Maritime Academy Graduate (MARGRAD)

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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. Specific responsibilities included within this mission set  are the inspection of commercial vessels, ports and facilities, foreign flag vessel examinations (port state control), oversight of uninspected commercial vessels, marine casualty investigation, waterways management, navigation and boating safety. 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: MARGRAD Direct Commission Officers (DCOs) 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 unit that best aligns the selectee’s talents & potential with the needs of the Coast Guard. New officers will execute permanent change of station (PCS) orders and report directly to their first unit for a brief period, and then immediately attend the Coast Guard’s DCO training course held at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT.  There they 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 reserve officer in the Coast Guard. Following completion of DCO training, new officers will return to their unit.

Initial assignment details:

  • Prevention Community: An initial assignment in the prevention community is typically manifested at a Coast Guard Sector, working as an apprentice within the inspection division of the Sector Prevention Department. 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.
  • 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 37).

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

  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 2015, for example, you cannot have reached your 41st birthday by 30 September 2015.
  2. Character Standards: 
    • All applicants must be of outstanding moral character, and must meet the requirements of Appendices 3 and 4 of the OJAK.
    • 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 one of the seven maritime academies:
      • Maine Maritime Academy
      • Massachusetts Maritime Academy
      • United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point
      • State University of New York Maritime College
      • Great Lakes Maritime Academy
      • Texas Maritime Academy
      • California Maritime Academy
    • (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)
      • GPA: all applicants must have at least a 2.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale.
      • A college senior graduating after the application deadline date must provide a letter from his/her academic institution indicating the degree major, GPA, and the date the degree will be conferred.
  7. 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
  8. ​​Interview: MARGRAD applicants must receive the recommendation of a Coast Guard interview board, administered by 3 Coast Guard Officers (in the OJAK, refer to Application Process, Section C, Interview Board Detail for specifics on the MARGRAD Interview). 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).
  9. Military Service:
    • Cannot exceed 10 years of non-Coast Guard active duty military service as of the selection panel convening date.
    • Current military members in another service or the CG Reserves must furnish as signed DD368 (conditional release).  Recruiters and applicants shall complete section I of the DD368 form.  Recruiters shall then submit the DD368 to the CGRC Accessions branch.  CGRC will facilitate release directly with the applicant’s service.  
    • Note (1): Commissioned officers 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.
  10. Physical (Medical): Must pass a commissioning physical (including):
    • Normal Color Vision
    • Meet Height/Weight standards (see Appendix 1 of the OJAK)
    • Must be able to pass a Physical Fitness Test and Swim Test prior to graduation from DCO school (see Appendix 2 and the DCO Pre-Reporting Guide, link in item 14 below)
  11. Test Score: There is no test score requirement for MARGRAD applicants
  12. Program-Specific Experience:
    • For applicants with MMC endorsements, your level of experience may correlate with an advanced appointment grade, as articulated below.
  13. Tattoos: Applicants may not have tattoos or body markings that are inconsistent with the CG tattoo, body marking, body piercing, and mutilation policy.
  14. DCO Pre-Reporting Guide: applicants must have read and understood the DCO reporting in guide.

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) in the Coast Guard Reserve. 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:

  1. If I attended a maritime academy and meet the degree and/or license 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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) merely communicate your desires to your assignment officer once he/she engages. Many MARGRADs have been assigned to the afloat and response communities.

Application Process:

If you are ready to apply, you must visit the Plan Your Next Move page and follow the application process, which includes downloading the forms and all necessary application elements appropriate for the MARGRAD program.