Job shadow with doctors and other medical professionals. Admissions committees don't expect applicants to have real experience actually treating patients. After all, you're not a doctor yet. But they do want to know that you've spent time getting to know what your future job would be like. Job shadowing is a great way to get some medical experience but there are other non-shadowing opportunities that may be available to you.
"Med school admissions committees want students to have realistic expectations for what a career in medicine will be like. says Dr. Sarah Carlson, a vascular surgery resident at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, who has also served on a medical school admissions committee. As an undergraduate, she volunteered to file x-rays at the local hospital, then parlayed that into an opportunity to talk with the radiologist. He explained both how to read x-ray films, and why he chose his profession. "It's those types of interactions that are important to have under your belt," she says. "Quite frankly, medicine isn't for everyone, so it's best if you do some soul-searching and spend some time with the people who have the job you want. Most doctors are happy to sit down with students who are considering a career in medicine."
Other ways to get medical experience include becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT), or as a hospital scribe doing data entry. Some applicants are able to gain clinical experience by helping to care for family members.
Demonstrate your hands-on science knowledge. "Undergraduate research experience really shines through on medical school applications. Most medical schools want students who are interested in research, and the best way to show that interest is to come in having already gotten your feet wet" says Dr. Carlson. She did pipetting and ran assays for Dr. Pushpa Murthy's lab at Michigan Technological University. It was a small part of the research, but she conveyed the overall impact. "I had to explain at my interviews that the larger scope of the research was about inositol phosphate metabolism."
Medical student Carly Joseph did long-term research in engineered biomaterials. "Sticking with it gave me time to learn how to think critically and ignited my passion for science," she says. "I started off simply learning about biomaterials from older students in the lab, then gradually worked up to doing my own experiments and eventually presenting at conferences." By choosing to make research a main priority each semester she was able to form close relationships with faculty mentors and accomplish more during undergrad than she ever imagined.
In addition to college-based research programs, you can investigate summer offerings, including those through the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program or check out the AAMC database for summer undergrad research programs
Dr. Carlson volunteered with the Big Brothers-Big Sisters organization. So did Joseph. Rake leaves, build an accessibility ramp, clean the beach, walk a dog. There are lots of non-clinical options for volunteering that demonstrate your willingness to pay it forward and supply back.
"They have many different programs and services." Joseph, accepted into Central Michigan University's College of Medicine, was part of the Forever Friends program, matched with an elderly woman she visited a few times each month. "I 've formed a great friendship with her, and hopefully, helped alleviate some loneliness. It 's a win-win!"
"Doctors are generally pretty altruistic people, and med schools want to see that you care about your community or have some drive to contribute to the greater good," says Dr. Carlson. "Community service comes in many forms, and really anything qualifies, from trash cleanup and mentorship programs to working the concession stand at a fund-raiser for a charity—anything that requires some unpaid time for a good cause."
Ask your pre-health professions advisor about volunteering opportunities on campus or in your community, which could include helping at local food banks or blood drives, local shelters for the homeless or those dealing with domestic violence. You could tutor, deliver good companionship and Meals on Wheels, or walk the dogs at a local animal shelter. Take an alternative spring break and work with Habitat for Humanity or on developing clean water sources for Third World countries. Check with your school for a list of community and global partners it works with who can use your time and talents. The mentors you develop will come in handy when it's time to gather recommendation letters—most schools ask for at least three—and the friendships you develop will last a lifetime.
Grades aren't everything, but they're extremely important. Choose a field of study that will yield a competitive GPA (grade point average). The recommended GPA for medical school applicants is 3.7 for MDs (medical doctors), 3.5 for DOs (doctors of osteopathy), and 3.4 for NDs (Doctor of Naturopathic). While many students who are planning careers in medicine decide to major in biology, Dr. Carlson earned her bachelor's in chemistry. Many of her colleagues majored in even more unexpected fields, including engineering, English, music, and classics.
"It 's OK if you 're not on the pre-med track right away when you start college; pursue experiences that genuinely interest you and rely on guidance from your faculty mentors to navigate your path"
There is no such thing as a pre-med major, says pre-health professions advisor Dr. Kemmy Taylor, who works with students preparing for medical careers at Michigan Technological University. "There are so many different programs students can apply to." You will still need to do well in both your cumulative and your science GPA, classes like biology, physics, chemistry, and math, that are required for medical school admission. If you are struggling in any classes, get help right away.
During her fourth year, Joseph had to take many of the medical school prerequisite classes that were not part of her engineering curriculum and build a Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) study plan into her schedule.
Improve your odds by not placing all your hopes on one school. Do individual research on each school, says Seigneurie; application requirements can vary from school to school and from year-to-year.
She also notes that you can reach out to admission committees with specific questions about the program and expectations. And, she says, don't be bummed if at first you don't succeed. Try again. "If you don 't get accepted into the school of your dreams, it 's OK! Schools have many applicants and can 't take everyone," says McKenzie, who was accepted into the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. "My dad, who has been a family physician for 29 years, often tells me, "An MD is an MD, it doesn't matter where you go to school."
"Don't take it personally when you get some rejections—they happen at every stage of the game. If you cast a wide net, you'll increase your likelihood of getting an acceptance."
Other ways to get noticed among the hundreds or even thousands of medical school applications submitted each year: send supplemental materials beyond your application. For example, "if you've published a paper, consider sending a copy of the publication with a handwritten note to the director of admissions, indicating you really hope to be considered for acceptance," she says.
MCAT scores range from 472-528. Accepted medical students average around 508. Recommended study time: 300-350 hours.
Take a course and buy books and study on your own. Find the method that works for you. Take practice questions many times and don't let your practice scores spook you, says McKenzie. "I used the Kaplan book series, and studied by reading, highlighting, and taking notes. The real MCAT was not as hard as the Kaplan test, in my opinion." The pre-health professions advisor can help you find the resources you need.
