An Overview of the US Coast Guard Academy (2023)


The United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) is a service academy of the United States Coast Guard in New London, Connecticut. Founded in 1876, it is the smallest of the five US service academies and provides education to future Coast Guard officers in one of nine major fields of study.

Students are officers-in-training and are referred to as cadets, and upon graduation receive a Bachelor of Science degree and are commissioned as Coast Guard ensigns with a five-year active-duty service obligation, with additional years if the graduate attends flight school or subsequent government-funded graduate school. Out of approximately 250 cadets entering the academy each summer, around 200 graduate. Cadets can choose from among nine majors, with a curriculum that is graded according to their performance in a holistic program of academics, physical fitness, character, and leadership.

Cadets are required to adhere to the academy’s “Honour Concept,” “Who lives here reveres honour, honours duty,” which is emblazoned in the walls of the academy’s entrance. The academy’s motto is Scientiæ cedit mare, which is Latin for “the sea yields to knowledge”. Its academic programs are accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Brief History

The roots of the academy lie in the School of Instruction of the Revenue Cutter Service, the school of the Revenue Cutter Service. The School of Instruction was established near New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1876 and used USRC Dobbin for its exercises. Captain John Henriques served as superintendent from founding until 1883. The one civilian instructor was Professor Edwin Emery, who taught mathematics, astronomy, English composition, French, physics, theoretical steam engineering, history, international law, and revenue law, among other subjects. The school was a two-year apprenticeship, in essence, supplemented by minimal classroom work. The student body averaged five to ten cadets per class. With changes to new training vessels, the school moved to Curtis Bay, Maryland in 1900 and to Fort Trumbull in 1910, a Revolutionary War-era Army installation in New London, Connecticut. In 1914, the school became the Revenue Cutter Academy, and then the Coast Guard Academy in 1915 with the merger of the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life Saving Service to form the US Coast Guard.

Land was purchased in New London on 31 July 1930 for the construction of the Coast Guard Academy. The 40-acre site was made up of two parcels from the Allyn and Payne estates and was purchased for $100,000. The $100,000 was not raised through a bond issue, as originally planned, but with a bank loan based on uncollected back taxes. The contract was awarded to Murch Brothers Construction Company of St. Louis and ground was broken in January 1931 by Jean Hamlet, daughter of Rear Admiral Harry G. Hamlet, Academy Superintendent from 1928 to 1932. On 15 May 1931, Treasury Secretary Andrew W. Mellon visited New London to lay the cornerstone of Hamilton Hall. Construction proceeded relatively on schedule and cadets moved in to the new buildings on 20 September 1932.

In 1946, the academy received the barque Horst Wessel as a war reparation from Germany, a 295-foot tall ship which was renamed USCGC Eagle. It remains the main training vessel for cadets at the academy as well as for officer candidates at the Coast Guard’s Officer Candidate School, which is located on the grounds of the academy.

The academy was racially integrated in 1962 at the request of President Kennedy. The academy began admitting women in 1976 at the request of Congress.

In 2018, the academy emblem was redesigned by Nick Desjardins of the Biddeford Regional Centre of Technology.


Superintendent of the academy Vice Admiral Harry G. Hamlet composed the academy’s mission statement in 1929. All entering cadets must memorize the statement during their first few days of Swab Summer, the indoctrination period for new cadets.

The mission of the United States Coast Guard Academy is to graduate young men and women with sound bodies, stout hearts and alert minds, with a liking for the sea and its lore, and with that high sense of Honor, Loyalty and Obedience which goes with trained initiative and leadership; well-grounded in seamanship, the sciences and the amenities, and strong in the resolve to be worthy of the traditions of commissioned officers in the United States Coast Guard, in the service of their country and humanity.


Unlike the other service academies, admission to the USCGA does not require a congressional nomination. This is due to the fervent objections of Captain John A. Henriques, the first Superintendent of the Revenue Cutter School of Instruction (later the Revenue Cutter Academy). His objection stemmed from years of poor political appointments in the US Revenue Cutter Service’s bureaucracy.

