A coastguard supports search and rescue services to prevent loss of life on the coast and at sea.
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What does a coastguard do?

As a coastguard you’ll work for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). You may work in the MCA as a coastguard watch assistant, coastguard watch officer or coastguard rescue officer volunteer.

You’ll usually start as a coastguard watch assistant, providing administrative support and working in operations rooms at a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre. On a day-to-day basis you could typically:

  • receive and handle emergency service calls
  • monitor short and long range radios and satellite communication equipment
  • provide information on safety at sea to the general public
  • recommend safety procedures to skippers of small craft
  • provide meteorological information and local weather reports
  • update logs and complete general administration tasks

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 would be trained to respond to emergencies.

What do I need to do to become a coastguard?

You would usually join the coastguard service as a watch assistant. You’ll need a good standard of literacy and numeracy, and IT and keyboard skills.

To become a watch officer you would also need a good standard of literacy and numeracy, good hearing and eyesight, and extensive seagoing experience. This could be from:

  • the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force or the merchant navy
  • other activities involving boat work and navigation
  • experience as a coastguard rescue officer volunteer

To become a coastguard rescue officer volunteer you’ll need:

  • to be at least 18
  • have a full driving licence
  • live or work within 30 minutes of the rescue station where you wish to volunteer

Related skills

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork

Academic route

  • Good standard of literacy and numeracy, and IT and keyboard skills.

Vocational route

As a new coastguard, you would start by receiving training at the MCA Centre at Highcliffe, Dorset. After this, you would join a programme that combines classroom-based learning, self-study and on-the-job training.

Where to find out more

Maritime and Coastguard Agency 


Where could I be working?

You would be employed by the MCA at locations around the coast. 


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