Maritime Academy Graduate (MARGRAD)

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Important Notes 


Graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point and the six state sponsored maritime academies (Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Great Lakes, Texas A&M and California) are excellent officer candidates for the Coast Guard due to their focused training in maritime industry affairs, marine transportation business acumen, vessel management and engineering operations, licenses as U.S. Merchant Marine Officers (deck and engine), as well as environmental stewardship expertise and emergency management certification. The MARGRAD program, therefore, seeks to commission maritime academy graduates into critical service need specialties appropriate to their training and experience. Traditionally, the service needs most commonly filled by maritime academy graduates have been assignments in the prevention mission community.  Prevention officers execute the CG’s Prevention Program, consisting of maritime safety, security, waterways management and mobility, and environmental stewardship.  The Prevention Directorate includes policy experts in waterways management, navigation safety, boating, commercial vessels, ports and facilities, merchant mariner credentialing, vessel documentation, marine casualty investigation, inspection, and port state control.   MARGRAD officers have also been assigned to, and successful in, the broad spectrum of Coast Guard mission communities, both afloat and ashore.

Coordinating the Initial Assignment and Initial Training:

MARGRADs work with a Coast Guard assignment officer following selection.  The assignment officer will review the individual’s education, experience and qualifications, in addition to their expressed assignment interests, and assign orders to a position at a Coast Guard field unit that best aligns the selectee’s talents & potential with the needs of the Coast Guard.  Following commissioning (which occurs approximately 30 days prior to attending the Direct Commission Officer (DCO) course in New London, Connecticut) new officers will execute permanent change of station (PCS) orders and report directly to their first unit for a brief period. MARGRADs will then go TDY to the DCO course.  The DCO course will be 4-5 weeks in duration (MARGRAD officers with previous commissioned service who have previously attended a commissioning course will attend a 4 week course, all others will attend a 5 week course).  At DCO training, MARGRADs receive initial indoctrination to the traditions and programs of the service, and training on service specific administration essentials needed for their success as a commissioned officer in the Coast Guard.  Following completion of DCO training, MARGRADs will return to their unit. 

Initial Assignment details: Prevention Community:  An initial assignment in the prevention community is typically manifested at a Training Port- typically a Coast Guard Sector, working as an apprentice within the inspection division of the Sector Prevention Department.  Several Marine Safety Units are also Training Ports, and may be available for a MARGRAD officer’s initial assignment. A MARGRAD officer reporting to the inspections division will focus on obtaining competencies by completing Performance Qualification Standards (PQS) with on the job training, under the supervision of a qualified Journeymen Marine Inspector and through various online and non-resident courses. 

  • Vessel Inspections: Vessel Inspectors ensure regulatory compliance with all aspects of national and international regulations for U. S. and foreign flag commercial vessels operating in U.S. waters.  Vessel Inspectors make up the largest population the of Prevention program.  Assignment to a Vessel Inspections Division at a Sector is most common for new MARGRAD Prevention officers.

Initial Assignment details: Other Communities:  As stated in the “overview” above, MARGRAD officers may receive instead an initial assignment to an afloat unit, sector response, etc.  Please refer to the “Initial Assignment and Career Path” information in the Officer Candidate School section of this document for details (see page 56).

Career Path:

Follow-on assignments may include an additional tour as a Prevention Division Chief in Vessel Inspections, Investigations or Waterways Management, Graduate School, Industry training programs or staff tours at a Coast Guard Area or District, or as a Headquarters program manager.  Each assignment brings additional levels of authority, rank, tenure and responsibility.  A full career in the Coast Guard’s Prevention Program can lead to a senior officer’s position as an Officer-In-Charge of Marine Inspection (OCMI), Captain of the Port (COTP), Federal On Scene Coordinator (FOSC) and Federal Maritime Security Coordinator (FMSC), within one of the Sector Commander positions at ports in and outside the continental U.S.

Other positions that may assigned to a second-tour MARGRAD officer, are described below:

  • Marine Investigations: Marine Investigators investigate marine casualties, mariner misconduct and (un)suitability to hold a Merchant Mariner Credential. Marine Investigators collect the facts of a marine incident/casualty, determine the causal factors of the occurrence and if misconduct, negligence or incompetence is found leading to the occurrence of the casualty. They can then recommend if a civil penalty, or suspension and revocation hearing be held, or if lessons learned can be used to amend vessel safety regulations to prevent casualty recurrence.
  • Waterways Management: Management of aids to navigation (ATON), safety and security zones, regulated navigation areas, ice breaking, vessel traffic system, port waterways management and the automatic vessel identification system.