Each year more than 2,000 students apply and appointments are offered until the number accepting appointments to the incoming class numbers reaches approximately 400; the average entering class size is 300 cadets. Those who have received appointments as cadets report to the USCGA in late June or early July for “Swab Summer”, a basic military training programme designed to prepare them for the rigours of their Fourth Class year. After four years of study and training, approximately 200 of those cadets will graduate. Approximately 35% of cadets are women.


All graduating cadets earn commissions as ensigns in the United States Coast Guard, as well as Bachelor of Science degrees. For that reason the academy maintains a core curriculum of science and professional development courses in addition to major-specific courses. Each cadet takes two semesters of classes during the school year and then spends the majority of the summer in military training to produce officers of character with the requisite professional skills. Among these are courses in leadership, ethics, organisational behaviour, and nautical science. The majority of cadets report to their first units after graduating, which are either afloat units, shore units, or basic flight training as student naval aviators, with the training conducted under the auspices of the US Navy. Those that are assigned afloat serve as either deck watch officers or student engineers. Professional maritime studies courses help prepare cadets in piloting, voyage planning, deck seamanship, and all aspects of shiphandling, as well as Coast Guard leadership and administrative duties.


Academics at the USCGA stress the sciences and engineering, but different courses of study are available. In addition, several of the majors offer tracks of specialization (for example, Marine and Environmental Science majors can choose to focus on biology, chemistry, or geophysics). Cadets sometimes opt to take elective courses with Connecticut College (adjacent the academy’s campus) as part of an open exchange agreement.

Military Training

Each summer, cadets participate in training programmes according to their class. The summers are organised as follows:

  • Swab Summer: The new class of freshmen report in to the Academy, and are sworn into the military. They undergo a seven-week basic training programme that culminates on a week-long voyage underway on the barque USCGC Eagle.
  • Third-class (3/c) Summer: Five weeks aboard the USCGC Eagle training under sail, five weeks aboard an operational Coast Guard cutter or small boat station in the role of junior enlisted (i.e. standing watches as helmsman, lookout, quartermaster of the watch, or engineering watch).
  • Second-class (2/c) Summer: Damage control training, weapon qualifications, navigation rules certification, aviation internship, sail training programme, and three weeks as members of the cadre, who train the incoming Swabs.
  • First-class (1/c) Summer: Ten weeks aboard an operational cutter in the role of a junior officer (i.e. standing bridge watches conning the ship as Officer of the Deck), or an optional internship for exceptional cadets who split their summer with five weeks at an internship and five weeks aboard a cutter.

Each week during the school year cadets participate in Regimental Review, a formal military drill. In addition, cadets perform a variety of military duties at the academy. Like all cadets and midshipmen at the United States service academies, Coast Guard cadets are on active duty in the military and wear uniform at all times. Cadets receive a monthly stipend to pay for books, uniforms, and other necessities. Cadets receive monthly pay of $1,017.00, as of 2015. From this amount, pay is automatically deducted for the cost of uniforms, books, supplies, services, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Organisation of the Corps of Cadets

The Corps is organised as one regiment divided into eight companies, each of which is composed of about 120 cadets of all classes. Although the Corps of Cadets is supervised directly by the Commandant of Cadets (a Coast Guard officer with the rank of captain), the academy operates on the concept of “the Corps leading the Corps.”

The Corps of Cadets is largely a self-directed organisation that follows a standard military chain of command:

  • 1st class cadets lead the Corps.
  • 2nd class cadets are cadre in Swab Summer training and are primarily responsible for leading and developing 4th class cadets. They serve as mentors.
  • 3rd class cadets are role models to 4th class cadets.
  • 4th class cadets are responsible for learning and applying Coast Guard core values such as leadership, teamwork, attention to detail, accountability, etc.

The highest-ranking cadet in each company is the Company Commander, a first-class cadet (“firstie”), equivalent to a senior. Although each company has some leeway in their standards and practices, every company commander reports to the Regimental Staff which plans and oversees all aspects of cadet life. At the top of the cadet chain of command is the Regimental Commander, the highest ranking cadet. Command positions, both in companies and on Regimental Staff, are highly competitive, and a cadet’s overall class rank is often a deciding factor in who is awarded the position.

