USCG ranks are comprised of four paygrade categories: Enlisted (E-1 through E-3), Petty Officers (E-4 through E-9), Warrant Officers (CWO-2 through CWO-3), and Officers (O-1 through O-10). The U.S. Coast Guard is unique in that it is part of the Department of Homeland Security in peacetime and the Navy during wartime.
The letter and number represent the ratings and paygrade of the Seaman. Rank is different from the paygrade. It represents job duties and leadership responsibilities, as indicated by the corresponding insignia.
The U.S. Coast Guard maintains three missions in maritime security, safety, and stewardship. There are a variety of career opportunities for Seaman to explore in the nine districts in the United States.
Enlisted Ranks & Insignias
Seaman Recruit (SR/E-1)
Seaman Recruit is an entry-level position. The Seaman enters their initial assignment and holds a training status. The SR is responsible for familiarizing themselves with the Coast Guard’s culture and core skills during this time. There is no insignia under this rank.
Seaman Apprentice (SA/E-2)
After four months, the Seaman will typically advance to Seaman Apprentice formerly known as Seaman Second Class. SA post to their first assignment at a Class “A” School or “striker” program (on-the-job training). There is no rating assigned yet, but the rank holds an insignia with corresponding colors based on the assigned group: white for deck and administrative, red for Fireman or engineering and hull, and green for Airman or aviation.
For Seaman working on deck, duties can include maintenance and repairs, stores administration, lookout, emergency security, and training under higher enlisted Seaman. Job responsibilities may differ according to the assigned group, but generally, the SN’s job is to gain skills at Class A or specialty school.
Petty Officers Ranks & Insignias
Petty Officer Third Class (PO3/E-4)
Petty Officer Third Class is the lowest rank of non-commissioned officer. The PO3 increasingly refines technical, specialty, and leadership skills. Their now assigned ratings are given a special abbreviated rating (e.g., Yeoman Third Class/deck and administrative.) PO3’s follow a “High Year Tenure” track which limits the PO3 to eight years before they must advance to Second Class or be subject to involuntary separation from active duty.
Petty Officer Second Class (PO2/E-5)
Petty Officer Second Class holds dual responsibilities in leadership and technical roles. Like PO3, Petty Officer Second Class can act as law enforcement or a federal customs officer. They are subject to “High Year Tenure” as well, and have a total of 14 years to complete advancement requirements or be involuntarily separated from active duty.
Petty Officer First Class (PO1/E-6)
Petty Officer First Class is the third junior non-commissioned officer rank. The PO1 becomes increasingly proficient in their technical specialty. The Petty Officer First Class works towards a two or four-year undergraduate degree at a “C” School.
Chief Petty Officer (CPO/E-7)
Chief Petty Officer is thought to be an important advancement in an enlisted Coast Guard career. CPOs are proficient technical specialists and typically placed on cutters (decked vessels) and boats. As leaders, they carry out administrative and leadership duties.
Senior Chief Petty Officer (SCPO/E-8)
Senior Chief Petty Officer is also known as “Senior Chief.” Job responsibilities are similar to that of the CPO but assume more authority in administrative, leadership, and technical tasks. SCPOs are expected to lead and train junior officers, as well as have extensive knowledge beyond their specialty.
Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO/E-9)
Master Chief Petty Officer is the ninth and highest enlisted rank. Master Chiefs are experts in their field specialty. Promotion from this point forward is highly competitive. MCPOs can apply for the Command Master Chief Petty Officer Program to continue to refine their leadership skills and prepare them for larger roles within the USCG.
Fleet/Command Master Chief Petty Officer (CMC/E-9)
Command Master Chief Petty Officer holds a senior listed rank at a command level. The CMC acts as a liaison between the enlisted and command or commissioned officers. CMCs typically assist with issues surrounding discipline, training, technical challenges, and morale.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG/E-9)
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard is the highest senior rank and acting voice and representative of sailors. The MCPOCG travels and observes, gaining insight into the current state of each unit. Command depends on the MCPOCG to help correct or establish policies, entitlements, and training to ensure the well-being of enlisted personnel.
