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Direct Commission Health Service Officer (DCHSO) – Physicians & Dentists


The Direct Commission Health Service Officer (DCHSO) program provides an opportunity for physicians with completed medical school and board certification, as well as dentists who have completed dental school to serve their country in the United States Coast Guard within their specialty. Nearly all Coast Guard physicians and dentists are expected to provide outpatient primary care and operational medicine services for most of their careers. These individuals should expect an initial assignment to CG clinics located at bases, training centers, some Air Stations, or the CG Academy. Career progression includes rotating assignments every 3 to 4 years at different CG clinics. In addition, Coast Guard physicians who meet the relevant medical standards are eligible to be trained as Flight Surgeons and/or Hyperbaric Medical Officers.

Initial Assignment and Training:

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

DCHSO Eligibility Requirements:

  1. Age: Have reached your 21st but not your 42nd birthday as of 30 September of the fiscal year in which the selection panel convenes.
  2. Character Standards:
    • All applicants must be of outstanding moral character.
  3. Citizenship: Must be a U.S. Citizen
  4. Clearance: Must be eligible for a Secret Clearance 
  5. Dependency:
    • May not have more than three dependents (your spouse is considered your dependent, regardless of military status).
    • All eligible applicants must provide a dependent care plan with an indefinite general Power of Attorney.
  6. Education:
    • Medical Doctors: Board certified physicians (or board-eligible) with completed residency in Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine, Aerospace Medicine, Public Health and General Preventative Medicine, Occupational Medicine, Clinical Informatics, Sports Medicine, Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine, and Psychiatry. General Medical Officers (GMO) will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
    • Dentists: Graduates of a dental school who are able to obtain licensure by a U.S. jurisdiction.
      • Degrees conferred by Foreign Education Institutions: Physicians trained outside the United States must pass the United States Medical License Examinations (USMLE) by registering with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) and b eligible to apply for licensure in all states/territories in the United States. Dentists obtaining licensure in the U.S. jurisdiction would satisfy the training standards required.
  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. at the O-3, O-4, or O-5 level depending on the applicant’s training and experience).
    • 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: DCHSO applicants must receive the recommendation of a Coast Guard Interview Board, administered by three Coast Guard Officers. 
  9. Military Service:
    • Not required
    • Max Service: No more than 10 years of non-Coast Guard commissioned active-duty military service as of the date of accession.
    • 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 DCHSO.
    • 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.
    • Conditional Release: Current military members in another service and CG Reservists applying to Active Duty DCHSO, must furnish a signed DD368 (conditional release) as follows:
      • 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
      • 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. 
  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
      • Shall complete a structured physical fitness program while at DCO School.
  11. Test Score: There is no test score requirement for DCHSO applicants
  12. Program-Specific Requirements:
    • Applicants must have an unrestricted U.S. state license (including, for these purposes, a U.S. territory);
  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. Reporting in guide: DCO reporting in guide: Applicants must have read and understood the DCO Pre-Reporting Guide.

DCHSO Terms of Service and Appointment Grade:

  1. Applicants will receive a commission and a four-year Extended Active Duty (EAD) contract.
  2. The selection panel will determine the appointment grade of each selectee.  
  3. Selected applicants will receive a commission according to the following criteria:
    • Lieutenant (O-3), USCGR – Fully trained and board certified (or board eligible) physicians or dentists with less than six years of professional experience.
    • Lieutenant Commander (O-4), USCGR – Fully trained and board certified (or board eligible) physicians or dentists with six or more years of professional experience.
    • Commander (O-5), USCGR – Fully trained and board certified (or board eligible) physicians or Dentists with more than 11 years of professional experience.

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.