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Advance through Training as a Coast Guard Officer

Initial Training

Every officer candidate in the Coast Guard must go through initial training - essentially basic training for officers. This difficult program is designed to prepare you to make split-second decisions and take charge in any situation.

As a prospective officer, you may enter the Coast Guard through officer candidate school (OCS) at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. There, you complete a rigorous 17-week course of instruction that prepares you to serve effectively as an officer in the Coast Guard. In addition to indoctrinating you into a military lifestyle, OCS also provides a wide range of highly technical information necessary for performing the duties of a Coast Guard officer.

When you graduate from the program, you'll receive a commission in the Coast Guard at the rank of ensign (O-1), and will be required to serve a minimum of three years on active-duty. You may be assigned to a ship, flight training, a staff job, or to an operations billet ashore.

First assignments are based on the needs of the Coast Guard, although personal desires and performance at OCS are considered. All graduates must be available for worldwide assignment.

If you're going in as a direct commission officer, the Coast Guard's direct commission officer course is administered by the OCS staff. Depending on the specific program and background of the individual, the course is three, four, or five weeks long.


In the Coast Guard, we have approximately 46,000 active-duty men and women. That means that we rely on every Coast Guardsmen do his or her job to the best of his or her ability every day.

One hundred percent effort is an assumption, not a reason for a promotion.

Go above and beyond what is expected of you, and you will be rewarded with a promotion. Promotions include better pay and assignments with more responsibility. Our promotion system does not favor any one-career specialty over another. Commissioned officer selection boards convene at least once a year to review candidates and ensure that sufficient officer flow exists to meet service needs.

Officers at the rank of ensign (O-1) and lieutenant junior grade (O-2) are evaluated bi-annually and lieutenant (O-3) and above are evaluated annually by their supervisors via an officer evaluation report (OER). This is the most important performance dimension in assessing readiness for greater responsibility.

Officers selected for promotion will have demonstrated the leadership traits, core values (honor, respect, devotion to duty) and performance that confirm their potential to serve in positions of increased responsibility.

Consideration for promotion is typically based on defined time frames so that qualified candidates can gain sufficient experience while earning increased responsibility.