You can also join a pre-health professions club or association at your school, including Alpha Epsilon Delta, the national honor society for health pre-professionals. Members help each other get ready for tests, along with hosting speakers and events to help gain knowledge and experience.
"I speak Spanish almost every day at work," says Dr. Carlson. "It 's what I use the most from my premed education." Joseph spent a semester in Chile. "Focusing on language, culture, and people challenged me in a me in ways that technical classes couldn't and was critical in my preparation for medical school. If you 're thinking about studying abroad, do it. Communication and understanding different cultures are crucial skills for anyone entering the medical field, and medical schools look for applicants who make the effort to broaden their horizons culturally."
Medical volunteer programs abroad are another option to gain both life and health-care related experiences. Students are placed in hospitals and clinics in both rural and urban settings where staff is inadequate. Work, with professional guidance, can include giving vaccinations and other tasks interacting directly with patients, as well as helping to make facilities cleaner and more accessible. Programs are normally for people aged 18 and older
Show that you're interested in other things besides schoolwork. Dr. Carlson says having outside interests makes you stand out (she plays violin in an orchestra). "It's OK to indicate some of these personal interests on your med school applications—they supply the interviewers something to relate to you with," she says. "I interviewed one applicant who only got a C in biochemistry, but he wrote lots of letters to the admissions committee highlighting his other strengths. We accepted him, and he turned out to be a star."
"Medical schools like to see commitment in their applicants, be it to sports, work, or extracurricular activities," says McKenzie. "It 's easier to not join clubs and just do homework and relax, but devoting time now to extracurricular commitments is worth it in the long run. These experiences also supply you good opportunities to get to know people who can write the letters of recommendation."
Joseph says to choose activities based on what works best for you. Aim for quality rather than quantity.
"There 's a lot of pressure to have as many leadership roles as possible and be involved in tons of student organizations. For me though, having a few deep and lasting experiences was the way to go. I chose to invest my time in research, improving my Spanish, and volunteering," she says.
Research the schools you're interested in and look at mission statements, so you know something about the institution that you can share at the interview. Practice answering interview questions. When you arrive, be courteous to everyone you meet at the interview, including the receptionist.
"Schools are interested in learning what kind of student and person you are," says McKenzie. Schools invest in students and are looking for a good fit.
If you need help with effective body language, knowing how to dress professionally or for other tips, check out your school's Career Services office, which may offer mock interview opportunities and other techniques to help you present your best self.
Avoid generic answers like "I want to help people." There's no one right answer. Be specific. Tell your story.
McKenzie's dream centers on helping people close to home, in an underserved area that suffers from chronic physician shortages. "I have always wanted to return to the Houghton-Hancock area, where I grew up, and to serve my rural community."
For Joseph, the dream centers on combining a passion for science with helping others in a direct way.
Dr. Carlson 's dream started when she was five years old and her sister was born with cystic fibrosis. She reminds applicants to go beyond that initial inspiration during application interviews and explain how you've prepared for a grueling process that is not for everyone. "After medical school comes residency, and then—for some—fellowship, academic track positions, publications, and navigating an ever-evolving health care system," says Dr. Carlson.
Dr. Carlson has two more important suggestions to help you successfully apply to medical school:
"This is an unwritten rule that everyone does and nobody ever told me until I was several years into my training," says Dr. Carlson. "If you want to go to a particular school, find a way to have one of your mentors or advisors reach out to the admissions committee on your behalf."
For example, if you wanted to go to the University of Michigan ask your advisor or another mentor to call the director of admissions or any other person they know and advocate for you. Email can also be effective, she says. "It's a bonus if your mentor/advisor actually has a personal contact at the medical school you're interested in. "There is a culture of 'I can vouch for this person' that goes very far in the medical world. A phone call won't get you in if your application is terrible, but if you're on the cusp of acceptance and someone makes a call on your behalf, it can supply you the push you need to be accepted."
"It's OK to highlight the accomplishments you're proud of; put these in your required personal statement or find a way to work them into conversation during interviews. The key is to do it humbly but confidently: 'I was fortunate enough to win a teaching award from my time as a chemistry lab TA, and that's something I'm really proud of.' It's OK to be proud of your own achievements! Selectively highlighting a few make your application stand out from the rest."
Medical students must be dedicated and focused. "A significant amount of personal sacrifice comes along with the training, and if you don't have a great motivation, you won't find the sacrifice worth the reward," says Dr. Carlson. If you can answer yes to these questions, or you're willing to find the resources to work to develop any of these vital skills you could improve, you increase your chances of being able to accomplish what it takes to be accepted into medical school.
Compassionate people are kind. They are aware of suffering in the self and other living things, and they want to help alleviate suffering. Mature people are able to accept responsibility. They are considerate of others, patient, and supportive of others, among other qualities. Emotionally intelligent people are aware of their emotions. They can harness and apply their emotions to problem-solving and other tasks and manage emotions—like being able to cheer up yourself, or other people, or to infuse calm into a situation.
Hard-working people are conscientious about correctly performing duties and tasks on time. They are willing to put in the hours necessary to achieve goals.
High-achieving people are motivated to set and complete ambitious goals. They have a passion to excel in the field they choose to work in and are not daunted by obstacles.
Socially conscious people strive to stay informed and aware about the world around them, including how people interact with the economy, education, and both physical and social environments.
People with quantitative skills can perform analyses and other concrete and measurable tasks. Two examples of quantitative skills are data interpretation and math. People with qualitative skills are able to perform broad skills. Resilience and creativity are two examples of qualitative skills.
Michigan Tech's placement rate into medical school is 60 to 70 percent (well above the national average) and is nearly 100 percent for physical therapy school. Choose a pre-health profession and prepare for your future today.
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — The U.S. Air Force is rethinking how it would medically evacuate thousands of wounded American troops from the Pacific in a matter of weeks if the military sustained high casualties in a war with China.
