Coast Guard officers fill many roles and jobs in specialties such as aviation, human resources or intelligence. They guide their subordinates in fulfilling the mission and purpose of the Coast Guard. Officer Candidate School is one of the paths to becoming an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. Qualified applicants can complete the application process in only a few weeks.
Temporary vs. Reserve
Applicants may apply for Officer Candidate School with a temporary commission or a reserve commission. The temporary commission leads to full-time, active-duty service as an officer after successfully completing training. Reserve commissions lead to a part-time officer position with the Coast Guard Reserves, where you will attend training one weekend each month and two weeks each year.
Meet the Minimum Requirements
All applicants must be United States citizens and at least 21 years of age. A bachelor's degree is required for all officer positions. They must meet all financial obligations and may not have filed for bankruptcy in the last 10 years. In addition, applicants must meet height and weight requirements, pass a physical fitness test and have normal color vision.
It is the narrative memo and interview that sets applicants apart. The narrative memo, like a cover letter, explains why applicants are applying for a commission, and their goals if selected as an officer. Review the latest copy of the Commandant's guide to the selection boards to determine what qualities the panel will be seeking. Using this as a guideline, applicants should create a memo that clearly emphasizes strengths, unique qualities and motivation for serving in the Coast Guard.
Interview with the Selection Board
The interview is the applicant's opportunity to make a personal impression on the selection board and share and emphasize strengths. Prior to the interview, applicants should prepare by reviewing their work history and selecting examples and situations that demonstrate leadership, integrity and excellence. Confidence, professionalism and strong communication skills are essential for candidates.
Before committing to commissioning as an officer in the Coast Guard, realize that unlike enlisted members who serve for a specific period of time, officers may be let go at any time for any reason. In addition, officers must be promoted to the rank of lieutenant or they will lose their commission. Promotions are based on the officer's performance, professionalism, leadership, and education. There are no specific or measurable criteria for the officer to meet, though, since each promotion board develops their own criteria. Officers with temporary commissions who do not receive the promotion may return to their enlisted status. Reserve commission officers must leave the service.
- U.S. Coast Guard: Developing a career as a Coast Guard officer
- U.S. Coast Guard: Missions
- U.S. Coast Guard: Differences Between Officers and Enlisted Personnel Career Paths
- U.S. Coast Guard: Officer Candidate School (OCS)
- U.S. Coast Guard: Application Process for Non-Academy Officer Accession Programs
- U.S. Coast Guard: Introduction to Officer Candidate School
- U.S. Coast Guard: The Narrative Memo
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