted nearly 1,000 escorts and patrols to support 190 domestic cargo ships
  • Deployed 6 patrol boats and 400 personnel to protect the Iraqi maritime oil infrastructure
  • Interdicted nearly 3,000 undocumented migrants attempted illegal entry into the U.S.
  • Saved more than 3,500 lives


U.S. Coast Guard Education Standards

Formal education is an important component of many U.S. Coast Guard jobs, from enlisted members and reservists to the highest ranking officer positions. Just a few of the ways individuals receive advanced-level education in the Coast Guard include:

Coast Guard Academy

The country’s top students attend the Coast Guard Academy, which is a four-year program that results in a Bachelor of Science degree. Upon graduation, all graduates from the Coast Guard Academy must serve 5 years in the Coast Guard. Many of the students of the Coast Guard Academy choose to pursue technical degrees, such as electrical engineering, civil engineering, and mechanical engineering.

Coast Guard Officer Candidate School

Individuals (both enlisted members and civilians) who possess a bachelor’s degree may be eligible to attend the Coast Guard’s Officer Candidate School, a 17-week training program for individuals interested in study in law enforcement, nautical science, leadership and seamanship. All graduates from the Officer Candidate School must commit to three years of active duty service.

Study in the Officer Candidate School may include:

  • Aviation
  • Command, control, communications
  • Computer & information technologies
  • Engineering
  • Environmental
  • Intelligence
  • Law

Direct Commission Officer Programs

Individuals (both enlisted members and civilians) who want to gain extensive knowledge in a specific area as to advance their career in the U.S. Coast Guard often choose to pursue one of the Direct Commission Officer Programs. These programs are reserved for individuals who meet specific college education, experience, and military requirements.

Just a few of the Direct Commission Officer Programs include the Direct Commission Intelligence Officer, the Direct Commission Lawyer, the Direct Commission Physician Assistant, and the Direct Commission Aviator.

Active Member Education Opportunities

The completion of formal educational programs is encouraged for active duty members of the Coast Guard through the Montgomery GI Bill. The new GI Bill provides those veterans with active duty service on or after September 11, 2001, enhanced benefits for educational expenses, living allowances, and money for books, among other benefits.

US Coast Guard Training Standards: Basic Training

Basic training is an initial component of any Coast Guard career. Basic training programs differ slightly for enlisted and reservists:

Enlisted Personnel

Basic training for enlisted personnel takes place in Cape May, New Jersey.  Individuals must accomplish a number of physical tasks in basic training, with different requirements for men and women:


  • 29 push-ups in 60 seconds
  • 38 sit-ups in 60 seconds
  • Complete a 1.5-mile run in under 12:51
  • Complete a swim circuit
  • Sit and reach 16.5 inches
  • Swim 100 meters after jumping off a 5-foot platform
  • Tread water for 5 minutes


  • 15 push-ups in 60 seconds
  • 32 sit-ups in 60 seconds
  • Complete a 1.5-run in under 15:26
  • Complete a swim circuit
  • Sit and reach 19.29 inches
  • Swim 100 meters after jumping off 5-foot platform
  • Tread water for 5 minutes

All enlisted personnel in basic training must also complete formal academic training, all of which are designed to provide basic orientation skills and knowledge. Just a few of the subjects covered during classroom training include the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Coast Guard history. Students must complete a final exam.

Students must also complete training in a number of practical areas, such as small arms training, seamanship, firefighting, and damage control.


Basic training for Coast Guard reservists varies in length and intensity depending on an individual’s experience. For example, individuals with a high school diploma complete an 8-week training program in Cape May, New Jersey. Subjects covered in basic training include rules, regulations, and accountability.

Individuals with prior service or professional experience often complete the Coast Guard’s Direct Entry Petty Officer Training Course, a 3-week course that takes place in Cape May, New Jersey. Training areas include:

  • Military courtesies
  • Drills and ceremonies
  • Military justice
  • Code of conduct
  • Leadership and supervision
  • Seamanship
  • Ranks and rates
  • Career development
  • First aid and survival
  • Seamanship
  • Quality of life
  • Coast Guard history
  • Coast Guard missions and assets
  • Security and communications

Individuals who possess a college degree or are poised to complete a college degree may complete their basic training requirements through the Reserve Officer Basic Training Program, a 17-week program located in New London, Connecticut. However, individuals with prior professional experience or military experience may complete the Selected Reserve Officer Training Program, a two-week program also located in New London.

Back to Top