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U.S. Coast Guard Officer Military Ranks

The United States Coast Guard has very stringent requirements in order for an individual to join its ranks as an officer. One of the main requirements is that the applicant possesses at least a bachelor’s degree. Other requirements include being in excellent physical condition, and having a background that does not include any questionable activity. If an individual meets these basic requirements, then he/she may secure a commission in the United States Coast Guard.

There are a few different paths available to an individual with a desire to become a Coast Guard Officer. Unlike the other branches of the Armed Forces, The Coast Guard does not have a Reserve Officer Training Corps. However, this branch does have the other common paths to a commission, such as Officer Candidate School (OCS), Direct Commission, and the Coast Guard Academy. OCS is a 17 week course in New London, CT, after which, a graduate is commissioned as an Ensign. A Direct Commission is for professionals, such as doctors and lawyers. Finally, the Coast Guard Academy, which is the smallest of the five service academies, develops individuals and prepares them for service as officers upon graduation.

To begin your pursuit of a commission in the United States Coast Guard, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree. To find schools that support your drive to earn a degree, click on the "Find A School" button below:

Coast Guard Ensign (ENS)
Ensign (ENS)
Ensign (ENS) is the lowest rank for a Coast Guard Officer and most officers start at this rank. Officers receiving a direct commission commonly start at a higher rank. An ensign will often receive further training in his/her specialty upon receiving a commission or may serve as a division officer.
Coast Guard Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG)
Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG)
In the Coast Guard, an Ensign is promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) following the completion of 18 months of service. The most common duties of a LTJG include the supervision of NCO's and other enlisted personnel.
Coast Guard Lieutenant (LT)
Lieutenant (LT)
The rank of Lieutenant (LT) usually includes a new set of responsibilities, such as the officer of this rank becoming the officer in charge of the Deck Department or Division. A LTJG is promoted to this rank following four years of service or two years of time in grade.
Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander (LCDR)
Lieutenant Commander (LCDR)
A Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) must have between 9-11 years time in service and 3 years time in grade to be promotable. The rank of LCDR requires an individual to pass a selection board in order to secure a promotion. Duties of a LCDR include serving as a senior department officer, the commanding officer of a smaller craft, or an Executive Officer.
Coast Guard Commander (CDR)
Commander (CDR)
A Commander (CDR) is frequently placed in command of ship and may be referred to as "Captain" or "Skipper." He/She may also serve as the Executive Officer aboard a large cutter.
Coast Guard Captain (CAPT)
Captain (CAPT)
A Captain (CAPT) has a variety of different possible duties depending upon his/her specialty. A CAPT may be in command of a large maritime security cutter, a high endurance cutter, a shore installation, or if an aviator, a coast guard air station. A CAPT may also serve as a chief of staff for a flag officer.
Coast Guard Rear Admiral (lower half) (RDML)
Rear Admiral (lower half) (RDML)
A Coast Guard Rear Admiral (lower half) may be referred to as "Admiral." This officer may have similar duties to that of a Captain, however, they may be on a slightly larger scale and may include multiple vessels.
Coast Guard Rear Admiral (upper half) (RADM)
Rear Admiral (upper half) (RADM)
A Coast Guard Rear Admiral (upper half) is the rank worn by an officer promoted from the rank of Rear Admiral (lower half). This officer may also be referred to as "Admiral." The roles are similar to that of a RDML.
Coast Guard Vice Admiral (VADM)
Vice Admiral (VADM)
A Coast Guard Vice Admiral (VADM) may hold a variety of higher positions. This rank is required to assist the Commandant of the Coast Guard as the vice commandant or the commandant's chief of staff.
Coast Guard Admiral (ADM)
Admiral (ADM)
An Admiral (ADM) is the highest rank in the United States Coast Guard and it is the rank worn by the Commandant of the Coast Guard. The Commandant serves a four-year term.
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