The Coast Guard is the smallest of all the military services. At any given time, there are only about 46,000 men and women in service. That means two things: every job you do is important, everything you do gets noticed. Go above and beyond what is expected of you, and you will be rewarded with better pay, more responsibility and better missions.
Upon completing eight weeks of basic training, you’ll be promoted to seaman, fireman or airman apprentice (E-2). Normally, you then proceed to your first unit and learn the skill you need to move up to the seaman, fireman or airman pay grade (E-3). While at your first unit, you will be exposed to many of the different ratings available in the Coast Guard and can narrow down the career path you want to pursue.
With Guaranteed ‘A’ School, you can go directly from basic training to your rating’s training program. However, not all ratings participate in the Guaranteed ‘A’ School program. Coast Guard training provides members with the highest level of readiness because lives and mission success depend on how we perform our duties. One thing you can be sure of, after your Coast Guard training, you will be ready.
If you are already assigned to a job specialty (rating), you can attend any Class ‘A’ school you want if you qualify for it. Changes in career paths can be discussed with your supervising officer as well as with your personnel detailer.
Enlisted Guardians continue to receive higher-level training in their field, which leads to more responsibility, potentially higher ranking and greater pay.
To become a petty officer in the Coast Guard, you must either graduate from a rating’s ‘A’ school or complete the corresponding rating’s “striker” program (on-the-job training). Not all ratings have striker programs.
By demonstrating practical skills on the job, you can advance within your rating. You’ll also have to successfully complete leadership training, pass the appropriate end-of-course test and compete in a national service-wide exam.
The highest rank an enlisted member can attain is Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9).
Want to keep going? As a four-year enlistee in the Coast Guard, if you obtain the rank of E-5 or higher and have a minimum of 30 college credits, you can apply for Officer Candidate School. To get in, you’ll be competing against civilians who have a four-year college degree and other members of the Coast Guard in your position.
It is also possible to move up the enlisted ladder to warrant officer and later compete in the Warrant-to-Lieutenant program.