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Coastguards help prevent the loss of life at sea by supporting search and rescue operations.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £17,000 to £32,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 42 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually join the coastguard service as a:

  • watch assistant
  • watch officer
  • coastguard rescue officer volunteer

You’ll need:

  • literacy, numeracy, and IT skills to be a watch assistant
  • literacy and numeracy, good hearing and eyesight, and a lot of seagoing experience to be a watch officer
  • to be at least 18, have a full driving licence and live or work within 30 minutes of the rescue station to be a coastguard rescue officer volunteer

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has more information about becoming a coastguard.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • the ability to work under pressure
  • the ability to assess situations quickly and make sound decisions
  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • leadership ability

3. What you'll do

You'll work for the MCA.

You’ll usually start as a coastguard watch assistant, providing administrative support and working in operations rooms at a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre.

Your duties might include:

  • handling emergency calls
  • monitoring radios and satellite communications
  • providing information on safety at sea
  • recommending safety procedures to skippers of small craft
  • providing weather reports
As a coastguard watch officer, you’ll be involved in all aspects of the coastguard service. You’ll monitor distress signals and supervise or assist in some search and rescue missions.

As a coastguard rescue officer volunteer, you’ll respond to emergencies.

4. Salary

Starter: £17,000 to £18,500 (watch assistant)

Experienced: £19,000 to £24,000 (watch officer)

Highly Experienced: £25,000 to £32,000 (watch manager)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 42 hours a week on shift.

As a coastguard rescue officer volunteer you could be called out at any time of the day or night.

As a watch officer, you’ll be outdoors in all weathers, on patrol or on rescue missions.

You must be prepared to work anywhere in the UK.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could be promoted from coastguard watch assistant to watch officer, then to watch manager or section manager.

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Last updated: 13 September 2018