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Coast Guard Ranks


As part of the Armed Forces, our nation’s Coast Guard plays quite a role in guarding the safety and protection of the United States. The responsibilities of the U.S. Coast Guard include shielding our nation’s public interests, environment, and security affairs.

Additionally, members of the Coast Guard have the duty of ensuring that each of the aforementioned is covered within the United States’ ports, coasts, and inland waterways. Without the presence of the Coast Guard, America wouldn’t be nearly as safe and secure as it is today.

In order for the Coast Guard to function and perform its duties admirably, the existence of ranks is absolutely imperative. Ranks simplify the processes of organization and delegating duties.

To date, our nation’s Coast Guard ranks are as follows:

  • Seaman Recruit
  • Seaman Apprentice
  • Seaman
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class
  • Petty Officer 1st Class
  • Chief Petty Officer
  • Senior Chief Petty Officer
  • Master Chief Petty Officer
  • Command Master Chief Petty Officer
  • Chief Warrant Officer
  • Ensign
  • Lieutenant Junior Grade
  • Lieutenant
  • Lieutenant Commander
  • Commander
  • Captain
  • Rear Admiral
  • Vice Admiral
  • Admiral

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Each of these ranks plays a role in the success and functionality of the United States Coast Guard. If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of the aforementioned ranks, you’ve come to the right place!

Coast Guard Ranks: A Full and Complete Review

Understanding the various ranks in the Coast Guard directly ties in with the military branch itself. Each and every one of these ranks comprises a significant portion of what the United States Coast Guard stands for today.

Seaman Recruit

The Seaman Recruit is the first and most entry-level Coast Guard rank. Once a Coast Guard member becomes a Seaman Recruit, they will be provided with drill directions, a haircut, and the mandated uniform. Shortly thereafter comes the Coast Guard Boot Camp; by default, this Boot Camp is designed to toughen up Seaman Recruits, teaching them the skills and ethics of seamanship, along with the necessary emotional, mental, and physical skills.

Seaman Apprentice

Coming immediately after the Seaman Recruit, the Seaman Apprentice’s duties entail applying the training from the previous rank and preparing for a Coast Guard career. More often than not, those within the Seaman Apprentice rank are assigned to their very first unit. This allows them to familiarize themselves with accepting directives, carrying out assignments, and practical services.


As the third position on the list of Coast Guard ranks, the Seaman’s responsibilities are very specific. Moreover, they require the development of skills that are learned and established prior to reaching this rank. The responsibilities of a Coast Guard Seaman involve operating ship/equipment rounds and dealing with issues that include security, damage control, store administration, lookout and more.

Petty Officer Third Class

Individuals who reach the Petty Officer Third Class rank in the Coast Guard have to possess a series of technical skills in their applicable specialty, along with substantial leadership capabilities. More often than not, a Petty Officer Third Class is referred to by their chosen rate and must put in at least eight years of service in order to ascend to higher ranks.

Petty Officer Second Class

The ranks of the Petty Officer Second Class are somewhat similar to that of the predecessor rank. However, unlike Petty Officer Third Class, members of the Petty Officer Second Class are typically referred to by their occupational speciality as opposed to their present rank. In order to reach the next Coast Guard rank, Petty Officer Second Class members must devote 14 years of service.

Petty Officer First Class

After reaching the level of Petty Officer First Class, Coast Guard members can behave as a member of federal customs and law enforcement. This particular ranking within the Coast Guard moreover requires additional leadership abilities and technical specialties.

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Chief Petty Officer

The Chief Petty Officer has a series of critical duties, many of which involve overseeing and managing lower Coast Guard ranks. These duties include mentoring and teaching other servicemembers, managing administrative responsibilities, and overseeing boat stations, small cutters, etc.

Senior Chief Petty Officer

As the name suggests, the Senior Chief Petty Officer is one rank above its predecessor, as are the applicable duties and tasks. Coast Guard members within this particular rank are responsible for training junior commissioned officers; additional tasks extend to leadership, administrative, and technical roles.

Master Chief Petty Officer

By the time a Coast Guard member reaches the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer, they’ve attained world-class levels regarding leadership and technical capabilities in their chosen specialty. Members of the Master Chief Petty Officer often have a tendency to assign and command staffers for different Coast Guard stations and less substantial vessels.

Command Master Chief Petty Officer

Command Master Chief Petty Officers deal with overseeing various Coast Guard posts; these posts can expand across different areas of the Coast Guard Academy, Personnel Service Center, and Deployable Operations Groups.

Chief Warrant Officer

The president of the United States commissions the Chief Warrant Officer. From there, the Chief Warrant Officer is expected to perform well in training and counseling roles. Additional expectations include taking the necessary development courses in order to increase leadership skills and foster connections between the enlisted and warrant groups.


Of all Coast Guard ranks, the Ensign position comes after a Coast Guard Commission. Following this commission, an Ensign assumes responsibility for not only leading personnel members and Petty Officers, but also for choosing the specialty of their choice for deployment.

Lieutenant Junior Grade

The central duties of Lieutenant Junior Grade members are to ensure that they fulfill all roles which are assigned to them. Many assignments will challenge the skills of these particular Coast Guard members to ensure they’re up-to-task and consistently bettering their capabilities. Lieutenant Junior Grade members are also expected to pursue formal education classes that pertain to their specialty.

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A Coast Guard Lieutenant is responsible for overseeing Petty Officers and sailors within the applicable division. This can include not only work on large board vessels, but also fostering additional Coast Guard skills along with capabilities that work well in law enforcement and additional military branches.

Lieutenant Commander

The Lieutenant Commander carries an enormous amount of experience, influence, and power within the Coast Guard. By the time a servicemember has reached this particular level within the Coast Guard ranks, they will have mastered skills that pertain to management, mastery of law enforcement/protection roles, and extensive knowledge in their operational or technical skills.


The Commander rank is one of the senior Coast Guard ranks. As such, servicemembers who become Coast Guard Commanders will bear responsibility for overseeing and maintaining certain vessels; these vessels can include submarines, cutters, on-shore stations, aircraft squadrons, etc. Commanders are also accountable for leading lower-ranking servicemembers on various missions.


Servicemembers who ascend to the position of Captain have tremendous duties. These duties pertain to advising Commanders, managing overseas operational commands, overseeing the Coast Guard sector, and ensuring that assigned units can effectively and strategically deal with emergencies.

Rear Admiral

By the time a servicemember becomes a Rear Admiral, they will assume command and instruction over air wings and ship fleets. They’ll also oversee American coastline sectors in addition to dealing with sector emergencies and reporting to the applicable Commander.

Vice Admiral

As the second-highest level of Coast Guard ranks, the Vice Admiral observes and manages Commanders for mission and operational support. A Vice Admiral is furthermore responsible for overseeing the headquarters staff members and assuming charge in the absence of the Coast Guard Commandant.


The Admiral of the Coast Guard manages the branch’s units and operations across the globe. Ultimately, the core duties of the Coast Guard Admiral are to maintain the security, safety, and environmentally protective usage of our country’s waterways. An individual this high on the Coast Guard ranks will answer straight to the president of the United States.

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