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How to become a Coastguard

coastguard careers

What does a Coastguard do?

The main objective of the coastguard service is to develop and enforce high standards of marine safety and to minimise accidents and loss of life amongst sea-farers and coastal users. Its main responsibilities are marine safety, marine emergencies and marine pollution.

Fulfilling these involves 24 hour monitoring of the areas under its control, responding to emergency situations, enforcing regulations and undertaking educational activities. Coastguards have their own ships and rescue teams but can also request assistance from other agencies such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Watch officers are involved in all aspects of the work. They assist in staffing operational centres and may be involved in cliff rescues, coastal searches and boat work.

Watch assistants provide support in an administrative role and in the operations room. As well as general administration, their duties include monitoring equipment, receiving and handling 999 calls, updating logs and providing information to the public.

Auxiliary coastguards are volunteers who are trained to respond to coastal incidents and are paid for the hours they work.

What's the working environment like working as a Coastguard?

Coastguard staff are uniformed civil servants, employed at one of the 18 maritime rescue centres around the coast, or at the headquarters in Southampton.

They usually work 42 hours a week, on a shift system over seven days. Administration staff usually work five days a week, Monday to Friday.

Indoor work is carried out in busy operational centres equipped with a range of communications equipment such as radio and satellite tracking devices.

Outdoor work may involve going to sea in all weathers, on patrol or rescue missions and being involved in cliff and coastal search and rescue.

Officers must be prepared to work anywhere in the UK.

What does it take to become a Coastguard?

To be a coastguard you should:

  • have an interest in the sea and in all maritime issues
  • be able to understand and use modern communications equipment
  • have the ability to assess situations quickly and make sound decisions
  • have a clear speaking voice
  • be physically fit
  • have the ability to work as part of a team
  • have leadership ability as you may have to take charge in an emergency situation.

Coastguard Career Opportunities

All coastguards are employed by the MCA and there are over 1000 regular coastguard staff located around the British coastline. These are supported by over 3,000 auxiliary coastguards.

Opportunities for promotion are from coastguard watch assistant to watch officer and then to watch manager or section manager and beyond.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Coastguard that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Vacancies are advertised in the local and national press.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)
Human Resources Recruitment Team
Bay 3/19 Spring Place
105 Commercial Road
SO15 1EG
Tel: 023 8032 9308

Facts and Stats:

  • The Ministry of Defence is British Industry''s largest single customer
  • Every year, civil servants are responsible for public spending of around £300bn
  • If every MP turned up at the chambers of the House of Commons at the same time, there would not be enough seats for them all to sit down

Courses to help you become a Coastguard