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Direct Commission Engineer (DCE)



Civilians, Coast Guard members, and prior service members with a baccalaureate degree in a command, control, communications, computers, and information technology (C4IT) field may apply for a commission through the Direct Commission Engineer (DCE) program.  Current CG enlisted members in the AET, IT, ET, or EM rating with at least an associate degree in a C4IT field are also eligible to apply.  CG members in other rates who have an associate in a C4IT field and C4IT experience will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  CG applicants with only an associate degree also must be an E5 by the panel date , and have more than 4 years of active duty service (at least two in the USCG) by the date of the DCO course they would attend. The DCE program seeks to provide engineers and technologists with leadership opportunities in program management and systems implementation that enable Coast Guard missions.  

Initial Assignments and Training: 

DCEs 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. DCEs will then go TDY to the DCO course.  The DCO course will be 4-5 weeks in duration. At DCO training, DCEs 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, DCEs will return to their unit. 

CG C4IT assignments: Assignments will be influenced by the selectee’s specific degree, training, experience, and desires, but is ultimately determined by the needs of the service.  Selectees will be assigned to one of the following fields:

  • C4IT Service Center (C4ITSC), Center of Excellence (COE): This is the most common initial assignment where DCEs will engineer and support CG C4IT systems:
  • C4IT Staff Positions: C4IT officers form and execute the CG’s C4IT strategic vision and policy: 
  • CG C4IT Field Positions: DCEs will provide front line support to units executing CG missions:

Career Path:

Following Initial Assignments, DCE-C4IT selectees can anticipate broadening their experience within the C4IT community, with increasing levels of leadership and management exposure with progression in rank. Likewise, DCE officers may have opportunities for special assignments and other mission support assignments.

DCE 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 2017, for example, you cannot have reached your 41st birthday by 30 September 2017.
  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 panel 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, 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:
    • May not have more than 3 dependents (your spouse is considered your dependent, regardless of military status).
    • Coast Guard active duty applicants, E-5 and above, with a minimum  of four years active military service (excluding active duty for training), at least two years of which must be Coast Guard active duty service may have sole or primary custody of dependents.
    • All eligible applicants must provide a dependent care plan with an indefinite general Power of Attorney.
  6. Education and GPA:
    • Must have a 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale
    • Have a baccalaureate or higher degree from an accredited college or university in a C4IT field. Examples of degree fields are listed in the table below.
      • 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.
      • 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).
    • Coast Guard Member Stipulations: Current CG enlisted members E5 and above in the AET, ET, IT or EM rating with at least an associate degree in a C4IT discipline are eligible. Other CG enlisted members E5 and above with at least an A.S. degree in a C4IT discipline, and practical work experience in the C4IT arena, are eligible on a case by case basis. The associate degree must be conferred by the application deadline.  (See FAQ #2 and #4 for details).  Members must make E5 by the panel date, and must also have at least 4 years of active duty service (2 of which must be in the USCG) by the date that they would attend Direct Commission Officer school.
    • Stipulations applying to all applicants and all degrees:
      • At least 50% of core engineering/C4IT curriculum must be actual coursework, not converted work experience.  
      • Management degrees with an engineering or C4IT concentration may be considered, if they meet the 50% requirement stated above.
      • Refer to page 94 of the OJAK to see examples of qualifying C4IT degrees.
  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.
    • 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.
  8. Interview: DCE applicants must receive the recommendation of a Coast Guard interview board, administered by 3 Coast Guard officers.
  9. Military Service: (all of the below must apply)
    • Not required
    • Max Active Duty Service: Have less than 10 years of non-Coast Guard active-duty military service as of commissioning date, which is equivalent to the date that the applicant, if selected, will take their oath of office.
    • 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 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
      • 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. 
    • 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. 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.
    • Shall complete a structured physical fitness program while at DCO School.
  11. Test Score:  There is no test-score requirement for the DCE program
  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. DCO Pre-Reporting Guide: Applicants must have read and understood the DCO Pre-Reporting Guide.
  14. Program Specific Requirements: Applicants should provide copies of current, C4IT relevant credentials as a separate element in their application. 

DCE-C4IT Appointment Grades and Term of Service:

  1. Selected applicants will receive a 3 year active duty obligation
  2. Selectees will receive a temporary or reserve commission as an Ensign (O-1) a Lieutenant Junior Grade (j.g.) (O-2) or a Lieutenant (O-3) in the U. S. Coast Guard or Coast Guard Reserve.

DCE Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Refer to the OJAK, page 81 for program FAQs

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.