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 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 high specialized, 17-week course of instruction in leadership, management, navigation, law enforcement, and military subjects. OCS classes are convened periodically throughout the year, depending on the needs of the service.

It is an awesome reality that after a mere 17 weeks of training, OCS graduates will be expected to successfully lead Coast Guard enlisted members in the execution of Coast Guard missions. Enlisted members bring years of experience to the table and in some cases will have more years of experience than the officer has been alive. Therefore OCS applicants should realistically evaluate their leadership experience in addition to project and budget management skills to ascertain their relative competitiveness when commencing the OCS application process. The Coast Guard is looking to select proven leaders for the coveted and critical role of Coast Guard officer.

Initial Assignments and Potential Career Paths

Individuals who successfully complete Officer Candidate School are commissioned as ensigns (O-1)* in the United States Coast Guard. In the final stages of OCS, officer trainees receive the opportunity to indicate their preferences for their initial assignment in the Coast Guard. Specific available assignments typically vary during any given year based on needs of the service as adjudicated by the discretion of the assignment officer. 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 regulation vessel, law enforcement boardings, pollution investigation and response).  Ensigns assigned to sectors also may also perform a duty rotation in the Sector Command Center, which administers, directs, and fuses awareness of all sector operations on a daily basis on behalf of the sector commander, including; search and rescue, law enforcement, pollution investigation, and Captain of the Port orders. 
  • 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.
  • Coast Guard District or Headquarters: to perform duties and responsibilities of a Coast Guard staff officer.
  • Aviation (training billet): to attend Coast Guard flight school and train to become a Coast Guard pilot. 

Potential Career Paths: Typically the first assignment helps determine the direction of your career path in the Coast Guard. Coast Guard career paths are divided into four broad categories: prevention, response, mission support and aviation, with additional sub-specialties (intelligence, legal, finance, human resources, engineering, public affairs, medical etc.).

*Note: Chief Warrant Officers may be eligible for commissioning as an O-2.

TEMPORARY COMMISSION

Important Note: Individuals who are not in the Coast Guard can compete for the OCS-R program only (details in the OCS-R Section below). Coast Guard members may be eligible to compete for either the OCS-R or OCS-T program (you must the eligibility criteria of each program to determine which you are eligible for).

Officer Candidate School 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 2015, for example, you cannot have reached your 35th birthday by 30 September 2015.
  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 (American Council on Education) recommended score on the five general CLEP (College Level Examination Program) exams
      • English composition 
      • Humanities 
      • Natural Sciences 
      • College Mathematics 
      • Social Science/History
    • English Composition
    • Humanities
    • Natural Science,
    • College Mathematics
    • Social Science/History) or
    • Have 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.
  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). 
    • May not have filed for bankruptcy (any chapter) in the last 10 years
  8. Interview:  OCS-T 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 OCS-T Interview). 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
    • 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 (see Appendix 1 of the OJAK)
    • Must submit a health and physical pre-assessment 30 days prior to reporting to OCS (detailed in the OCS 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 OJAK)
  11. Test Score:  Receive a qualifying score in one of the following (test scores are valid indefinitely)
    • SAT I: 1100 or greater combined score (Math and Critical Reading)
    • ACT: Composite score of 23 or greater
    • ASTB: 4 AQR/ 5 PFAR (or greater)
    • ASVAB: GT score of 109 or greater (110 if taken prior to 1 July 2004). GT score is derived by combining the VE and AR scores
  12. Tattoos: Applicants may not have tattoos or body markings that are inconsistent with the CG tattoo, body marking, body piercing, and mutilation policy.
  13. OCS Pre-Reporting Guide: applicants must have read and understood the OCS reporting in guide.

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

  1. 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)
  2. What substantiates as "active-duty time-in-service" to meet the four* 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
    • ADOS (Active Duty for Operational Support)
      *Remember, at least two of the four years of service must be active duty Coast Guard service.
  3. Does active-duty for training (ADT) count for active-duty time-in-service?
    • No
  4. 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, your application will be pulled.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

RESERVE COMMISSION

Important Note: Individuals who are not in the Coast Guard can compete for the OCS-R program only.  Coast Guard members may be eligible to compete for either the OCS-R or OCS-T program (you must the eligibility criteria of each program to determine which you are eligible for).

(OCS-R) Eligibility Requirements

  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 2015, for example, you cannot have reached your 31st birthday by 30 September 2015.
  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 OJAK. 
    • 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:
    • Applicants not currently in the Coast Guard may not have more than three dependents
    • 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
  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
  8. Interview: OCS-R 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 OCS Interview). The interview board will complete the CG-5527 form.
  9. Military Service: (all of the below must apply)
    • Members currently in another military service must furnish a 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.
    • Members may have no more than six years of non-Coast Guard active duty military service.
    • 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. Coast Guard Members:
    • Coast Guard reservists must receive a conditional release from PSC-RPM. 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 RPM
    • 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 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 time in 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) A CG member who is an E-4 with 5 years time in service on the date of the selection panel is eligible for OCS-R. 
    • Example: 2) A CG member who is an E-5 by the date of the selection panel, but has only 3 years time in service (and will not exceed 4 years time in service by the date of the first OCS course convening following the selection panel) is eligible for OCS-R.
    • Example 3) A CG member who is an E-6 by the date of the selection panel, but has only 3 years of service by the date of the first OCS course convening following the selection panel is eligible for OCS-R.
    • Example 4) A CG member who is an E-4 with 4 years of time in service, who is on the advancement list and does not advance by the date of the selection panel is eligible for OCS-R.
  11. Physical (Medical): Must pass a commissioning physical (including):
    • Normal Color Vision
    • Meet height/weight standards (see Appendix 1 of the OJAK)
    • Must submit a health and physical pre-assessment 30 days prior to reporting to OCS (detailed in the OCS reporting guide, link in 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 OJAK)
  12. Test Score:  Receive a qualifying score in one of the following (test scores are valid indefinitely)
    • SAT I: 1100 or greater combined score (Math and Critical Reading)
    • ACT: Composite score of 23 or greater
    • ASTB: 4 AQR/ 5 PFAR (or greater)
    • ASVAB: GT score of 109 or greater (110 if taken prior to 1 July 2004). GT score is derived by combining the VE and AR scores
  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. OCS Pre-Reporting Guide: applicants must have read and understood the OCS reporting in guide.

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 in the Coast Guard Reserve.

OCS-R Frequently Asked Questions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).  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.
  4. 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, 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.

Application Process

If you are ready to apply, you must visit the program forms and deadlines page and follow the application process, which includes downloading the forms and all necessary application elements appropriate for the OCS program.

For more information download the OCS Guide below. It will help prepare you for your initial transition to your OCS class.