coastguard watch assistant (CWA) coastguard watch officer (CWO) coastguard rescue officer volunteer
Security, uniformed and protective services

Career outlook for coastguard

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would help to rescue people who are in danger at sea, and on the cliffs and shores around the United Kingdom.

You’d work for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and co-ordinate search and rescue operations along the British coast. You could also investigate illegal shipping activities and pollution incidents.

You’d identify and respond to maritime and coastal emergencies. You’d work closely with a team to get help to the location as quickly as possible. You’d help people who have got into difficulty in a boat or are trapped on the cliffs, mudflats and rocks around the coast.

You would:

  • Answer and handle 999 calls at an operations centre
  • Check the equipment
  • Give the general public information about safety at sea
  • Advise people in charge of boats on safety procedures
  • Give out weather information and local weather reports
  • Update logs and do general administration

As a coastguard watch assistant you’d provide administrative support and work in the operations room.

As a coastguard watch officer you would be involved in all aspects of the service. You must be prepared to work anywhere in the UK.

As a coastguard rescue officer volunteer, you would be trained to respond to emergencies and paid for the hours you work.

Working conditions


You would usually work 42 hours a week on a shift system over seven days. Part-time hours may be available.


As a watch officer, you would go to sea in all weathers, on patrol or on rescue missions, and would be involved in cliff and coastal search and rescue.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Resilience
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  • Taking responsibility
  • Making decisions
  • Managing resources
  • Developing a plan
  • Attention to detail
  • Listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Cooperating

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


There are no set requirements to enter the career as a coastguard watch assistant (CWA) although you should have a good standard of literacy and numeracy and it helps if you have qualifications at SCQF level 4/5.  

To enter as a coastguard watch officer (CWO) you need extensive experience of the sea or experience in a professional search and rescue role, together with an acceptable standard of literacy and numeracy.

You will also need

  • A driving licence
  • To pass medical and fitness tests.

Helpful to have

To become a coastguard rescue officer volunteer you must be at least 16 years old, and have an interest and concern for safety at sea.