All officer candidates must attend an initial 12-week Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC). The curriculum is challenging, with onboard ship-handling exercises coupled with classroom instruction in leadership, officer bearing, NOAA mission and history, shiphandling, basic seamanship, firefighting, navigation, and first aid. BOTC is held at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, where new NOAA Corps recruits train alongside Coast Guard officer candidates before receiving their first assignment.
During BOTC, officer candidates will be trained in nautical science. Coursework includes, but is not limited to:
- how to use radar, automatic radar plotting aids, and the Electronic Chart Display and Information System
- Standards for Training and Certification of Watchkeeping
- first aid, CPR, and basic and advanced firefighting
- shiphandling and bridge resource management
Classes will be conducted through a mixed-learning curriculum involving classroom, hands-on instruction, and simulator time.
The aviation career path is available on a limited basis direct from BOTC. Selected officers serve as pilots and navigators on NOAA's research and survey aircraft. Officers interested in the aviation path and who are not selected directly from BOTC may apply for an assignment with the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center after their initial sea assignment.
Diver training may be available to officers during their first sea tour or subsequent shore assignments. The NOAA Diving Program conducts basic and advanced diver training several times each year at the NOAA Diving Center in Seattle, Washington. Although diving operations are essential to NOAA's programs, diving is a collateral activity for NOAA Corps officers. Selection for diver training is dependent upon the needs of the ship or facility to which the officer is assigned.
What to Expect
At BOTC, NOAA Corps Officer Candidates participate in a very demanding and fast-paced training program geared toward preparing them to enter the NOAA fleet with three principal objectives:
- Introduction and orientation to the NOAA organization and its missions
- Instruction in the customs, duties, responsibilities, and the way of life as a commissioned officer in a uniformed service
- Development of maritime and nautical skills, with emphasis on shipboard operations, organization and management, small boat handling, marine navigation, shiphandling, seamanship, and related subjects
NOAA Corps Officer Candidates undergo an indoctrination period, during which the NOAA Corps Officer Training Center and U.S. Coast Guard Officer Candidate School staff stress the importance of officer bearing, military protocol, discipline, leadership, and teamwork. Officer Candidates are tested physically, mentally, and emotionally alongside their Coast Guard Officer Candidate School shipmates.
Approximately 50 percent of the training curriculum is provided during formal classroom instruction and the remainder takes place during field activities, labs, and underway training. Periodic comprehensive exams and practical demonstrations of leadership, management, and seagoing skills are important aspects of the program.
In order to reinforce an understanding of shipboard organization and operations, BOTC is organized and operated similar to a shipboard environment. Officers are considered to be on call 24 hours per day, seven days a week. The normal workday will begin at 0500 (5:00 am) and will end at 2200 (10:00 pm). Weekends are filled with various training events, both maritime and leadership related. Collateral duties will be assigned for the duration of the course to enhance project management skills and responsibility.
Leave (days off) will not be granted during BOTC except on those days indicated as "liberty" once permitted, and for exceptional emergency situations.
Upon completion of BOTC, officers are assigned to a NOAA ship for up to three years of sea duty.