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/ SEAC
The Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the main advisor to the chairman and plays a pivotal role in decision-making for the enlisted joint force. The role was originally created in 2005.
Warrant Officers Ranks & Insignias
Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CWO2/W-2)
Achieving the Chief Warrant Officers 2 position requires board selection and eight years of service within the NCO ranks (E-6 through E-9.) Once appointed, the CWO2 fulfills one specialty out of twenty-one (i.e., Diving Specialist, Intelligence System Specialist, Personnel Administration, Weapons, etc.)
Chief Warrant Officer 3/4 (CWO3/CWO4/W-3/W-4)
Advancement in CWO3 and CWO4 occurs over time. CWOs are eligible to apply to the Chief Warrant Officer to Lieutenant Program. If accepted, a CWO can make O-3E rank.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CWO5/W-5)
Currently not in use.
Officers Ranks & Insignias
Ensigns are considered junior rank commissioned officers. The full commitment to service is three years upon the receipt of commission. Ensigns are assigned onboard at division and will typically lead a group of petty officers and enlisted personnel.
Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG/O-2)
Lieutenant Junior Grade is the second junior rank above Ensign and is also known by the colloquial name, “JayGee.” The LTJG’s role is billeted division officer onboard a ship in their specialty but may also hold many job roles due to the multi-faceted mission of the USCG. LTJGs can progress forward in their careers by completing formal education courses in their technical areas of expertise.
Lieutenant is the highest junior officer rank. LTs focus on further developing their rating skills at their assigned posting. Their time on board may be spent advising the junior enlisted ranks (E-1 through E-3) and petty officers, as well as maintaining, servicing and organizing.
Lieutenant Commander (LCDR/O-4)
The Lieutenant Commander is the fourth commissioned officer rank and holds a multi-mission of both maritime law and law enforcement. LCDRs are usually in command of smaller vessels, and an expert in their specialty. Promotion may be achieved by refining technical and operational skills, as well as completing educational courses.
Commander is the fifth-highest officer rank and reports to the Sector Commander. CDRs lead units on small vessels or cutters to carry out tactical missions including search and rescue, law enforcement, and homeland security and protection of the marine environment.
Captain is considered a senior officer rank and practices a high level of authority due to the Coast Guard’s small service. CAPT will usually hold command of a large vessel, aircraft, or other senior posts. Advancing from this position is difficult and requires an exceptional leadership history.
Rear Admiral Lower Half (RDML/O-7)
Rear Admiral Lower Half is a one-star flag officer and equivalent to brigadier-general in other military branches. RDMLs typically serve as District Commander in charge of several sectors along the coastline or command of a small fleet. The Rear Admiral Lower Half term is approximately five years unless reappointed.
Rear Admiral Upper Half (RADM/O-8)
The Rear Admiral Upper Half is a two-star flag officer. Similar to the Rear Admiral Lower Half, the RADM commands a large fleet off the coastline. RADMs hold superior authority and experience and are ready to coordinate responses upon emergency in their sector.
Vice Admiral (VADM/O-9)
Vice Admiral is a three-star flag officer and designated to the office of the Vice-Commandment of the Coast Guard. VADM is second in command directly overseeing the mission of operational areas. The term ranges from three to four years long.
Admiral is the highest USCG rank in peacetime and is designated a four-star flag on their insignia. Admirals have the greatest responsibility, overseeing the entire operation of more than 41,000 active-duty personnel. Command of the Coast Guard reports directly to the President of the United States.
Fleet Admiral (FADM/OF-10)
Fleet Admiral is a rank maintained by the U.S. Navy. The designated insignia holds five stars. There is currently no Fleet Admiral as of now or ever since the 1940s.
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