The eight companies are named for the first eight letters of the NATO phonetic alphabet. Each has a special focus in administering day-to-day affairs: Alpha Company manages health and wellness. Bravo Company runs training. Charlie Company administers the honour system, Delta Company coordinates drill and ceremonies. Echo Company manages transportation and logistics. Foxtrot Company operates the cadet conduct system, organizes the watch rotations, and updates the cadet regulations. Golf Company is in charge of supplies for cleaning and repairing damaged rooms within Chase Hall. Hotel Company is in charge of morale events.

To accomplish their missions, each company is divided, along shipboard lines, into three departments, each of which is divided into divisions with specific responsibilities. Divisions are the most basic unit at the Coast Guard Academy, and each has a very specific purpose. Each division is led by a firstie and contains several members of each other class.

This organisational structure is designed to give every cadet a position of leadership and to emulate the structure of a Coast Guard cutter, in which the division officer and department head positions are filled by junior officers. Third-class cadets directly mentor the fourth-class in their division, just as junior petty officers would be responsible for the most junior enlisted personnel (non-rates). Second-class cadets act as non-commissioned officers, and ensure that the regulations and accountability are upheld. Firsties (like junior officers) are in supervisory roles, and are responsible for carrying out the mission of their divisions and ensuring the well-being of those under their command. Exchange cadets from the other federal service academies are also a part of the Corps, and take part in many activities alongside their USCGA counterparts.

Extracurricular Activities


The USCGA Athletic Department offers 24 intercollegiate sports for cadets. The academy’s athletics teams generally compete in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Cadets devote two hours per academic day to athletic activities, either on varsity teams, club teams, or other sports pursuits. The academy nickname is the Bears, after the USRC Bear, which made a dramatic rescue in Alaska in 1897, shortly after the opening of the academy.


Principal non-athletic activities are musical centred on Leamy Hall. Regimental Band, Windjammers Drum & Bugle Corps, various pep bands, and the NiteCaps Jazz Band are instrumental programs. Chapel Choirs, Glee Club, the Fairwinds all-female a cappella group, and The Idlers all-male sea shanty group are vocal programs.

Model UN

The academy’s Model UN team was started in 2004, and has since been successfully competing around North America, and at the World Model UN Conference.


Links in the Chain

For years it has been a United States Coast Guard Academy tradition for fourth-class cadets (freshman) to hide the chain links that sit outside the cadet library, also known as Waesche Hall. The chain links are historic: they were used during the Revolutionary War to prevent ships from transiting up the Hudson River and attacking West Point. When Benedict Arnold betrayed the United States, the chain links were one of the secrets that he revealed to the British. The family that originally forged the chain donated the links to the United States Coast Guard Academy. Since the donation, the fourth-classmen (freshmen) are challenged each year at the annual homecoming football game to outwit the second-classmen (juniors) and keep the chain hidden until half-time. If the fourth-classmen are successful in hiding the links until the end of the second quarter, they are granted a week of modified carry-on (this allows the fourth-classmen to have some of the privileges of the upperclassmen).


As part of their indoctrination into military culture, and to condition them for the frenetic flow of information during a shipboard watch, 4/c cadets are forced to sharpen their attention to detail and to develop an ability to accurately recall seemingly trivial facts from short- and medium-term memory. The incoming class of cadets every year is required to memorise various quotes, Coast Guard facts, and bits of information that change during the year. They are responsible for knowing reams of information like the menu for the next three meals in the Wardroom (dining hall), the mission of the Academy, the entire chain of command, each athletic team’s next scheduled opponent, the lengths of different types of Coast Guard Cutters, the meanings of all the different nautical flags, and the finer points of various military ceremonies.

Indoc during the Swab Summer training programme also includes humorous questions that cement the identity of a class, such as “How’s the cow?” A swab from the Class of 2022 would be required to reply, “Sir/Ma’am, she walks, she talks, she’s full of chalk; the lacteal fluid extracted from the female of the bovine species is highly prolific to the 22nd degree, sir/ma’am!”.

US Coast Guard Museum

The US Coast Guard Museum is located in Waesche Hall on the grounds of the United States Coast Guard Academy. The museum’s artifacts reflect the history of the US Coast Guard and include ship models, carved figureheads, cannons, uniforms, medals, weapons, memorabilia and paintings. Visitors must bring a government-issued photo identification to enter the campus, and foreign visitors must make an appointment with the Curator before visiting the museum.

