Maritime Academy Graduate (MARGRAD)

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Important Notes:


Graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point and the six state sponsored maritime academies (Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Great Lakes, Texas A&M and California) are excellent officer candidates for the Coast Guard due to their focused training in maritime industry affairs, marine transportation business acumen, vessel management and engineering operations, licenses as U.S. Merchant Marine Officers (deck and engine), as well as environmental stewardship expertise and emergency management certification. The MARGRAD program, therefore, seeks to commission maritime academy graduates into critical service need specialties appropriate to their training and experience. Traditionally, the service needs most commonly filled by maritime academy graduates have been assignments in the prevention mission community.  Prevention officers execute the CG’s Prevention Program, consisting of maritime safety, security, waterways management and mobility, and environmental stewardship.  The Prevention Directorate includes policy experts in waterways management, navigation safety, boating, commercial vessels, ports and facilities, merchant mariner credentialing, vessel documentation, marine casualty investigation, inspection, and port state control. MARGRAD officers have also been assigned to, and successful in, the broad spectrum of Coast Guard mission communities, both afloat and ashore.

Initial Assignment and Initial Training

MARGRADs 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. MARGRADs will then go TDY to the DCO course.  The DCO course will be 4-5 weeks in duration (MARGRAD officers with previous commissioned service who have previously attended a commissioning course will attend a 4 week course, all others will attend a 5 week course).  At DCO training, MARGRADs 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, MARGRADs will return to their unit.

Initial Assignment details: Prevention Community:  An initial assignment in the prevention community is typically manifested at a Training Port- typically a Coast Guard Sector, working as an apprentice within the inspection division of the Sector Prevention Department. Several Marine Safety Units are also Training Ports, and may be available for a MARGRAD officer’s initial assignment. A MARGRAD officer reporting to the inspections division will focus on obtaining competencies by completing Performance Qualification Standards (PQS) with on the job training, under the supervision of a qualified Journeymen Marine Inspector and through various online and non-resident courses. 

  • Vessel Inspections: Vessel Inspectors ensure regulatory compliance with all aspects of national and international regulations for U. S. and foreign flag commercial vessels operating in U.S. waters.  Vessel Inspectors make up the largest population the of Prevention program.  Assignment to a Vessel Inspections Division at a Sector is most common for new MARGRAD Prevention officers.

Initial Assignment details: Other Communities:  As stated in the “overview” above, MARGRAD officers may receive instead an initial assignment to an afloat unit, sector response, etc.

Career Path

Follow-on assignments may include an additional tour as a Prevention Division Chief in Vessel Inspections, Investigations or Waterways Management, Graduate School, Industry training programs or staff tours at a Coast Guard Area or District, or as a Headquarters program manager.  Each assignment brings additional levels of authority, rank, tenure and responsibility.  A full career in the Coast Guard’s Prevention Program can lead to a senior officer’s position as an Officer-In-Charge of Marine Inspection (OCMI), Captain of the Port (COTP), Federal on Scene Coordinator (FOSC) and Federal Maritime Security Coordinator (FMSC), within one of the Sector Commander positions at ports in and outside the continental U.S.

Other positions that may assigned to a second-tour MARGRAD officer, are described below:

  • Marine Investigations: Marine Investigators investigate marine casualties, mariner misconduct and (un)suitability to hold a Merchant Mariner Credential. Marine Investigators collect the facts of a marine incident/casualty, determine the causal factors of the occurrence and if misconduct, negligence or incompetence is found leading to the occurrence of the casualty. They can then recommend if a civil penalty, or suspension and revocation hearing be held, or if lessons learned can be used to amend vessel safety regulations to prevent casualty recurrence.
  • Waterways Management: Management of aids to navigation (ATON), safety and security zones, regulated navigation areas, ice breaking, vessel traffic system, port waterways management and the automatic vessel identification system.

MARGRAD Eligibility Requirements:

You must meet the following criteria (please be cognizant that several criteria are minimal standards) to be eligible to apply for a Coast Guard commission through this program:

  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 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 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:
    • Be a graduate of or in your senior year at one of the seven maritime academies:
      • California Maritime Academy
      • Great Lakes Maritime Academy
      • Maine Maritime Academy
      • Massachusetts Maritime Academy
      • State University of New York Maritime College
      • Texas Maritime Academy
      • United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point
    • AND
      • Hold a Third Mate (unlimited) Ocean or Coastwise, or Third Assistant Engineer (any horsepower) endorsement or higher on a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) (credential must be valid with no history of sanctions or negative actions.  If you have had sanctions, written explanation must be provided with application),
    • OR
      • Major in a Coast Guard mission-related field (i.e. a field related to the marine industry, engineering, the marine environment, maritime security, emergency preparedness, etc).
      • 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.
  7. GPA: all applicants must have at least a 2.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale. 
  8. 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.
  9. Interview: MARGRAD applicants must receive the recommendation of a Coast Guard interview board, administered by 3 Coast Guard Officers 
  10. Military Service: 
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 panels (14 Nov 16 or 24 Apr 17) 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.
  11. 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 
    • Must be able to pass a Physical Fitness Test and Swim Test prior to graduation from DCO.
  12. Test Score:  There is no test score requirement for MARGRAD applicants
  13. Program-Specific Experience: 
    • For applicants with MMC endorsements, your level of experience may correlate with an advanced appointment grade, as articulated below.
  14. Tattoos: Applicants may not have tattoos or body markings that are inconsistent with the CG tattoo, body marking, body piercing, and mutilation policy. 
  15. DCO Pre-Reporting Guide: Applicants must have read and understood the DCO Pre-Reporting Guide (PRG):

MARGRAD Terms of Service and Appointment Grade

  1. On commissioning, new officers will receive a three-year Extended Active Duty (EAD) contract.
  2. The selection panel determines the appointment grade of each new officer.
  3. Selectees will receive a commission as an Ensign (O1) or Lieutenant (j.g.) (O-2).  LTJG may be offered to selectees depending on the applicants training, experience, qualifications, and potential for future advancement.

MARGRAD Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Refer to page 135 of the OJAK 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, which includes downloading the application check list.