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Direct Commission Physician Assistant (DCPA) Program


The Direct Commission Physician Assistant (DCPA) program is an opportunity for trained Physician Assistants to serve their country in the United States Coast Guard within their specialty.  Active Duty physician assistants primarily work at CG clinics. These PAs will receive a “reserve” commission as a CG officer, and fulfill an initial extended active duty contract for three years.  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.  Senior PAs will have the opportunity for medical administration, force manager, and instructor positions. 

Initial Assignment and Training:

DCPAs 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. DCPAs 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, DCPAs will return to their unit. 

DCPA 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:
    • Applicants currently in the Coast Guard: Applicants are ineligible for commissioning if in the 36 months prior to the first DCO 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, 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:
    • Have a baccalaureate or higher degree from an accredited college or university, and 
    • Before commissioning date, have successfully completed a physician associate or assistant program course approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
  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-1, O-2, or O-3 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: DCPA applicants must receive the recommendation of a Coast Guard Interview Board, administered by 3 Coast Guard Officers. 
  9. Military Service:
    • Not required
    • Max Service: Have less than 10 years of non-Coast Guard active-duty military service, and have less than 14 years of previous service creditable for retirement in another branch of the Armed Forces or its Reserve component as of commissioning date:
    • 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 DCPA.  
    • 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 PA,  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
      • CG Active Duty Enlisted: do not need a conditional release if applying to active-duty PA. 
      • 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 DCPA applicants
  12. Program-Specific Requirements:
    • Be certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistant (NCCPA) by passing a Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) prior to accession (commissioning) date.
    • Possess a State License. If the applicant does not possess a State License, they must be able to receive a State License within 6 months of commissioning, if selected.
    • Resume (and letters of recommendation) documenting patient care experience including references. Patient care experience such as adult/family medicine, ER or urgent care are the preferred backgrounds, although not required.
  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.

DCPA Terms of Service and Appointment Grade:

  1. Applicants will receive a commission and a three-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 as a Lieutenant Junior Grade (O-2), or Lieutenant (O-3), USCGR.

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.