Job Description:

Coastguards help prevent the loss of life along the coast and at sea by co-ordinating and supporting search and rescue operations.

Job Category:
Government & Public Services

What you will do:

In this job, you could:

  • monitor vessels’ radio and satellite communications
  • give information and advice about coastal and sea safety
  • offer navigational advice along particular stretches of water
  • send out weather and tidal reports
  • respond to emergency distress calls
  • supervise and assist search and rescue operations
  • handle reports of wreckage, pollution or debris along the coast or at sea
  • co-ordinate training


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • customer service skills
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure (adaptability skills)
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork)
  • physical fitness and endurance
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Coastguard, there are no specific subjects or qualifications that are mandatory. However, strong educational qualifications, certain skills, and personal attributes can be valuable when pursuing a career in the Coastguard. Here are some subjects that can be beneficial:

  1. English Language: Effective written and verbal communication skills are essential for Coastguards, as they need to communicate clearly with colleagues, vessels, and individuals in distress.
  2. Mathematics (Maths): Basic numeracy skills are important for tasks like navigation, calculations, and assessing distances and times.
  3. Geography: Geography can provide valuable knowledge about coastal geography, marine environments, and weather patterns, which are relevant to Coastguard duties.
  4. Science Subjects: Biology, Chemistry, and Physics can provide a foundation in scientific principles and understanding of physical and natural processes relevant to maritime operations.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • working towards this role
  • volunteering
  • applying directly

You may be able to work your way into this role by starting as a watch assistant and applying for promotion when you’ve got more experience.

You’ll need literacy, numeracy and IT skills, as well as seagoing experience.

You could start by becoming a coastguard rescue officer volunteer, then apply for a paid position when vacancies are advertised.

Direct Application
You can apply directly for jobs if you have some of the relevant skills and knowledge needed for this role.

You’ll need a good standard of literacy and numeracy, good hearing and eyesight to become a watch officer.

Employers will often ask for seagoing experience, for example from:

  • the Navy or the Airforce
  • activities involving boat work and navigation
  • experience as a coastguard rescue officer volunteer

Restrictions and Requirements
You’ll need to:

  • meet the Civil Service nationality requirements
  • be over 18 years of age
  • pass a medical check
  • pass a fitness test
  • have a full driving licence
  • pass background checks
  • pass security checks

You’ll need to live within 30 minutes of the coastguard rescue location you wish to work for.

You must be prepared to work anywhere in the UK.

Working Hours and Environment:

You could work in an office or at sea.

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers.

You may need to wear a uniform.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience, you could be promoted from coastguard watch assistant to watch officer, then to watch manager or section manager. You could also work in other parts of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.