MARGRAD Eligibility Requirements:

You must meet the following criteria (please be cognizant that several criteria are minimal standards) to be eligible to apply for a Coast Guard commission through this program:

  1. Age:  Have reached your 21st but not your 41st birthday as of 30 September of the fiscal year in which the selection Panel convenes.  For fiscal year 2016, for example, you cannot have reached your 41st birthday by 30 September 2016.
  2. Character Standards:  
    • All applicants must be of outstanding moral character, and must meet the requirements of Appendices 3 and 4 of the O-JAK.
    • Applicants currently in the Coast Guard: Applicants are ineligible for commissioning if in the 36 months prior to the first DCO class convening date in the selection cycle, they have been convicted by a court-martial, been awarded non-judicial punishment (NJP), received an “Unsatisfactory” conduct mark, received a mark of less than “4” in any performance dimension, received a negative Administrative Remarks (CG Form 3307), or been involved in an alcohol-related incident.
  3. Citizenship: Must be a U.S. Citizen
  4. Clearance: Must be eligible for a Secret Clearance 
  5. Dependency:
    • If single, may not have sole or primary custody of dependents
    • May not have more than 3 dependents (your spouse is considered your dependent, regardless of military status).
  6. Education:
    • Be a graduate of or in your senior year at one of the seven maritime academies:
      • California Maritime Academy
      • Great Lakes Maritime Academy
      • Maine Maritime Academy
      • Massachusetts Maritime Academy
      • State University of New York Maritime College
      • Texas Maritime Academy
      • United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point AND
      • Hold a Third Mate (unlimited) Ocean or Coastwise, or Third Assistant Engineer (any horsepower) endorsement or higher on a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) (credential must be valid with no history of sanctions or negative actions.  If you have had sanctions, written explanation must be provided with application), OR
      • Major in marine environmental protection or a related field (i.e. a field related to the marine industry, the marine environment, and CG missions)
      • College Seniors: are eligible to apply if all of the below are met:
        • Baccalaureate degree will be conferred prior to commissioning date, which will occur approximately 30 days prior to the first DCO course convening for which the panel is making selections.
        • The applicant provides an official letter from their college registrar certifying their enrollment, degree, major, GPA, and anticipated date of graduation.
  7. GPA: all applicants must have at least a 2.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale. 
  8. Financial: Must meet all financial obligations, and not have a debt to income ratio in excess of 80% (ratio of debt to projected income at applicant’s highest accession level i.e. O-1 or O-2, as applicable).
    • May not have filed for bankruptcy in the last 10 years
    • Student Loans: applicants shall also disclose to their recruiter any student loan payments that are in deferment, and the anticipated date and amount of re-payment of those loans. This information shall be captured in the remarks section of the Statement of Financial Obligation (and Spouse’s Consent) form, the CG-4891.
  9. Interview:  MARGRAD applicants must receive the recommendation of a Coast Guard interview board, administered by 3 Coast Guard Officers (refer to the O-JAK: Application Process, Section C, Interview Board Detail for specifics).  The interview board will complete the CG-5527 form.  If the applicant is eligible for commissioning as a lieutenant junior grade (LTJG), then the most junior member of the interview board must be a lieutenant junior grade (or  higher).
  10. Military Service: 
    • Not required
    • Max Active Duty Service: Have less than 10 years of non-Coast Guard active-duty military service as of accession (commissioning) date, which is equivalent to the date that the applicant, if selected, will take their oath of office.
      Typically this will occur approximately 30 days prior to the convening date for the DCO school for which they will be slated.
    • Coast Guard Officers: 
      • ADPL Officers: Applicants currently holding a commission in the Coast Guard or Coast Guard Reserve who are on the Active Duty Promotion List (ADPL) are not eligible to apply.  
      • IDPL Officers: If a Reserve Officer on the Inactive Duty Promotion List (IDPL) meets the eligibility criteria, he/she may apply for the program, provided a conditional resignation, approved by CG-PSC-rpm, is included in the application package.
    • Commissioned Officers: who have been separated or removed from active duty from any service as a result of non-selection for promotion, extension, or integration may not apply for any Coast Guard commissioning program.
    • Conditional Release: Members currently in another military service (or IRR) and CG Reservists must furnish an approved DD368 form (conditional release) in their application package.  
      • Release approval (validity) period: The release shall be valid, at a minimum, through the date of the panel (14 Dec 2015 or 16 May 2016)  for which the applicant is applying.  Ideally, the release should be valid through the projected accession date for that panel.
      • CG Reservists, CG IRR, and Other Military Service IRR: Recruiters shall submit the DD368 (with only Section I complete) to CGRC Accessions branch at
      • CG Active Duty Enlisted: do not need a conditional release
        Recruiters shall consult Appendix AF of the CGRC SOP for a list of authorizing officials, by branch
      • Members of Other Military Services (except IRR): The applicant shall submit the DD368 (with Section I complete) through their chain of command to their services’ authorizing official* (which is different for each service).  Once approved, the DD368 and any other approval documents (i.e. Service Memorandum) shall be submitted in the application package.
  11. Physical (Medical): Must pass a commissioning physical (including):
    • Normal Color Vision
    • Meet Height/Weight standards:
      • CG members: Must meet MAW or Body Fat standards as per COMDTINST M1020.8H
      • Civilians and Members of Other Military Services: see Appendix 1 of the O-JAK (must meet accession weight standards, body fat % standards do not apply for accession).
    • Must be able to pass a Physical Fitness Test and Swim Test prior to graduation from DCO school (see Appendix 2 of the O-JAK, and the DCO Pre-Reporting Guide, link in item # 14 below)
  12. Test Score:  There is no test score requirement for MARGRAD applicants
  13. Program-Specific Experience: 
    • For applicants with MMC endorsements, your level of experience may correlate with an advanced appointment grade, as articulated below.
  14. Tattoos: Applicants may not have tattoos or body markings that are inconsistent with the CG tattoo, body marking, body piercing, and mutilation policy. Recruiters must review all tattoos.
  15. DCO Pre-Reporting Guide: Applicants must have read and understood the DCO Pre-Reporting Guide (PRG). Please note that the PRG is updated typically once a year. If you are selected for MARGRAD, ensure that you read the PRG again at least several months prior to reporting to DCO: 