Such a conflict would force the military’s flying ambulances to reckon with thousands of miles of open ocean, a lack of full-service health facilities and the logistical challenges of transporting and cooling medical supplies across the region, airmen told Air Force Times during a accurate visit to Guam.
To save the lives of their fellow service members, they said, medevac units will need to fly longer, triage more injuries and illnesses in midair and work more closely with their international partners than ever before.
“It’s the readiness factor, ensuring that we’re not just mission-capable [in] how we have been doing aeromedical evacuation as we always have,” said Lt. Col. Stephanie Ellenburg, who sets the standard for patient care across nearly three dozen medevac units as commander of the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
“Are we truly Preparing [for] what potentially is out there?” she asked.
Medics from the U.S. Air Force and six allied countries sought to answer that question last month at Mobility Guardian, the Air Force’s two-week, biennial training exercise for its airlift and aerial refueling units.
Their efforts will shape a new framework for aeromedical evacuation at Air Mobility Command, the branch of the Air Force that manages medevac units.
The initiative is part of AMC boss Gen. Mike Minihan’s push to transform his command for major operations in the Pacific, after the Pentagon named China as America’s top competitor in military strength, technology development and global influence.
Minihan warned airmen in a memo earlier this year to prepare for a potential war with China as early as 2025.
If the U.S. responds to a Chinese attack on Taiwan — the democratically self-governed island that maintains military and trade ties with the United States but is claimed by China — Air Force medics could face an onslaught of combat wounds and a limited number of aircraft on which to treat them.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, has estimated that 6,900 to 10,000 U.S. troops would be killed, wounded or missing in a conflict with China. Those killed in action could comprise around half of the casualties.
“In three weeks, the United States will suffer about half as many casualties as it did in 20 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the think tank said in a Jan. 9 report.
That volume of casualties would put immense pressure on military medevac to carry as many troops to safety as possible.
Officials say that requires a shift in the Air Force’s current aeromedical evacuation enterprise, on which the military relies to move patients between major bases and hospitals around the globe.
In a typical medevac, troops would call for help and wait for air planners to assign medics and an aircraft to pick up a wounded or ill patient. But in the Pacific, vast distances and schedule demands — and potentially, combat losses — mean the coalition may not have the luxury of waiting for on-call units from nearby bases to arrive.
Reorganizing those teams can help. At Mobility Guardian, small medical crews armed with large backpacks of supplies traveled with airlift squadrons to respond to simulated emergencies on the spot. Airmen had to use their own judgment and prioritize treatment for those with the highest chance of survival, the Air Force said in a July 20 release.
That approach also helps keep missions moving if a unit can’t speak to troops on the ground or receive orders from higher headquarters.
The Air Force should be able to tack more airmen and equipment onto those basic teams, depending on the situation, Ellenburg added. For instance, a unit may need to pick up pediatric supplies or a respiratory therapist in Guam.
Aeromedical evacuation teams will also need to keep patients stable in flight for longer periods of time, as they hop between facilities that provide lower-level care on their way back to major military hospitals in the U.S., like Hawaii’s Tripler Army Medical Center. That will require airmen to balance the amount of equipment they carry on flights with the need to travel light on aircraft full of other cargo.
Those teams could start small and localized on aircraft like the C-130 Hercules cargo plane, which can land on austere outposts with dirt strips instead of full-fledged runways. Later, they could hand off patients to teams on faster C-17 Globemaster III airlifters, which have more room for people and supplies.
C-17s, seen as the gold standard for aeromedical missions because of their built-in power supply, lighting and square footage, could then ferry their patients to their final destination.
Ideally, Ellenburg said, the U.S. and its allies will standardize their teams, processes and lingo so that injured troops receive the same level of care, regardless of who picks them up.
That means American medevac teams need to be jacks of all trades like their foreign counterparts, and less beholden to checklists that can be thorough but cumbersome.
Interoperability is made easier when countries fly the same aircraft, like the C-17s the U.S. shares with Australia or the C-130s it has in common with Japan.
On a July 10 training sortie, American airmen joined their Australian counterparts on a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 to go through the motions of loading litter-bound patients onto the plane and checking their vitals in flight.
In the belly of the jet, medics wove multicolored tubes and cords through the skeletons of metal litter racks that would hold four patients — plastic dummies adorned with faux gashes and burns.
Four airmen, one for each handle on a litter, began the carefully choreographed steps to bring victims up the ramp: squat, lift, forward.
Leading Aircraftwoman Rachel Koch, an Australian medical technician, barked directions. “Prepare to rack. Rack!”
Two Australians and two Americans slid a patient into place on the shelf.
Staff Sgt. Audrey Allen, an American technician with the 375th AES, offered Koch tips to secure the patients as they strapped three other dummies to the floor.
“They’re very similar, but in learning the different team dynamics, it helps us understand how we’re going to integrate together if we’re going to fly AE missions together,” Royal Australian Air Force Flying Officer Alyssa Collins, officer in charge at the 3rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, said in a public affairs video July 11.
Still, coalition air forces faced other logistical hurdles that may require further policy tweaks.
Some biomedical cargo was stuck on the flight line because of inspection processes that crews hadn’t anticipated, Ellenburg said. And units may have to find a way to support heating-and-cooling equipment so medicine doesn’t go bad in the field.
Ellenburg said Mobility Guardian highlighted the “struggles that it’s going to take” to redesign aeromedical evacuation, but praised the seven-member coalition’s effort to figure it out for a new generation of airmen.
“I’ve had the greatest opportunities to work with lots of different international partners,” she said. “Not all of our U.S. forces have. … It’s opening their eyes [to] really, truly, what we can do.”
Rachel Cohen joined Air Force Times as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), the Washington Post, and others.
