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Turning your Coast Guard Military Sea Time Into a USCG License

Learn how to convert your Coast Guard military sea service into a civilian USCG license based on your rating and qualifications.

5 mins read・Jul 08, 2024
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What does the USCG National Maritime Center need for sea service documentation?

Your documented sea service days accumulate over your lifetime as a mariner. In addition to any personal sea service, your sea time with the Coast Guard must be documented in a specific way.

Service on USCG Cutters is documented on a Transcript of Sea Service (TOSS). A TOSS for current and former Coast Guard members can be obtained through the USCG Pay and Personnel Center. Follow the instructions listed at: https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/ppc/adv/toss/.

For USCG small boats, service can be documented on a CG-719S form, sea service letter, or the Abstract Operations (AOPS). Your AOPS information is only accessible from a USCG workstation computer. Currently, ALMIS is not accepted for sea service.

A DD-214 form will not be accepted to document sea service because it does not include all of the required information. 

How much credit do I get towards a USCG license?

For time serving on cutters, you earn 60% of the time you were assigned to the vessel as a member of the ship's crew. As an example, if you reported 01JAN2023 and detached on 31DEC2023 you would earn 216 days towards a USCG license for the 365 days you were permanently assigned to the ship.

To calculate your creditable sea service days from your AOPS, you take the total number of hours at the bottom of the AOPS and divide it by 4.

If your AOPS lists Coxswain hours, then add all of that time up separately and divide the total by 4. This is how many creditable sea service days as a master/mate you will receive.

If your AOPS lists Engineer hours, then add all of that time up separately and divide the total by 4. This is how many creditable sea service days in the engineering department you will receive.

If you use the CG-719S form or a sea service letter, your CO or OIC at the time of your service will need to sign it. 

Who gets sea time towards Able Seaman and USCG Captains Licenses?

Your time serving as a seaman apprentice (SA) or seaman (SN) is equivalent to working as a deckhand in the civilian world. Serving in the Deck Department of a ship or a maritime unit as a Boatswain's Mate (BM) is the most common rate to obtain sea service towards captain's licenses. Officers involved in the safe navigation of a ship obtain sea service towards able seaman and deck licenses.

What US Coast Guard deck ratings get credit for USCG licenses?

As a BM, your time will be counted toward Able Seaman time. Some ratings, Maritime Law Enforcement Specialist (ME), Gunner’s Mate (GM), Machinery Technician (MK), and Electrician’s Mate (EM), with small boat Crew Member qualification may align with Able Seaman time.

If you are a BM, and you hold an underway OOD Designation Letter or a Coxswain Designation Letter it will be counted as licensed mate time. 

What time as an Officer counts towards Able Seaman and USCG Captains Licenses?

If you are serving as a member of the deck department as an underway OOD all of that time is counted as Able Seaman time towards both Captains Licenses and an Able Seaman Rating. Time holding an underway OOD Designation Letter for each vessel is counted as licensed deck officer time towards deck licenses.

Who gets sea time towards QMED and USCG Engineering Licenses?

Your time serving as a fireman apprentice (FA) or fireman (FN) is equivalent to working as a wiper or coal passer in the civilian world. Serving in the Engine Department of a ship will help get you credit towards a USCG engineering license such as QMED. Officers who are serving in the engine department assisting in the safe navigation of the vessel are also earning sea time towards engineering licenses.

What US Coast Guard Engine ratings get time towards QMED and USCG Engineering Licenses?

As a Machinery Technician (MK), Electrician’s Mate (EM), or a Damage Controlman (DC), your time will be counted toward Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED) time.

If you are a MK, EM, DC, and you hold an EOW Designation Letter it will be counted as licensed assistant engineer (AE) time.

What time as an Officer counts towards QMED and USCG Engineering Licenses?

If you are serving as a member of the engine department all of that time is counted as a wiper until you obtain your EOW Designation Letter. Once you've obtained your EOW Designation Letter and you are working as the EOW, your time is counted as an licensed assistant engineer (AE).

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About the author

Jen McCullough
Jen McCullough
USCG License Expert
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Captain Jen stood up the USCG Military to Mariner Program for service members. She spent time analyzing service training and job experience to merchant mariner credentials. She has worked with other Services to develop credential pathways and has over 10 years of sea experience.

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