coast guard requirements
Coast Guard

Coast Guard Requirements

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) acts as the coastal defense and maritime law enforcement branch of the Armed Forces.

The U.S. Coast Guard also participates in critical search and rescue missions at sea.

There are requirements for joining the Coast Guard like every other military branch.

The Coast Guard requirements make sure that you are physically and mentally prepared for service.

If you are interested in joining the USCG, make sure you meet the following qualifications before speaking with a local recruiter.

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Basic Requirements
Physical Fitness Requirements
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Summary

Basic Requirements

joining the coast guard
The United States Coast Guard is unique in that it operates under the Department of Homeland Security unlike other military branches. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Coast Guard is one of eight uniformed services.

In addition to its responsibilities to the U.S. Armed Forces, the Coast Guard also provides maritime law enforcement.

Consequently, the Coast Guard has jurisdiction in both domestic and international waters.

The Coast Guard basic requirements allow the coastal defense and maritime branch to make sure you are fit for service:

  • Citizen of the United States or a Resident Alien.
  • Between the ages of 17-31*
  • Received a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
  • Possess no more than three dependents.
  • Complete the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).
  • Pass a military entrance medical exam (MEPS).

*NOTE: Coast Guard Reservists may enlist between the ages of 17-40.

The U.S. Coast Guard utilizes these basic requirements for its initial screening.

It’s important to perform well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) because the test score opens up more job possibilities.

The Coast Guard refers to military jobs as “ratings’.

Every USCG rating has a minimum ASVAB score needed to qualify for the position.

Therefore, it’s crucial to study hard for the ASVAB and give it your maximum attention.

Additionally, the United States Coast Guard has height and weight restrictions.

Lastly, the Coast Guard will perform a background check to study your personal conduct.

The military branch will look into any criminal record as well as history with alcohol or drug abuse.

Related Article: 18 Pros And Cons Of Joining The Coast Guard

Physical Fitness Requirements

how to join the coast guard
Coast Guardsmen are in excellent condition as they spend a lot of time in the water. It’s important to be comfortable in the water and prepare by practicing your swimming skills. Image: Coast Guard Compass

There are nearly 41,000 active-duty members of the Coast Guard and an additional 7,000 Reservists.

As a result, it’s a very competitive branch to join when compared to the much larger Navy and Army.

If you would like to join the Coast Guard, you’ll need to meet (and preferably exceed) the physical fitness requirements.

The Coast Guard requirements on physical fitness are intense for a reason.

Additionally, new recruits need to have a willingness to serve on or around water because of the unique duties of the military branch.

The U.S. Coast Guard requires you to meet these minimum physical fitness requirements before you graduate boot camp:

EventLength# of Reps/Time
Push-Ups60 seconds29
Sit-Ups60 seconds38
Long Distance Run1.5 miles12:51
Sit and ReachN/A16.50"
Complete Swim Circuit5 minutesN/A
Platform Jump & Swim100 metersN/A

And these physical fitness requirements are for females:

EventLength# of Reps/Time
Push-Ups60 seconds15
Sit-Ups60 seconds32
Long Distance Run1.5 miles15.26"
Sit and ReachN/A19.29"
Complete Swim Circuit5 minutesN/A
Platform Jump & Swim100 metersN/A

The Coast Guard has demanding physical fitness requirements because of the degree of difficulty being in dangerous waters.

Consequently, Coast Guardsmen are among the most physically fit in the world.

The good news is that the Coast Guard gives you time to train physically for service.

It’s a good idea to already workout ready and become an advanced swimmer if you are not so already.

Click Here to learn more about the Coast Guard PT test standards.

Related Article: How To Join The Coast Guard

Medical Examination

Secondly, you’ll need to pass a medical screening at MEPS.

The Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) is one of the last junctures needed to qualify for service.

MEPS exams your medical history as well as your psychological competence.

Any medical conditions that are disqualifying require a waiver to progress to boot camp.

In order to survive basic training and become an official Guardsman, the Coast Guard recommends that recruits stop using tobacco.

Furthermore, maintaining a regular exercise routine and limiting alcohol use goes a long way in making sure you’re completely prepared.

The Coast Guard recommends a workout plan that includes cardio along with muscular fitness, strength, and flexibility training.

Finally, follow a low-fat nutrition plan to keep your body in peak shape and drink a ton of water.

Check out OMK’s 30-day workout plan to prep for basic training here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

us coast guard requirements
It’s normal to have questions about joining a military branch. Thankfully, there is a lot of information out there that can help make your final decision clearer. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Here are the most commonly asked questions about Coast Guard requirements for service:

Related ArticleCoast Guard Grooming Standards

Is it hard to get into the Coast Guard?

The United States Coast Guard has nearly 41,000 active-duty members.

Additionally, the USCG has over 8,500 full-time civilian employees and 7,000 Reservists.

All in all, the military branch employs a workforce of more than 87,000 people.

Therefore, there are positions available in the Coast Guard with the right dedication and discipline.

The U.S. Coast Guard is extremely physically demanding.

Consequently, you’ll need to get in excellent shape and excel swimming and wading in water.

Coast Guard basic training only lasts eight weeks yet is very challenging.

In fact, it has the highest failure to complete rate of any military branch (yes, even over the Marine Corps).

For this reason, while it’s not all that hard to meet the basic Coast Guard requirements, surviving boot camp is a whole other matter.

How long do you have to serve?

Guardsmen are required to serve eight years.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the most common contract consists of four years of active duty and four years in the inactive Reserve component.

In certain situations, the Coast Guard may offer a four or six-year contract.

However, while it’s not extremely common, it’s worth speaking to a recruiter if you would like to discuss different contract terms.

They may offer something a little more suitable to your needs, depending on their current recruiting targets.

What’s the pay like?

The U.S. Coast Guard pays well for your services.

Like every other US military branch, Coast Guard pay is determined by years of service and your rank within the branch.

Therefore, the more years you serve and the higher in rank – the higher the pay.

Officers earn more than enlisted members if you want to work toward that type of promotion.

Moreover, the U.S. Coast Guard has a good benefits package which includes health insurance and financial aid for continuing your education.

Where is basic training conducted?

Coast Guard basic training takes place in New Jersey.

The U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May serves as the training grounds.

coast guard basic training - cape may nj
Coast Guard Basic Training is conducted in Cape May, NJ. Image: Google Maps

It’s the only training center dedicated to basic training for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Recruits are allowed to receive letters throughout boot camp, and are encouraged to reach out to friends and family while they go through the grueling training.

How long is basic training?

Coast Guard basic training (or boot camp) lasts eight weeks.

USCG boot camp is physically and mentally demanding.

It will test your strength and endurance to see if you have what it takes to survive in the Coast Guard.

The first few weeks of boot camp are especially difficult.

You can make the transition to the Coast Guard easier by exercising regularly, practicing your swimming skills, and eating healthy.

It also goes without saying that it helps to limit your alcohol intake and stop using tobacco products before you arrive to basic training.

Related Article: 5 Best Coast Guard Jobs 

Conclusion

Coast Guard requirements are necessary to make sure that new recruits are ready for service.

The coastal defense and maritime law enforcement branch has strict physical fitness standards.

It’s important to get in great shape and become an advanced swimmer before boot camp.

The Coast Guard also requires new recruits to complete the ASVAB test to determine a USCG rating.

Additionally, recruits need to pass the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) medical exam before they can begin basic training.

A local Coast Guard recruiting office has more information on the requirements and expectations of the military branch.

Rob V.
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Coast Guard Requirements

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Find out what the Coast Guard requirements are for height & weight, age, physical fitness, test scores, and more.
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