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Working in aerospace medicine and as a nationally registered EMT, Sergeant Derrick Judkins traveled the world, assisted surgeons, and treated our nation’s wounded. He was deployed to Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Shield, to multiple campaigns in between.
After scoring high on the Air Force Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, young Derrick Judkins saw being a medical technician as his ticket out of Detroit.
“I was ready to get out of Detroit at the time, so I says, ‘You know what, I’m going to go the non-traditional.’ College… Military… So, I went military. And it was the best decision I ever made, to be honest with you,” said Judkins.
Courtesy: Derrick Judkins
His 20-year military career began with basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. He was stationed in Omaha when his unit was deployed to the Gulf War.
“I call him ‘Big George,'” Judkins said of President George H. W. Bush. “Yeah, that was the first one. Desert Storm, and that’s when they sent us over in the sandbox. That was when I guess you’d be saying things get real.”
Judkins said a contingency hospital was set up behind the front lines.
“Where we were stationed at, we weren’t directly in the line of fire, but we were in a position where we were taking care of the individuals that may have been injured or what have you,” said Judkins.
During a six-year stint at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, Judkins treated wounded soldiers in a hyperbaric chamber.
Courtesy: Derrick Judkins
“They put us in a chamber because the increased amount of oxygen is healing,” explained Judkins. “Like every other week or so, we were getting in with patients that needed wound care or wound therapy.”
Judkins picked up a few unique skills while working as a medical technician.
“I was asked, ‘How many jobs have you had?’ Even just in the military… aerospace medicine, public health, Honor Guard. I’ve caught mosquitoes when the West Nile virus was going. That was part of public health. Man, I can identify a female mosquito and a male mosquito. All of that stuff made a difference in that little piece of the job. It was integral to the mission at hand,” said Judkins.
His last assignment was a stop at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita in 2007, where he worked in public health.
So, what was the most rewarding part of Judkins’ military career?
“The Honor Guard. Honor Guard was the most rewarding to me because that was a memory that you were leaving with the family. Maybe the last time seeing their loved one in a military state like that. Whether it be an active-duty funeral or retirement. That satisfaction or the gratification that you get from folding that flag and getting down on one knee and starting off ‘On behalf of the United States of America.’ That was big to me because it was something that you had to look at that person or that next of kin in their eye, and you saw that, and they were so appreciative of that. So, that was huge to me,” said Judkins.
Judkins retired from McConnell AFB at age 38, and he settled in Wichita. Now, he works as a clinical liaison for a long-term care company.
If you want to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Jason Lamb at email@example.com.
About 41,000 active-duty men and women serve in the Coast Guard, the smallest branch of the U.S. armed forces and one that stands as the nation's first line of defense against maritime threats. It is responsible for protecting and defending more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways.
The Coast Guard handles multiple missions on top of maritime law enforcement, including search and rescue, marine safety, seizure of illegal drugs and contraband, waterways security and more at ports, air stations, small boat stations, cutters and small craft across the U.S. and worldwide.
During peacetime, the service is nested in the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Department of Defense. While the Coast Guard's culture is unique among the branches, it's linked to many aspects of the history and tradition of the U.S. Navy.
Read More: The Unique Role of the US Coast Guard
Enlisted Guardsmen are the backbone of the Coast Guard. Each member has his or her own specialized training and fills a role within his or her unit.
Coast Guard requirements to join as an enlisted Guardsman are as follows. You must:
Read More: Joining the Coast Guard: Overview
The Coast Guard offers a multitude of opportunities for professional specialization. Officers can be charged with law enforcement, humanitarian aid, defense, regulation, environmental protection, diplomacy and literally guarding the coast.
To join the Coast Guard as an officer, you must:
Although the Coast Guard does not offer an ROTC program, there are other paths to becoming an officer in the service:
Read More: How to Become a Coast Guard Officer
The Coast Guard recruitment process begins with working with a Coast Guard recruiter. Recruiters know the ins and outs of the service and can help you navigate the process and make important decisions along the way.
There is no obligation when working with a recruiter. They will help you decide whether the Coast Guard is right for you, and they will help shed light on which job opportunities within the service might be of interest if you sign up.
Related: Contact a Recruiter
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is an aptitude test that helps Guardsmen narrow down which field of work is best suited for them. It is designed to evaluate skills in several areas, including math, science, language and technical knowledge such as electronics, automotive and mechanical abilities.
The minimum ASVAB AFQT score for enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard is 36. Officer programs have different standardized test requirements.
Once an applicant has taken the ASVAB and passed with a qualifying score, the recruiting process moves on to a medical test at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS).
The basic physical examination includes alcohol and drug testing; a urine check for indicators of glucose, protein, pregnancy and other health indicators; an HIV test; a vision test, including color perception; an ear test and hearing test; blood pressure and pulse rate; an orthopedic and neurological demonstration and exam; plus an overall test of the main body systems and organs.
Coast Guard weight requirements are based on body mass index (BMI), which is weight divided by height. Guardsmen must have a BMI between 19 and 27.5, regardless of age or gender.
Related: Your Questions About Joining the Coast Guard Answered
Coast Guard boot camp, aka basic training, lasts eight weeks and is held at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey.
"Boot camp" is mentally and physically tough. Much of your training will take place in a classroom learning first aid, firefighting, weapons handling, practical seamanship and general Coast Guard knowledge. You will have daily physical fitness and water survival classes. You also will learn military drill and the "ropes" of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Your Coast Guard pay begins during boot camp.
Read More: Coast Guard Boot Camp Timeline at a Glance
Physical fitness requirements in the Coast Guard are directly linked to "on-the-job" requirements. The Coast Guard Physical Fitness Test (PFT), sometimes simply called the Coast Guard PT test, is designed to measure cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance.
Read More: Coast Guard Basic PFT
Coast Guard men and women, who are rescue swimmers, small boat crew members, etc., must comply with the specific physical standards set forth by their position, but here are the general standards for the PFT and the 12-minute swim.
