5 minute read

Military Academies

U.s. Coast Guard Academy

The Coast Guard's ability to effectively serve as a viable maritime, military, multimission organization hinges on its leaders' ability to think, learn, and act effectively and ethically. Thus, the Coast Guard Academy (CGA), as an institution of higher learning and the primary source of the Coast Guard's leaders, is critical in enabling the Coast Guard to perform its duties and fulfill its mission.

The mantra of developing leaders of character is firmly embedded in CGA's institutional mission: "The Coast Guard Academy is committed to strengthening the nation's future by educating, training, and developing leaders of character who are ethically, intellectually, professionally, and physically prepared to serve their country."


The U.S. Coast Guard fulfills unique roles in support of the nation's military and economic security. These roles go directly back to visionary, nation-building initiatives of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and the first Congress. In 1790 Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first treasury secretary, developed fiscal plans and economic policies for the United States. Central to his vision for a self-sufficient and strong nation was the creation of the Revenue Cutter Service. In 1915 the Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service were combined to create the present-day U.S. Coast Guard, which is now an agency in the Department of Transportation.

Congress chartered the Coast Guard Academy in 1876. At first it was simply a school ship–the academy's first home was the Revenue Cutter Dobbin. Nine cadets were selected by competitive examinations, and appointments of CGA cadets today continue on a merit basis. The early cadets learned at sea under a single professor, studying a blend of liberal arts and professional subjects. In the early 1900s the curriculum grew to three years, gaining emphasis on engineering and science. In 1910 the Academy came ashore to makeshift facilities at Fort Trumbull in New London, Connecticut, and in 1932 moved to its modern, purpose-built campus, also in New London. In 1939 the academy's general engineering program was accredited by the Engineer's Council for Professional Development (ECPD). In 1940, after also being accredited by the Association of American Universities, it was given the authority to grant the bachelor of science degree. In 1946 the USCG Barque Eagle, a prize of war, was commissioned into the U.S. Coast Guard and stationed at the academy for sail training.

The academy became accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) in 1952. In 1973 electrical, marine, and ocean engineering programs were accredited by ECPD, and in 1978 the civil engineering major was accredited as well. In 1980 ECPD was renamed ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), and in 1996 the academy was fully accredited in mechanical engineering. The management major was admitted into candidacy in 1998 by AACSB International–The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The CGA also offers majors in government, marine and environmental sciences, and operations research and computer analysis.

Over the years, the Coast Guard Academy matured into a learning environment that (1) fosters a high sense of honor, loyalty, and dedication to service and humanity; (2) provides a sound undergraduate education in fields of interest to the Coast Guard; and (3) trains future officers in professional and military skills required for career service. Cocurricular activities in professional development and athletics add to the ability of CGA to fulfill its mission. Commissioned graduates from the undergraduate program have served with distinction in peace and war and they make up the majority of the officer corps of the modern Coast Guard.

Other noteworthy milestones include the admission of women cadets into the Academy in 1976, with the first women graduates in 1980. In 1998 the Academy established the Leadership Development Center (LDC), a center for leadership education, training, and development that focuses on the career needs for a diverse population of Coast Guard adult learners (military and civilian members associated with the Coast Guard and a limited number of international students from other maritime countries).

Organizational Structure

Since 1994 governance of the academy has been provided by a board of trustees, comprising Coast Guard senior managers and other distinguished individuals with strong ties to education. Their general purpose is to oversee all programs at the academy and provide guidance and advice to the superintendent of the academy, the Coast Guard chief of staff, and the commandant of the Coast Guard. It was this newly chartered board that endorsed the LDC and supported a substantive mission change, which was accepted by the NEASC in 1997. The undergraduate program and LDC complement each other, and both support the institutional mission. In 1999 the courses offered through the LDC were evaluated and granted American of Council of Education (ACE) course credit recommendations.

Other governance is provided by a congressional Board of Visitors, composed of three senators and five congressmen, which is authorized to review the academy's programs, curricula, and facilities. The superintendent is aided by the senior management team (SMT), comprising the dean, the commandant of cadets, and other senior staff members. Together they provide for the strategic management of the academy as well as the day-to-day administration.

The dean administers the academy's academic division, encompassing more than 100 full-time faculty and a number of staff. The commandant of cadets serves as a dean of students and has a central role in maintaining commissioning standards. The athletic director oversees student physical development and the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III sports programs. Other senior leaders manage admissions and business processes. Several boards advise the superintendent. They include the Academic Council, Faculty Senate, Curriculum Committee, Credentials Committee, Resources Allocation Board, Cadet Academic Advisory Board, and others.


The Coast Guard Academy is one of the most selective schools in the nation, enrolling about 300 young men and women, who are selected from more than 6,000 applicants. The 900 cadets who make up the corps are competitively selected from across the country, as well as twenty from foreign countries. The LDC serves about 3,000 adult learners per year through short courses or programs. The faculty supporting the LDC and the cadets are both military and civilian.

The Coast Guard Academy is committed, as proclaimed in its vision statement, to be the "well-spring of leadership and character for the United States Coast Guard. In serving the American public, the Academy is recognized as an exemplary institution and valued national asset. To earn that recognition and inspire life-long learners, CGA excels in education and military training, and leadership development."


U.S. COAST GUARD ACADEMY. 2002. <www.cga.edu>.


Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comEducation EncyclopediaMilitary Academies - U.s. Coast Guard Academy, U.s. Merchant Marine Academy, U.s. Military Academy - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY