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Continuing Your Military Service with the Coast Guard

If you have served in the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or any National Guard or Reserve components you may be eligible to continue your military service in the Coast Guard. You may even qualify to keep your rank.

To find detailed guidance and instructions, visit the Direct Entry Petty Officer Training Course (DEPOT).

These are the rules for rank (rate) retention for prior-service members enlisting in the Coast Guard.


Due to the extremely diverse training Coast Guard enlistees get in the early years after recruitment, most prior-service members enlist as an E-3 and complete either basic training or DEPOT. This is dependent on the needs of the service and is not a guarantee for enlistment. Remember, you will still keep your longevity pay for total years of service.

Pending approval from the Coast Guard Recruiting Command, you are eligible to apply for re-enlistment if you were discharged in pay grade E-3 or below with six years or less of prior active service, or E-4 and above with less than 10 years of prior active service or 14 years combined active and reserve service. Prior-service personnel will not receive a pay grade higher than that held on their last separation from regular active duty.

This restriction does not apply to Coast Guard members re-enlisting within 24 hours of release. 

Your Coast Guard Career

Depending on the needs of the service and approval from the Coast Guard Recruiting Command, you may be eligible to serve in your prior-service specialty.

The open rate list (ORL) is a list of all Coast Guard jobs currently needing to be filled. The ORL is maintained and periodically updated by the Coast Guard Personnel Command. In order to apply, you need to have held the same or an equivalent military occupational specialty as one of the careers available on the list. Coast Guard Recruiting Command will consider good-faith applications if the rate was removed from the ORL during processing.

If you do not currently have the skills required to fill an ORL job, you can still enlist as an E-3 and be trained in a Coast Guard career.

Prior Service (Other Branch) - Active Duty and Reserve Enlisted

Prior service personnel from any U.S. Armed Forces component may be eligible to enlist under the open rate list. At the time of separation from active duty, the applicant must have held the rate listed on the ORL or a comparable military occupational specialty. They must have less than five years since separation from active duty, and the applicant cannot have more than 10 years of prior active service or 14 years combined active and reserve service.

If the applicant does not hold a specialty at the time of separation that is included on the ORL, they enlist at the pay grade of E-3, regardless of the rank or rate they held at the time of separation. A reservist not re-enlisting through the ORL can be enlisted as an E-3 or below depending on prior time in service.

Prior-Service Coast Guard Petty Officers

A former Coast Guard petty officer may be authorized their former rank with designators if his or her rate is on the open rate list. If the rate is not listed on the ORL, they may be authorized a rank of seaman or fireman without a rating designator.

An active-duty petty officer who re-enlists as an undesignated non-rate and desires to advance in his or her former rating may submit a request for advancement after completing six months active duty in their current enlistment. If advancement is authorized, the member will be placed on the class 'A' school list of their former rating. When his or her name is selected to attend school, the Coast Guard Personnel Command will authorize advancement to petty officer third class; the member does not actually attend class 'A' school again.

Coast Guard Reservists

In addition to the general criteria above, Coast Guard reservists can apply for re-enlistment within five years of separation.

Contact A Recruiter

To find out if you are eligible to join the Coast Guard or would like to see what jobs are available, find a recruiter today.