At boot camp, enlisted recruits are expected to perform:
At Officer Candidate School (OCS), officer candidates are expected to perform:
Read More: Coast Guard Fitness Requirements
Coast Guard jobs are available in a variety of fields. About halfway through boot camp, recruits make note of their preferences from available assignments at different locations and unit types, and receive their first assignment orders about a week later.
Most recruits, at the beginning, are assigned as unspecialized seamen or firemen. Advanced specialty training follows this period of adjustment. Depending on your skill set and interests, you can get training in a variety of fields, including law enforcement, environmental science, engineering, health care and more.
Some recruits with high ASVAB scores are eligible to enroll in a specialized school immediately following boot camp, bypassing the unspecialized assignments and getting a head start on their careers.
Jobs are available in a variety of fields, including aviation, cybersecurity and information technology, navigation and seamanship, mechanical and electrical operations, diving, electronics, firearms maintenance, medical, machinery and more.
Read More: Coast Guard Job Opportunities
To be sworn into the Coast Guard, you will take the Oath of Enlistment, which is a pledge to defend the Constitution throughout your military career. If you are entering as an officer, you'll instead take the officer's oath.
Related: Coast Guard: Officer Versus Enlisted Career Paths
Joining the Coast Guard comes with a variety of benefits.
When you join the Coast Guard, your paycheck grows as you gain more experience and rise up the ranks. The service also offers a variety of allowances that increase your total compensation. These include free or reduced-cost health care, food, housing, education and more.
An advanced paygrade incentive may be offered to recruits with certain experience, like college credits, JROTC, police and sea explorer programs, or scouting achievements. This can result in an immediate promotion to E-3 paygrade after boot camp -- six months earlier than usual.
You also get 30 days of paid vacation annually.
The Coast Guard has several enlistment incentive programs to meet recruiting goals, such as signing bonuses. These could apply to all recruits, be tied to enlistments within certain time periods, or require qualifying skills, certifications or education.
In 2023, the service introduced a Scout Talent and Refer program, offering $1,000 to any member, retiree, reservist or civilian employee who steers a recruit to basic training.
The Coast Guard also added a bonus program for certain jobs -- signing bonuses of $15,000 to $50,000 for recruits interested in becoming a gunner's mate, culinary specialist or other understaffed rating.
While on active duty, you may continue your education and may be helped in defraying the cost of college-accredited courses.
On top of specialized job training in fields like law enforcement, environmental science, engineering, health care and more, the Coast Guard can fund your college education through the GI Bill and other programs, including Voluntary Education or VolEd.
You'll also have access to hands-on training and professional certifications that can open doors to post-Coast Guard career opportunities. The Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) program will reimburse the training necessary to obtain certain certifications. You may use the CG COOL program to enhance your skills, either in your current specialty or in an occupation you would like to pursue when you leave military service.
Additionally, the Coast Guard Institute offers the following programs:
Learn more about the Coast Guard's educational programs here.
The Coast Guard offers a variety of in-person and online courses and resources geared toward leadership and professional development.
For Guardsmen seeking specific credentials, the Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) program offers help with certifications and licenses related to their military occupation and civilian careers. These credentials can help in the job hunt after your Coast Guard career ends.
Full-time, active-duty Guardsmen receive medical, dental and vision coverage for themselves and their dependents. Mental health support is also available.
Active-duty members typically receive medical care through Coast Guard clinics manned by the Public Health Service clinicians and Coast Guard health technicians. Guardsmen's family members usually receive care through the civilian Tricare network. Service members not located near a Coast Guard clinic and their beneficiaries also can get medical care at Defense Health Agency facilities.
Guardsmen can receive discounted life insurance, retirement plan options, financial counseling and legal services.
You also may receive additional tax-free money for Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) if government housing is not available; Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), if government food facilities are not available in the area you are stationed; and a uniform allowance (for enlisted personnel only) to help maintain your uniform.
Additionally, Guardsmen receive exchange and commissary privileges, moving allowances, temporary lodging expenses, travel, survivor benefits, Veterans Affairs home loans and more.
Content previously published on Military.com and content from gocoastguard.com were used in compiling this report.
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The wind and heavy rain that Tropical Storm Hilary brought to San Diego Sunday caused power outages, school closures, road detours, mudslides, fallen trees, flight cancellations and major adjustments to transit routes.
Fire Departments and ambulance companies added extra staff and came up with alternate routes for emergency responses based on where flooding had already happened and where it was expected through the night.
Law enforcement focused on closing flooded roads and clearing fallen trees and debris from others. Several roads in flood-prone Mission Valley were preemptively closed just before the storm’s mid-afternoon arrival.
Hilary coverage is free for all readers.
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Officials told residents to expect many of the road closures and power outages to extend well into Monday, and possibly even longer in East County and other hard-hit areas.
The San Diego Unified School District postponed its first day of the new school year from Monday to Tuesday, but no other county school districts had canceled Monday classes.
Churches across the region took varying approaches to the storm. Some closed completely, some offered online services and others followed through with regular in-person services.
Some grocery stores and restaurants stayed open, while many others closed. The DoorDash food delivery service announced Sunday afternoon that it was suspending operations through at least 9 a.m. Monday.
Power outages, which were expected to be widespread and prolonged because of the storm’s heavy winds, began just before noon Sunday in coastal North County. An outage in La Costa cost more than 1,500 residents power and another east of Del Mar affected more than 1,100.
“I really want to make sure that our customers are prepared for prolonged outages,” said Caroline Winn, chief executive of San Diego Gas & Electric.
Winn said the company has additional crews and equipment in place. She also advised residents to stay away from any downed lines, and to call 911 if they smell gas. Updated outages can be viewed on SDG&E’s app and website.
By Sunday evening, there were small additional outages in parts of South and East county, including Spring Valley, Otay Mesa and El Cajon.
Through late Sunday, airlines had canceled 253 flights at San Diego International Airport and 33 flights at Tijuana International Airport. A spokesperson at the San Diego airport said there were no immediate plans to shut down all flights with a ground stoppage.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria signed a local emergency proclamation Sunday afternoon, a move that enables the city to acquire state and federal disaster resources if needed.
“I ask San Diego to continue to be vigilant — make sure water has a place to go around your property, prepare for power outages, steer clear of downed power lines and report them to 911,” Gloria said.
On the city’s Get It Done! tipster app, residents reported flooding from Southcrest to Miramar Ranch, downed trees from Encanto to Rancho Bernardo, streetlight outages from Logan Heights to Rancho Peñasquitos and blocked or overflowing storm drains from North Park to Sorrento Valley.
The Red Cross on Sunday opened overnight shelters that will offer food and a place to rest in San Marcos and Chula Vista, the county announced.
“The Red Cross shelters will serve people with a wide range of needs, including people with disabilities, children and seniors,” the county said in a statement.
The locations are: Corky Smith Gym, at 274 Pico Avenue in San Marcos, and Southwestern College’s Jaguar Aquatics Wellness and Sports center, at 900 Otay Lakes Road in Chula Vista. The shelter at Southwestern College will also accommodate pets, according to the county.
Many residents across the county prepared Friday and Saturday for the storm by securing patio furniture and removing outdoor items that could get blown away by heavy winds.
Brandi Smothers said she felt better prepared than last September, when high winds from Tropical Storm Kay damaged the small business she runs in Wynola, just west of Julian. But she said it still hasn’t been enough.
“We took everything down that could blow over, wrapped about a dozen trees yesterday so that they wouldn’t fall over — but we’ve lost them,” she said Sunday. “I have about nine trees down across the 5 acres. It’s nerve-wracking because there’s still more. It’s still heading our way and we prepped.”
Veronica Viveros, owner of Veronica’s Kitchen in Descanso, said there was an eerie emptiness in the streets amid afternoon rainfall.
“It hasn’t come down hard, but I think a lot of people decided to stay home because they were scared and wanted to be cautious,” she said. “Last year our power went out and the Sweetwater River went up. People couldn’t get around because they’d get stuck in the river.”
To prevent flooding, San Diego lowered the water level in two city reservoirs — Lake Hodges near Rancho Bernardo and Barrett Lake near Dulzura. Officials said they expect the storm to cause flooding and spills early this week from Loveland Reservoir in Alpine.
The storm presented major challenges for firefighters and emergency service workers.
San Diego’s ambulance provider Falck USA added extra crews, put all employees on call and planned alternate routes in flood-prone areas.
Those moves are part of Falck’s incident action plan, which also includes putting generators in place for power outages and boosting supplies for paramedics and emergency medical technicians, a company spokesperson said.
If it becomes necessary to evacuate nursing homes or hospitals, Falck had designated National University as an assembly point for potential strike teams to handle those evacuations.
Falck is also working with city fire officials to avoid delays, but the company said some delays will be unavoidable.
“We’re going to be responding more slowly for our own safety, and we could be delayed by flooding, mudslides or downed trees on roadways,” said the spokesperson, Jeff Lucia.
Alternative routes are key to the strategy.
“We’re closely monitoring roadway conditions and are prepared to use alternate routes to reach hospitals if necessary,” Lucia said. “Nobody can predict the full impact of the hurricane, but we are monitoring areas where flooding has occurred in the past — for example, the border area and Mission Valley, as well as areas that are prone to mudslides, such as Bay Park.”
Chief Jason Malneritch of Cal Fire said Sunday that many fire departments across the region have added staff. He said CalFire had six water-rescue teams in place and 10 additional strike teams to tackle emergencies.
In addition, he said Cal Fire had moved several fire engines with four-wheel drive into rural areas perceived to be in danger of getting cut off by road closures and flooding.
County Sheriff Kelly Martinez said Sunday that she was focused getting any blocked routes back open as soon as possible.
“We need to really think about tomorrow after the storm is through and getting across our roadways that might have flooding and significant debris,” she said.
There were also major disruptions to many transit routes. The North County Transit District canceled many Sunday evening Coaster trains and the Metropolitan Transit System made several changes. They include rerouting Lines 1, 20, 41, 88 and 120, which ordinarily cross the San Diego River on Fashion Valley Road.
For updates, visit sdmts.com/getting-around/alerts-detours or goNCTD.com.
Staff writers Tammy Murga, Paul Sisson, Abby Hamlin, David Hernandez and Sam Schulz contributed to this report.
In the 1990s, two hurricanes devastated Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean, wiping entire communities off the map and killing dozens of people. "Everything was just decimated," Malama Tafuna'i, a primary care physician in Apia, the territory's capital, said. "It looked like a bomb had gone off."
A young girl at the time, Tafuna'i watched as her father, a doctor, would go out to treat patients while her household navigated the aftermath of the storms.
"He still had to go to work and the rest of us had to figure out, you know, how do we make sure that we've got a shelter for tonight or where are we going to get food from?'" she said.
Tafuna'i's early experiences help her navigate the impacts of climate change, both as a physician and as a citizen of Samoa, where extreme weather events frequently upend daily life. She uses the knowledge she has accumulated to help other doctors consider climate impacts when treating patients.
Tafuna'i, who has practiced medicine in Samoa for the better part of two decades, knows that once the hurricane-force winds die down and the flood waters recede, public health disasters—vector-borne disease outbreaks, bacterial infections, malnutrition due to crop loss—soon follow. People lose their homes in these storms and spend days exposed to mosquitoes and other pathogen-carrying insects. Decaying sanitation systems overflow and spread E. coli and other dangerous bacteria through communities. Entire fields of crops are wiped out by flooding, and families already struggling with food insecurity go hungry.
