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Coast Guard College Education Programs

Coast Guard Education

College Education Programs for Those Serving in the Coast Guard

There are many ways to serve in the military, one way to do so is through the Coast Guard. And through USCG Education programs there are many different opportunities to grow in your career in the Coast Guard, or to get a jump-start on a civilian career.

College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI)

This program is for motivated people who can demonstrate a high caliber of academic and leadership excellence and those who would like to serve in the coast guard.

  • You can apply for CSPI if you are currently enrolled, accepted for enrollment, or have a pending enrollment in a full-time bachelor’s degree at a college or institution.
  • If you are accepted to CSPI, you will be enlisted into the US Coast Guard, complete basic training during the summer, and receive full funding for up to two years of college.
  • Funding is your tuition, books, fees, full-time coast guard salary, housing allowance and medical benefits.
  • During your school breaks, you can receive training and exposure to coast guard missions and units where you learn about the daily life and duties of coast guard officers and enlisted members.
  • Students who attend CSPI might be able to participate in a cruise on a Coast Guard Cutter depending on what is available.
  • After your junior year, you attend a three-week leadership training course in New London, CT during the summer.
  • After college, graduates will attend the 17-week officer candidate school (OCS) and after finishing that will receive a commission as an ensign, O-1 and an assignment in a coast guard mission field.
  • During OCS, a student will compete for positions for after graduation and commissioning. These will be in one of the four main officer operational specialties including afloat, aviation, prevention, and response.
  • There are also age, character, citizenship, clearance, dependant, education, GPA, financial, military service, interview, physical, test scores, and tattoo policies as well as program-specific requirements in order to attend CSPI.

Wilks Flight Initiative (WIFI)

  • This program is for high performing officer trainees in their senior year of the CSPI program who demonstrate a strong desire as well as aptitude to become a part of the coast guard’s aviation community.
  • You can apply for a guaranteed appointment to flight school in Pensacola, Florida upon completion of CSPI and OCS. Then you can start your career as a coast guard pilot.
  • You must be a senior in the CSPI program meeting all aspects of the statement of understanding.
  • It is required to pass a class 1A flight physical examination and you must be between 62 and 77 inches tall.
  • You will need to have a qualifying test score on the Navy and Marine Corps Aviation Selection Test Battery (ASTB.)
  • There are program specific requirements, an interview, as well as three letters of recommendations that are required when applying. One of those needs to be from your Recruiter in Charge.
  • After you complete OCS, you will receive a commission as an ensign O-1 with a three year active duty service commitment.
  • The active duty service commitment for flight school is eight years after you finish flight school. This means that with the three year commitment for OCS, you would need to serve for a total of 11 years if you also completed flight school.
  • If for some reason you are not able to complete your flight training requirement, you will be reassigned to a coast guard unit and continue your career as a coast guard commissioned officer. You will need to serve three years plus a month for every month you completed of flight training.

United States Coast Guard Academy

  • The US Coast Guard Academy is one of the five federal service academies in New London, CT. There mission is to produce leaders of character for service to the nation.
  • Those who complete four years at the Academy will receive a Bachelor in Science as well as commission as an ensign in the coast guard. Graduates from the Academy develop physically, morally, and spiritually during their time there.
  • ⅔ of the graduates go with technical majors which include civil engineering, electrical engineering, operations research and computer analysis, and marine environmental science.
  • CGA is tuition free, and as a cadet, you will also earn a modest paycheck. You would then have to serve five years after you graduate.
  • Applications are accepted online and due on February 1st.

Direct Commission Program

The Direct Commission Program represents one of the primary ways that the coast guard meets critical specialty needs. The programs are designed for highly motivated people with specialized education and experience in several different fields.

Here are the different Direct Commission Programs:

Direct Commission Aviator (DCA)

Following this path, you can be involved in missions such as drug interdiction, immigration, search and rescue, marine environmental protection, marine safety, fisheries, and law enforcement in the maritime environment.

Direct Commission Physician Assistant Program (DCPA)

In this program, you can serve your country as a Physician Assistant.

Direct Commission Engineer (DCE)

This program helps engineers and technologists in program management and implementing systems that enable and support coast guard missions.

Direct Commission Intelligence Officer (DCIO)

This modern coast guard intelligence program has cultivated extensive partnerships with other elements of the national intelligence community. They hope to provide timely, tailored support for a wide range of coast guard and national missions.

Direct Commission Lawyer (DCL)

Licensed attorney or three year law students can serve their country under this program.

Direct Commission Selected School (DCSS)

This program is for college graduates, and college seniors who have proven their character and leadership through an ROTC program, corps of cadets membership or have attended one of the federal military academies.

Maritime Academy Graduate MARGRAD

Graduates have education and training that enhances the coast guard’s ability to carry out its operational missions. Individuals that are selected will serve as a coast guard reserve officer on full-time active duty.

Prior Trained Military Officer (PTMO)

This is for current or former military officers with training or degrees in critically needed areas, who would like to apply for a direct commission in the coast guard.

Tuition Assistance

There is also Coast Guard Tuition Assistance

    • There is an annual cap of $2,250 with the fiscal year being October 1st through September 30th.
    • Once you use the maximum allowed per year, there will not be any waivers for additional money.
    • The Coast Guard Tuition Assistance cap does not mean that the coast guard will guarantee to pay the full amount.
    • Tuition Assistance is available for undergraduate and graduate courses up to Master’s Degrees.
    • The caps are $250 per semester hour, $166.66 per quarter hour, or $16.67 per clock hour.
    • Fees are not funded with Tuition Assistance.

Go Deeper: USCG Tuition Assistance

Health Profession Programs

If you would like to go into the medical field, there are health profession programs you can go into. After you finish you will be apart of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps detailed to the coast guard.

You can become a:

Clinical and Rehabilitation Therapist

You will be able to treat patients at coast guard accession sites, which is at Training Center Cape May and the Coast Guard Academy.

Dental Officer

As a dental officer, you would be able to focus on clinical practice without having to maintain a business at the same time.

Environmental Health

You would ensure public health and safety in a variety of domestic roles if you follow this path. During natural disasters and other emergencies, you would protect the coast guard from environmental threats as well as help communities recover.

Health Services

With a career in health services, you would represent different disciplines such as biological, physical, and the social sciences.


As a pharmacy officer, you will work at coast guard clinics and have a better work variety than you would in a typical pharmacy setting.


As a medical officer, you can enjoy leadership opportunities, excellent benefits, and a good work/life balance while improving the health of the coast guard.


As you can see, there are quite a few ways to further your education with the coast guard. Check and see if any of these options are right for you and your career goals.