If you are wondering how to become a coastguard, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the emergency services, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Coastguards work for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), as part of the service which co-ordinates search and rescue along the British coast, and investigates illegal shipping activities and pollution incidents.

    The coastguard service employs coastguard watch assistants, coastguard watch officers and coastguard rescue officer volunteers.

    you would usually start as a coast guard watch assistant, providing administartive support and staffing operations rooms.

    Typical responsibilities:

    receiving and handling 999 calls
    monitoring equipment
    providing information to the general public
    updating logs and completing general administration.
    As a coastguard watch officer you would be involved in all aspects of the service. Your work would include:

    assisting in staffing operational centres
    taking part in cliff rescues, coastal searches and boat work (in some posts).
    As a coastguard rescue officer volunteer you would be trained to respond to coastal incidents and be paid for the hours you work.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good coastguards include:

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

    How to become a coastguard
    You will usually join the coastguard service as a watch assistant. You need:

    a good standard of literacy and numeracy
    IT and typing skills.
    Jobs are recruited locally, and you should contact the District Operations Manager at your nearest coastguard station for details. See the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) website (in Further Information) for locations.

    To become a watch officer you will need:

    a good standard of hearing and eyesight
    a good standard of literacy and numeracy
    extensive experience of the sea.
    Your experience could be from:

    the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force or the Merchant Navy
    other seagoing activities involving boat work and navigation
    experience as a coastguard rescue officer volunteer.
    To become a coastguard rescue officer volunteer you must be at least 16, with an interest in, and concern for, safety at sea. The posts are recruited locally.

    Training and Development
    As a new coastguard, you will receive initial training at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Centre at Highcliffe, Dorset.

    After this you will join a programme which combines classroom-based teaching, self-study and on-the-job training.

    As an auxiliary coastguard you will be expected to do regular training.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries for watch assistants can be around £14,900.
    Watch officers can earn around £20,000 a year.
    Coastguards also receive shift allowances.

    Job Prospects
    You would be employed by the Marine Coastguard Agency (MCA) as one of over 1000 regular coastguard staff located around the British coastline. There are also over 3,000 auxiliary coastguards.

    Vacancies are advertised in the local and national press and on the MCA website.

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

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

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