Tafuna'i can spot these links between extreme weather events and disease, but actually treating the effects of rising temperatures on the Samoan population can be tricky. It's exceedingly difficult to assess a sick patient and determine that climate change itself is the main driver of that patient's illness, Tafuna'i said. What she does see, however, is that climate change compounds and exacerbates existing health inequities in Samoa.
"Once a disaster hits, it sets back the whole system big time," said Tafuna'i, adding that then "we have to figure out a way back up to wherever the starting point was at the time."
As the planet warms, Samoans and millions of other people around the globe will increasingly see their health affected by warming. Climate change, the World Health Organization says, is the "single biggest health threat facing humanity."
Climate-driven malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress are projected to kill an additional 250,000 people worldwide every year, which will come with an annual cost of between $2 and $4 billion. And those are just a few of the leading causes of climate-related mortality. There are countless other ways in which our changing planet affects human health, some of them still beyond our understanding.
Samoa only has two hospitals, one of which is a 20-bed facility staffed by junior doctors. Ten health clinics staffed primarily by nurses serve Samoa's rural population. The Samoan medical system, severely underfunded and understaffed, is far less prepared to shoulder the burden of rising temperatures than developed countries in the West. Nevertheless, doctors like Tafuna'i, who have long worked on the front lines of the crisis, have been among the first in the world to recognize the importance of arming doctors with the tools they need to both recognize how climate change will affect human health and to properly treat patients experiencing the health ramifications of a rapidly changing environment.
For many years, Tafuna'i was the only clinical lecturer at the National University of Samoa, a tiny medical school on the island of Upolu. She noticed that the school wasn't teaching students about climate change—an omnipresent issue on an island that is experiencing some of the most severe sea-level rise on the planet.
"You can definitely see that climate change has a huge impact on health, but it wasn't in our curriculum at the time, and it wasn't something we spoke about," Tafuna'i said. So she invited colleagues from other universities, along with climate and related experts, to come speak to her students about the crisis. She also developed a climate-and-health curriculum that sent fourth-year students into remote parts of the island to analyze how climate change affects the well-being of rural communities.
In accurate years, as rising temperatures have triggered public health emergencies of growing magnitude all over the globe, medical professionals and research institutions in the West have begun to catch on.
Renee Salas, a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, remembers when the city was in the throes of a record-breaking heat wave in 2019. A team of emergency medical technicians arrived in an ambulance carrying an elderly gentleman suffering from heatstroke, the deadliest form of heat-related illness. The patient's rectal temperature was 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius), which meant death was imminent. The emergency workers told Salas that when they climbed up the stairs and opened the door to the man's apartment, it felt like they were being "hit with heat from the Sahara desert." The patient and his wife, who both lived in the apartment, didn't have air conditioning. Just one window was cracked open.
Salas and her team managed to save the man's life, but the incident still weighs on her. "I often think about that patient's wife who still remained in that same apartment," she said. "We know from data that more than one-third of heat-related deaths are due to climate change, and that is making that disease more likely."
A year after that incident, in 2020, The Lancet, a premier medical journal, published a frightening assessment of the latest research and data on the intersection of warming and health—its "most worrying" outlook since the journal began publishing the assessments in 2016. Almost every indicator of health tracked by the dozens of interdisciplinary researchers who compiled the report, such as excess morbidity and mortality, showed evidence of climate stress (extreme weather events, vector-borne disease, wildfire smoke, the list of stressors goes on). Two-thirds of the cities surveyed by the report said they "expected climate change to seriously compromise their public health assets and infrastructure."
Salas, who had been memorizing The Lancet's reports for years, saw that climate change was threatening "the very mission" of why she went into medicine in the first place. She decided to dedicate her career to the climate-and-health overlap. But at the time, no one in her circles was thinking about how climate change was going to affect medicine. In the United States, lawmakers were still arguing over whether climate change was even happening.
In the years since, however, Salas has seen a marked shift in the way the public, especially the medical community, thinks about climate change. "This has become mainstream medicine," she said. Climate change has infiltrated the zeitgeist at hospitals across the U.S. for one key reason: "Fundamentally," Salas said, "climate change makes our job harder as doctors."
In the U.S., networks and groups such as ClimateRx, the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, and Climate MD have cropped up with the aim to bring "climate solutions to the bedside." Those efforts—which include teaching doctors how to recognize climate-related illnesses, such as tick-borne diseases and heatstroke, in patients and communicating about climate change with patients in a hospital setting—haven't been immune to typical growing pains. The disparate initiatives within the larger climate-and-health movement are disorganized, and there's no easy way for the various sects to share data and know-how. But that's starting to change.
In May, the National Institutes of Health funded a first-of-its-kind national Research Coordination Center on Climate and Health, based jointly at Harvard and Boston University. The research center, described as a "clearinghouse to facilitate data exchange and share best practices," provides a blueprint for what needs to happen on a global scale.
Meanwhile, doctors like Tafuna'i are sitting on years of knowledge about global warming's unbound potential to erode public health and stress health systems. Tafuna'i's experiences teaching students and treating patients in Samoa could serve to inform and educate countries that are just beginning to confront these challenges. But, thus far, there's been no indication that the West is looking to Samoa and other nations on the front lines of climate change for guidance.
"You can't share your wisdom if you're not at the table," said Sheila Davis, chief executive officer at Partners In Health, an international public health nonprofit that helped devise a COVID-19 response in the U.S. based on prior efforts to eradicate HIV in Haiti and Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia. "Raising the voices of those who have the true expertise, it's going to take all of us to push for that to happen."
COVID-19 taught the world a valuable lesson: Pandemics can't be defeated piecemeal. Studies indicate that the next pandemic may be fueled by climate change. The logical next step is to prepare—not individually, as siloed nations, but as a network of human beings around the world.
