Officer Candidate School (OCS)

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Overview

Civilians and current enlisted members of the Coast Guard who seek to advance their leadership and are ready to accept the challenge of greater responsibility in one of the service's many missions may apply for selection as a Coast Guard officer through the Officer Candidate School program.  Officer Candidate School (OCS) is a highly specialized, 17-week course of instruction in leadership, management, navigation, law enforcement, and military subjects.  OCS classes are convened twice a year, in January and in the summer.     

It is an awesome reality that after a mere 17 weeks of training, OCS graduates will be expected to successfully lead CG enlisted members in the execution of CG missions. Some of these CG members bring years of experience to the table and in some cases will have more years of experience than the officer has been alive. OCS applicants, therefore, should realistically evaluate their leadership experience as well as project and budget management skills to ascertain their relative competitiveness when commencing the OCS application process.  The Coast Guard is looking to select individuals who have demonstrated the potential to be exceptional leaders for the coveted and critical role of Coast Guard officer.  Individuals who successfully complete Officer Candidate School are commissioned as ensigns (O-1) (note that CG CWOs may be eligible for commissioning as O-2s) in the United States Coast Guard. 

Initial Assignments and Potential Career Paths:

In the final stages of OCS, officer candidates compete for positions that will be available to them upon graduation and commissioning.  Initial assignments will be within one of the 4 main officer operational specialties, including afloat, aviation, prevention and response. For any given OCS graduating class, available choices typically include assignment to a/n:

  • Coast Guard Sector: to perform the duties and responsibilities of a prevention officer (focusing on marine safety, vessel inspections, vessel mishap investigations, aids to navigation/waterways) or an enforcement or incident management officer (focusing on law enforcement boardings, pollution investigation and response and operational planning).  Ensigns assigned to sectors also typically perform a duty rotation in the Sector Command Center, which administers, directs, and fuses sector operations on a daily basis on behalf of the sector commander. This includes search and rescue, law enforcement, pollution investigation, incident management, PWCS and Captain of the Port authority.
  • Coast Guard Cutter: to perform the duties and responsibilities of a deck watch officer (cutter navigation and piloting) or an engineering officer in Training (engine room, propulsion plant and machinery system maintenance).  Additional duties while assigned to a cutter may include the weapons officer or communications officer.
  • Aviation (training billet): to attend Coast Guard flight school and train to become a Coast Guard pilot. 

Assignment officers work with officer candidates to provide an initial assignment that best meets the needs of the service, and the skills, training, experience, and desires of the individual.  The initial assignment for a junior officer is considered their opportunity to not only lead people and manage resources, but begin learning and excelling in an operational specialty.

Career Path:

Many junior officers typically receive subsequent assignments in the career field of their initial assignment. Opportunities exist to receive training and qualifications in other specialties, and pursue a subsequent assignment in a different career field and/or a sub-specialty such as intelligence, human resources, engineering and C4IT, international affairs, legal, recruiting, financial management and training.

Officer Candidate School Reserve Commission (OCS-R) Program

Important Notes 

  • Application Deadline is 4 Jan 2016. Start at least two months in advance with your recruiter.
  • This program is primarily for individuals who are not already in the Coast Guard. 
  • Coast Guard members may be eligible to compete for either the OCS-R or the OCS-T program (not both).  Coast Guard members should review the eligibility requirements for OCS-R and OCS-T to determine which program they are eligible for.
  • Many of the below items reference the Officer Application Job Aid Kit (O-JAK).

Eligibility Requirements (OCS-R):