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An Overview of the US Coast Guard Academy? ›

Overview. United States Coast Guard Academy is a public institution that was founded in 1876. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,049 (fall 2021), its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 103 acres.

What is the Coast Guard Academy known for? ›

Founded in 1876, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. is a professional college educating future United States Coast Guard officers. It is a fully resident military cadet campus and one of the smallest United States federal service academies.

How does the U.S. Coast Guard Academy work? ›

Students are officers-in-training and are referred to as cadets, and upon graduation receive a Bachelor of Science degree and are commissioned as Coast Guard ensigns with a five-year active-duty service obligation, with additional years if the graduate attends flight school or subsequent government-funded graduate ...

What makes the Coast Guard Academy unique? ›

The Coast Guard Academy provides an elite education in an exclusive environment where expectations are high. Ours is an integrated academic, athletic and military experience – unmatched at any other college, or at any other academy.

What are the core values of the Coast Guard Academy? ›

Our service and strength are defined by our Core Values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. Integrity is our standard. We demonstrate uncompromising ethical conduct and moral behavior in all of our personal and organizational actions.

How prestigious is the Coast Guard Academy? ›

editorial. Coast Guard is a highly rated public college located in New London, Connecticut. It is a small institution with an enrollment of 1,049 undergraduate students. Admissions is competitive as the Coast Guard acceptance rate is 19%.

Is the Coast Guard Academy the hardest to get into? ›

United States Coast Guard Academy admissions is most selective with an acceptance rate of 13%.

What are students at the Coast Guard Academy called? ›

Following a practice observed at most U.S. service academies, Coast Guard students are referred to as cadets, indicating their position as military trainees.

How many years do you serve after Coast Guard Academy? ›

Upon graduation from the Coast Guard Academy, there is a five-year commitment to serve as a commissioned Coast Guard officer. Your commitment guarantees you a career in a position of leadership. You'll commit to five years of service, but 85 percent of our graduates actually choose to serve longer.

Do you get paid in the Coast Guard Academy? ›

$47K. The estimated total pay for a Cadet USCG Academy at Coast Guard Academy is $47,484 per year.

What are 4 benefits of joining the Coast Guard? ›

Coast Guard members and their families are entitled to pay, access to the base commissary and exchange, family assistance, health care, a generous leave policy, travel opportunities and if the Coast Guard becomes a career, retirement. Active duty members are paid twice a month.

What is the main goal of the Coast Guard? ›

Missions of the Coast Guard

Search and Rescue: Prevent loss of life or injury and minimize property loss at sea by rendering aid to those in distress.

What is the most popular major at the Coast Guard Academy? ›

The most popular majors at United States Coast Guard Academy include: Business Administration and Management, General; American Government and Politics (United States); Computational and Applied Mathematics; Physical Sciences, General; Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering; Electrical and Electronics Engineering; ...

What rank are you after Coast Guard Academy? ›

About - United States Coast Guard Academy. This opens in a new window. The United States Coast Guard Academy is a top military college granting Bachelor of Science degrees in one of nine engineering or professional majors. Graduates earn a commission as an Ensign in the Coast Guard to serve their nation.

Is the Coast Guard Academy hard? ›

All the Service Academies require excellent academic performance, and the Coast Guard Academy is no exception. The best way to prepare for the Coast Guard Academy is to take challenging high school classes. 80% of all cadets had a 3.5 GPA or higher upon high school graduation and were in the top 25% of their class.

Why do you want to go to the Coast Guard Academy? ›

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy goes beyond education. We prepare future Coast Guard officers who make a difference out in the world. On our waterfront campus and on the seas, you'll develop the skills, character, and commitment to lead in one of the most adventurous and rewarding pursuits ever.

What GPA do you need for the Coast Guard Academy? ›

You should also have a 3.81 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as United States Coast Guard Academy, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application.

Is Coast Guard Academy hard? ›

The Coast Guard Academy is a highly competitive school both academically and militarily. I have been faced with my hardest challenges here. I would make the choice to come here a thousand times over. Don't be scared of the military aspect.

How much do you get paid to go to the Coast Guard Academy? ›

What Is the Average Coast Guard Academy Salary by State
StateAnnual SalaryHourly Wage
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