"How do you put a program in play that can be sustainable and then be something that's shared?" Tafuna'i asked. "We have to decide what the priorities are for adapting to climate change."
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Today is a big day for Lake Highlands High School graduate Luke Smith. The emergency medical technician is part of a four-man team headed to Ukraine to provide aid and training to war-weary civilians.
Smith is part of Mission Builders International’s Mission 91, a nonprofit providing protection services for churches and ministries around the world. The group has traveled to Cambodia, Nepal, Thailand, Nigeria, Mexico, Kansas City, Detroit, Los Angeles and other hotspots to advise organizations on risk mitigation and de-escalation techniques to keep parishioners and staff members safe.
Mission 91 focuses on the realities of what to do if an armed intruder came onto the campus of a church or ministry, and they teach prioritized responses such as “escape, barricade, engage.” Smith’s specialty as an EMT is crafting a life-saving crisis response plan, including CPR and stop-the-bleed training. Teammate Matt Praetzel focuses on recognizing threats and de-escalating verbal and physical conflict. J.T. Pharr, a former Marine, works to Excellerate physical security on campuses, including cameras, lighting, doors, windows and blind spots.
Mission 91 prepares ministries to recognize and deal with “anomalies,” but they don’t believe in “fear mongering.” Most groups have only a small chance of encountering significant threats, they say.
“It could just be someone who’s down and needs someone to talk to. That’s a ministry opportunity. They don’t want to become bouncers for the church,” Smith says. “We want everyone to feel welcome, but if something feels off, we need to explore that and approach that person before anything goes wrong. A good security team — especially for a church or ministry — you don’t even know they’re there. They just look like another set of greeters.”
Over the next two weeks in Ukraine, two members of the team will provide medical training for civilian combat medics. Military medics are only authorized to treat military personnel, so civilians are needed to support large numbers of wounded Ukrainian citizens.
“With the war happening all around them, many civilians are dying from injuries sustained from bombs and landmines,” Smith says. “Many deaths are preventable, because life saving measures are simple and effective.”
The team will take with them $50,000 in medical equipment weighing 500 pounds, including tourniquets, wound packing materials, gauze, hemostatics and other items. If their trainees encounter serious wounds, they’ll be equipped to stop the bleeding until more specialized treatment can be secured.
The other two guys will deliver humanitarian aid and help evacuate civilians from combat zones. They’ll also train locals in techniques for food storage and delivery, since hunger has been a significant hardship in some areas during the war.
The team has seen difficult circumstances in other places across the globe, but they know this trip may be especially tough.
“We’re expecting to see a shell-shocked population,” Smith says. “The war has been going on since 2014. The world really learned of it last year with the bigger push by Russia, but Russia’s been going after land in the Crimea area since 2014. The Ukrainians are used to Russian aggression, but this is a whole new level. They’re just looking for any help they can get.”
Smith believes his training and experience as an EMT will come in particularly handy.
“As a first responder, I’m expecting to see sadness and people who haven’t dealt with compounded trauma. At some point, your world view changes. We may see some mental health challenges, and I hope we can speak to some of that.”
Smith’s team is working closely with other ministries who’ve been in Ukraine for years. They’ve been consulting with individuals who’ve gone before them, and some of what they’ve heard is surprising.
“They tell us there’s no doubt there’s a war on — that we’ll travel through numerous checkpoints with armed guards and see injuries and trauma wherever we go. But they also say, staying in the cities, it can become ‘business as usual.’ Businesses are functioning and people are going about their daily lives.”
If you’d like to support Mission Builders International, you may donate here.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Tuesday it will send mortuary response teams to Maui to help identify the victims of the wildfires as the death toll approaches 100.
Jonathan Greene, the deputy assistant secretary and director of the Office of Response within HHS’s Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, told reporters during a Tuesday press call that the department deployed mortuary operational response and victim identification center teams from its National Disaster Medical System to Hawaii.
He said the experts will “augment state and local mortuary resources” as the island recoils from the devastating wildfires that swept Maui last week. He did not offer an estimate on how many victims those teams will expect in the coming days.
“In terms of the scope of the mission, it’s going to be a very, very difficult mission,” Greene said. “And patience will be incredibly important because of the number of victims. At this time, it’s premature to be able to say what the total number of victims will be.”
In total, Greene said HHS sent 75 emergency response experts to Hawaii. He said the mortuary response team —which includes coroners, pathologists and X-ray technicians — will assist local authorities with processing deceased remains.
The teams just landed in Hawaii with about 22 1/2 tons of supplies and equipment needed for victim identification and processing remains, he added.
The wildfires last week left at least 99 people dead, with Gov. Josh Green (D) saying Tuesday the total includes children. The Hawaii governor said Monday that crews could find “10 to 20 people a day” until the searches end.
In an update posted Tuesday afternoon, Maui County officials said only four victims have been identified so far. Thirteen DNA profiles have been collected from fatalities and 41 DNA samples have been obtained from family members of those who are unaccounted for. About 32 percent of the area had been searched as of Tuesday afternoon, county officials said.
Green said on Tuesday he hopes about 85 percent of the search can be complete by this weekend.
Keith Turi, the deputy associate administrator for FEMA’s Office of Response and Recovery, told reporters Tuesday that 3,400 survivors of the Maui wildfires have registered for assistance with FEMA. He said 1,200 have been provided with financial assistance so far, totaling nearly $2 million. This number includes about $630,000 in $700 critical needs assistance payments, he said.
President Biden signed a major disaster declaration for Hawaii last week over the wildfires, opening up additional federal aid to assist with the response. Turi urged Maui residents to register with FEMA and reassured residents that there is no risk to their property ownership by registering.
“While we are encouraging survivors to take those first important steps towards their personal recovery and register with FEMA, it’s important to highlight and the active response in Maui still continues,” Turi said. “And we recognize at FEMA that families and survivors are grieving.”
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