  1. Age: Have reached your 21st but not your 31st 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 31st birthday by 30 September 2016.
  2. Character Standards:
    • All applicants must be of outstanding moral character.
    • Applicants not presently in the Coast Guard 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 OCS 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:
    • No more than 3 dependents (your spouse is considered your dependent, regardless of military status).
    • If single, may not have sole or primary custody of dependents
  6. Education:
    • Have a baccalaureate or higher degree and
    • Have a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA
    • College Seniors: are eligible to apply if all of the below are met:
      • Baccalaureate degree will be conferred prior to the first OCS 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.
    • Foreign Degrees: Applicants who have degrees conferred by a foreign school shall include in their application a course-by-course assessment from an organization such as Education Credential Evaluators, in addition to the inclusion of the translation of their degree (if in a language other than English).
  7. Financial:
    • Must meet all financial obligations, and not have a debt to income ratio in excess of 30% (ratio of debt to projected income at the O-1 level)
    • 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.
  8. Interview:  OCS-R 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 on the Interview).  The interview board will complete the CG-5527 form.
  9. Military Service:  (all of the below must apply)
    • Not required
    • Max Active Duty Service: Applicants may have no more than six years of non-Coast Guard active duty military service as of accession (commissioning) date, which would be the date that the individual enlists in the USCG in advance of attending officer candidate school.
    • 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 (11 Apr 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 CGR-SMB-DD368@uscg.mil.
      • CG Active Duty Enlisted: do not need a conditional release
      • 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.
      • Note about authorizing official: Recruiters shall consult Appendix AF of the CGRC SOP for a list of authorizing officials, by branch.
    • 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.
  10. Coast Guard Members:  (FY16 Selection Panel will convene 11 April 2016)
    • Reservists: Eligible Coast Guard reservists may apply. (Must receive a conditional release as per item #9 above).
      • Example 1) A reserve CG member who is an E-3 or E-4 as of the date of the selection panel is eligible for OCS-R regardless of reserve or active time in service.
      • Example 2) A reserve CG member who is an E-5 as of the date of the selection panel is eligible for OCS-R, unless they have more than 4 years of active time in service and are also currently serving on an EAD contract that extends through the date of graduation of the first OCS course convening for which the panel is making selections.
      • Example 3) A reserve CG member who is an E-6 as of the date of the selection panel who will have 2 years of active duty time in service and 4 years of reserve time by the date of the first OCS course convening for which the panel is making selections, is eligible for OCS-R
    • Active duty: Active Duty Coast Guard members (who meet all other eligibility requirements for OCS-R) cannot be an E-5 by the date of the selection panel convening and have more than 4 years of active duty time-in-service by the date of the first OCS course convening following the selection panel. This also means if you have more than 4 years of active duty time and service by the date of the first OCS course convening following the selection panel, but have not yet advanced to E-5 by the date of the selection panel, you are eligible for OCS-R.  Likewise, if you are an E-5 or above, and have less than 4 years of time in service by the date of the first OCS course convening following the selection panel, you are eligible for OCS-R.
      • Example 1) An active duty CG member who is an E-3 as of the date of the selection panel is eligible for OCS-R regardless of the amount of active duty time in service.
      •  Example 2) An active duty CG member who is an E-4 as of the date of the selection panel who will have over 5 years of active duty time in service as of the first OCS course convening date (for which the panel is making selections) is eligible for OCS-R. 
      • Example 3) An active duty CG member who is an E-4 who is on the advancement list and does not advance to E-5 by the date of the selection panel is eligible for OCS-R, regardless of the amount of active duty time in service.
      • Example 4) An active duty CG member who is an E-5 by the date of the selection panel, but has only 3 years of active duty time in service (and will not exceed 4 years of active duty time in service by the date of the first OCS course convening for which the panel is making selections) is eligible for OCS-R.
      • Example 5) An active duty CG member who is an E-6 by the date of the selection panel, but has only 3 years of active duty time in service by the date of the first OCS course convening for which the panel is making selections is eligible for OCS-R.
  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 submit a health and physical pre-assessment 30 days prior to reporting to OCS (detailed in the OCS Pre-reporting guide, item #14 below).
    • Must be able to pass a physical fitness test and swim test prior to graduation from OCS (see Appendix 2 of the O-JAK).
  12. Test Score:  Receive a qualifying score in one of the following (test scores are valid indefinitely)
    • ASVAB: 109 GT (General Technical score: sum of Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) and Verbal (VE) scores, taken after 1 July 2004)
    • ASVAB: 110 GT (if taken before 1 July 2004)
    • SAT: 1000 (Combined score, taken prior to 1 April 1995)
    • SAT I: 1100 (Combined score, taken from 1 April 1995 to 31 March 2005)
    • SAT: 1100 (Combination of Critical Reading and Math, taken after 31 March 2005)
    • ACT: 23 (Composite)
  13. 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.
  14. OCS Pre-Reporting Guide: applicants must have read and understood the OCS Pre-Reporting Guide (PRG). Please note that the PRG is updated typically once a year. If you are selected for OCS, ensure that you read the PRG again at least several months prior to reporting to OCS: http://www.uscga.edu/subsites/ldccourses.aspx?id=2764

OCS-R Terms of Service:

On commissioning, which occurs upon graduation from OCS, members will be discharged from their enlisted status and commissioned as a Coast Guard officer with an initial 3-year active duty obligation.

OCS-R Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I be eligible to apply to both OCS-R and OCS-T?

  • No, if you meet the eligibility criteria to apply to OCS-T, you cannot apply to OCS-R.

I am a senior in college, can I apply to OCS-R before I graduate?

  • Yes, you will need to have a letter in your application from your college’s registrar’s office that specifies your projected graduation date. This will take the place of a copy of your degree in your application. You must graduate prior to attending Officer Candidate School.

I want to be a pilot in the Coast Guard, but I don’t meet the requirements for DCA. How do I apply to be a pilot?

  • ​There are several avenues, but you first must be selected to OCS. If you do extremely well at Officer Candidate School (i.e. your class rank is very high) via a combination of high performance physically, academically, and via military duties, then you are likely to receive the assignment of your choice. Typically, there are several aviation training assignments available to each OCS graduating class; and if you apply at this point, you are likely to be given the opportunity (keep in mind that you must medically qualify via a flight physical and also pass the ASTB aptitude test).  If you are not selected for flight training at OCS, then you may continue to apply after you have accepted your initial assignment as an officer and reported for duty.  Flight selection panels for officers who are already in the Coast Guard typically convene twice a year.  Maintaining high performance at your assigned Coast Guard unit, receiving a strong endorsement from your command, and accomplishing a qualifying ASTB score will assist you in your goal.

What if I applied for OCS and was not selected, what are my options?

  • You may continue to apply to OCS as long as you continue to meet all eligibility criteria. Also, be sure you determine whether there may be other officer programs for which you may be eligible. Additionally, enlisting in the Coast Guard or Coast Guard reserves is always a great option.  Through enlistment, you receive real training and exposure to CG missions, pay, and have an opportunity to prove your leadership and commitment to service.  Coast Guard enlisted members may continue to apply for all officer programs for which they are eligible. Additionally, you may seek feedback on your application with CGRC Officer Programs staff. Contact your recruiter to arrange an appointment.

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.

Temporary Commission (OCS-T)

Important Notes 

  • Application Deadline is 31 Aug 2015.  Touch base with your recruiter several months in advance of this date.
  • This program is for individuals who are already in the Coast Guard: Coast Guard members may be eligible to compete for either the OCS-R or the OCS-T program (not both).  Coast Guard members should review the eligibility requirements for OCS-R and OCS-T to determine which program they are eligible for.
  • Many of the below items reference the Officer Application Job Aid Kit (O-JAK).

Temporary Commission (OCS-T) Eligibility Requirements:

  1. Age:  Have reached your 21st but not your 35th birthday as of 30 September of the fiscal year in which the selection panel convenes.  Regular Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officers are eligible until they reach their 40th birthday. For fiscal year 2016, for example, you cannot have reached your 35th birthday by 30 September 2016.
  2. Character Standards: All applicants must be of outstanding moral character. Applicants are ineligible for commissioning if in the 36 months prior to the first OCS 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
    • No more than three dependents (your spouse is considered your dependent, regardless of military status).
  6. Education:
    • Have a baccalaureate or higher degree or
    • Receive the ACE recommended score on the five general CLEP exams (i.e. English Composition, Humanities, Natural Science, College Mathematics, Social Science/History) or
    • Have at least one year of college (30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours) and have completed at least one college-level mathematics course, or receive the ACE recommended score on the College Mathematics CLEP exam.
    • Note about one year of college:
      Credits earned through service schools or correspondance courses are acceptable for the purpose of program qualification if reflected on a Coast Guard Institute Official Transcript (also known as a Joint Services Transcript).
    • Foreign Degrees: Applicants who have degrees conferred by a foreign school shall include in their application a course-by-course assessment from an organization such as Education Credential Evaluators, in addition to the inclusion of the translation of their degree (if in a language other than English).
  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 the O1 level). 

    1. May not have filed for bankruptcy (any chapter) in the last 10 years
    2. 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.
  8. Interview:  OCS-T applicants must receive the recommendation of a Coast Guard interview board, administered by 3 Coast Guard officers (refer to the following section of the O-JAK: Application Process, Section C, Interview Board Detail).  The interview board will complete the CG-5527 form.
  9. Military Service:  (all of the below must apply)
    • Must be presently serving in the Coast Guard, and have at least 4 years of active duty time-in-service by the first OCS class convening date in the selection cycle (2 years of which must be in the Coast Guard) and
    • Must be an E-5 or above by the selection panel convening date (16 Nov 15) and
    • Critical Notes:
      • Note (1): Refer to FAQ number 2 for a discussion of what qualifies as “active duty time in service”
      • Note (2): For members of the CG reserve, the only way to qualify for OCS-T is to meet the active duty time in service requirement, and currently be on an extended active duty (EAD) contract that covers the period up to and including the graduation date for OCS. 
  10. 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 submit a health and physical pre-assessment 30 days prior to reporting to OCS (detailed in the OCS Pre-Reporting guide, link in item #13 below)
    • Must be able to pass a physical fitness test and swim test prior to graduation from OCS (see Appendix 2 of the O-JAK)
  11. Test Score:  Receive a qualifying score in one of the following (test scores are valid indefinitely)
    • ASVAB: 109 GT (General Technical score: sum of Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) and Verbal (VE) scores, taken after 1 July 2004)
    • ASVAB: 110 GT (if taken before 1 July 2004)
    • SAT: 1000 (Combined score, taken prior to 1 April 1995)
    • SAT I: 1100 (Combined score, taken from 1 April 1995 to 31 March 2005)
    • SAT: 1100 (Combination of Critical Reading and Math, taken after 31 March 2005)
    • ACT: 23 (Composite)
  12. 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.
  13. OCS Pre-Reporting Guide: Applicants must have read and understood the OCS Pre-Reporting Guide (PRG). Please note that the PRG is updated typically once a year. If you are selected for OCS, ensure that you read the PRG again at least several months prior to reporting to OCS: http://www.uscga.edu/subsites/ldccourses.aspx?id=2764

OCS-T Terms of Service:

On commissioning, which occurs upon graduation from OCS, members will be discharged from their enlisted status and commissioned as a Coast Guard officer with an initial 3-year active duty obligation.

OCS-T Frequently Asked Questions:

What substantiates as meeting the college level math requirement?

  • Successfully passing a CLEP Mathematics Exam
  • Satisfactorily complete a 100 series (or above) college Math class (010 series; i.e. “pre-requisite” math classes do not count)

What substantiates as “active-duty time-in-service” to meet the 4 years of active-duty time-in-service requirement?

  • Regular active duty
  • EAD (if currently on an EAD contract, the contract must cover the period up to and including the graduation date for OCS)
  • Title 10
  • Note about active time in service: remember, at least two of the four years of active duty service must be active duty in the Coast Guard.

Does Active Duty for Training (ADT) count for active duty time-in-service?

  • No

If I am on the advancement list for E-5, am I eligible for OCS-T?

  • Not necessarily: you may complete and submit your application, but if you do not advance by the date the selection panel convenes (16 Nov 15), your application will be pulled.

What if I have previously been an E-5, but reverted, am I eligible for OCS-T?

  • If you were reverted to an E4 due to a change in rate in accordance with Article 3.A.2.a.(2) of the Coast Guard Enlisted Accessions, Evaluations, and Promotions Manual, COMDTINST M1000.2, and you previously served satisfactorily as an E-5 in the Coast Guard, you are eligible to apply for OCS-T.

What if I received a degree outside of the United States?

  • You must have a detailed credential evaluation report prepared by an education service in the United States.

If I have a degree, can I apply for both OCS-R and OCS-T?

  • No. If you are eligible for OCS-T, then you are no longer eligible for OCS-R.

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.