MARGRAD Terms of Service and Appointment Grade:

  1. On commissioning, new officers will receive a three-year Extended Active Duty (EAD) contract.
  2. The selection panel determines the appointment grade of each new officer.
  3. Selectees will receive a commission as an Ensign (O1) or Lieutenant (j.g.) (O-2).  LTJG* may be offered to selectees who:
    • Have served one or more years on board vessels U.S in the capacity of a credentialed officer, and
    • Hold at least a Third Mate (unlimited) Ocean or Coastwise or 
    • Third Assistant Engineer (any horsepower) license or 
    • Majored in a marine environmental protection field
  4. All others not indicated above will be offered commission as an ensign. 

NOTE: Selection panels consider not only the applicant’s training, experience, and qualifications when they determine appointment grades, but also the potential for placement in a billet (position) that will ensure the officer has access to leadership opportunities and is competitive to promote with his/her peers in the same paygrade.  Therefore, although the panel is authorized to appoint selectees to LTJG who demonstrate the criteria of item (3) above, they may defer to appointment as an ENS if it is in the best interests of the individual for a prolonged career. 

MARGRAD Frequently Asked Questions:

If I attended a maritime academy and meet the degree and/or credential requirements, but I am currently enlisted in the Coast Guard, and/or I graduated several years ago, may I still apply to be an officer through the MARGRAD program?

  • Yes, presuming that you have met all other eligibility criteria

Could a MARGRAD applicant also apply to OCS?

  • If you meet the eligibility criteria for OCS, you may apply to OCS.

Could a MARGRAD applicant also qualify for the DCSS program? 

  • Yes; if you have been a participating member of the corps of cadets. However, depending on the fiscal year and service needs in question, it may not be of any benefit to that applicant to apply to both programs. Before applying, your recruiter should check with the CGRC Officer Programs staff.

If I attended a maritime academy and received a degree in facilities engineering, am I eligible to apply?

  • Most likely; as long as your degree concerned marine facilities, which are typically inspected by the Coast Guard and therefore the degree field has strong relevance to CG missions. When in doubt, have your recruiter check with CGRC.

I have heard that MARGRADs are typically assigned to a prevention job for their first tour as an officer, is this true? 

  • Yes, the primary focus of the MARGRAD program is to use the talents and training that you have learned while at your maritime academy in the CG’s prevention program. However, if you have a strong desire to pursue a different mission (i.e. assignment aboard a CG cutter, assignment to a sector response or incident management position, etc.) communicate your desires to your assignment officer once he/she engages.  If feasible, the assignment officer will take your desires into consideration. Many MARGRADs have been assigned to the afloat and response communities. Please note that billet selections change every year, and the exact positions that were available last year will more than likely not be available this year.

Will I be able to renew my MMC even though I am not actively sailing under its authority while serving in the Coast Guard?

  • Generally, YES - so long as the requirements for renewal outlined in Title 46 CFR §10.227 are met.  Specifically, Coast Guard personnel can meet the following professional requirements for renewal by (1) presenting evidence of at least 1 year of qualifying sea service during the past 5 years (generally 1 year and 5 months of a cutter assignment), (2) passing a comprehensive, open-book exercise, (3) completing an approved refresher training course, or (4) providing evidence of closely related service for at least 3 of the past 5 years.  Coast Guard personnel may qualify for closely related service if serving in a relevant position as a marine inspector or investigator.  In addition to closely related service, deck officers must also demonstrate knowledge on an applicable Rules of the Road open-book exercise.  Closely related service is not applicable to STCW or radar endorsements and may not be credited toward a raise-in-grade.  Applicants for renewal of national endorsements, who are unwilling or otherwise unable to meet the renewal requirements may apply for a Document of Continuity, which does not expire and is issued solely to maintain an individual's eligibility for renewal.

Application Process

If you are ready to apply, you must visit the Plan Your Next Move to become an Active Duty Coast Guard Officer page and follow the application process, which includes downloading the application check list.