My Coast Guard
Commentary | Oct. 22, 2021

ASVAB score requirements changing for “A” schools

By Lt. Cmdr. Christie Connell, Personnel Readiness Task Force Policy Analyst 

"The Coast Guard is adjusting our A-school ASVAB requirements to allow more members the opportunity to attend the A-school of their choosing. However, every student still has to demonstrate the ability to complete the A-school curriculum; and the graduation standards will not change." - Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden 


Several policy changes were made to the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) policy to address the challenge of recruiting and retaining a mission-ready total workforce. Our service faces steep competition for talent and the Coast Guard must continue to enhance its personnel policies to attract and retain the best members. These are the first major changes to the Coast Guard's ASVAB policy since 2004 and will become effective Nov. 1. The Personnel Readiness Task Force joined with the Data Readiness Task Force, Enlisted Personnel Management (EPM), Coast Guard Recruiting Command, Coast Guard Force Readiness Command (FORCECOM), and Workforce Forecasting and Analysis (CG-126) to capture the impact of ASVAB requirements on enlisted members and chart a course forward that includes the following policy changes: 

  • Composite Scores Updates: The composite score requirements for all A-school (except diver) have been adjusted by 10 points. The specific subtests used to establish a minimum composite score for each rating have not changed. All subtest minimums also remain the same.
    • Example: Composite score (MK+EI+GS) requirement for the information systems technician rating (IT) was 172 and is now 162. Neither the minimum Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) subtest score of 52, nor the alternate qualification (AFQT) score of 65 have changed.
    • The purpose of the training and instruction delivered at A-school is to graduate members capable of performing the duties of third class petty officers in a specific rating. This policy will not affect those training or graduation requirements.
  • Waiver Authority Updates: Coast Guard Recruiting Command Accessions (CGRC-acc) and commanding officer/officer in charge (CO/OIC) waiver authority is increased from five to 10 total points and now includes subtest minimums, other than the AFQT. Each rating force master chief (RFMC) will now serve as their rating's A-school waiver authority for all waivers beyond CGRC-acc or CO/OIC authority.
    • Example: A member desires to be an IT and has a composite score of 154, an AR of 50, and an AFQT of 60. The CO/OIC can choose to waive the needed eight points for the composite score and two points for the AR minimum score, so the member qualifies for IT A-school.
    • RFMCs may grant waivers exceeding 10 points. The Coast Guard has granted waivers beyond CO/OIC authority, and will continue to do so based on service needs and a holistic evaluation of the member’s abilities. Members must request an RFMC waiver via memorandum routed through their chain of command.
  • Waiver Transparency: Choosing a rating is one of the most important decisions in an enlisted person's career. RFMCs will regularly publish waiver data to help members and commands understand what waivers were approved across the service.
  • Path to Success: If the CGRC-acc, CO/OIC, or RFMC denies a waiver, they must provide the member with a signed Path to Success Form. The form is designed to provide the member with a blueprint and resources to increase their ASVAB score or work toward gaining the authority's waiver in a designated time frame.

These changes are necessary to close workforce gaps at the junior enlisted levels. The ability for our units to meet mission requirements is contingent upon meeting our accession and throughput needs. Today, 12 of 21 A-school waitlists do not have enough qualified applicants to fill even a single convening to capacity, and more than 600 A-school seats have gone empty in fiscal year 2021. Even with more members going directly from boot camp to A-school, there are more than 500 unfilled E-4 billets. We are beginning to see the personnel shortages continue to progress up the ranks, with gaps being noted in E-5 positions as well. These shortages are acutely felt in the field with increased duty burdens and a lack of operators and technicians to complete critical work necessary to execute and support the mission.

It is important to note, that the standard to become a petty officer remains the same: earn a CO/OIC recommendation, have the required time in grade/service, and meet all performance standards at A-school. The graduation standards for A-school, which are based on a rating's E-4 Rating Performance Qualifications have not changed. Similarly, the training and graduation standards for boot camp have not changed. While a useful tool, the ASVAB is just one means of measuring a candidate's aptitude and potential. The service will employ a holistic approach, evaluating all factors that ultimately determine one's success. CO/OICs are best positioned to assess whether a member has the ability and desire to succeed. They will evaluate factors such as performance, conduct, motivation, training, education, and experience when granting and endorsing waiver requests.

Over the past three years, over 300 merit-based waivers were granted annually. Attrition at nearly all A-school remains at or below previous levels, indicating that members with waivers graduate at the same rate as their peers. Additionally, ASVAB scores compared to E-4 evaluations show no correlation between a member's waiver status and overall performance as a third class petty officer.

The Coast Guard is also piloting a form designed to increase transparency and feedback in the waiver process. If a member is denied an ASVAB waiver, they will receive feedback and an action plan via the Path to Success Form to help them either increase their ASVAB scores or increase their chances of obtaining a waiver in the future.

These changes increase a member's opportunity to attend their A-school of choice. More options equate to more opportunity and increased job satisfaction. This change will provide 79% of current members more choices when selecting an A-school. In order to attract and retain the greatest talent for a Ready, Relevant, and Responsive workforce, the Coast Guard must be more adaptive with our policies. Moving forward, the Coast Guard will be more agile in using data driven changes to adjust scores, both up and down, as the needs of the Service continue to evolve.

Questions about these updates can be directed to the appropriate rating force master chief.

Resources:

  • Performance, Training, and Education Manual, COMDTINST M1500.10C
  • Changes to Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Requirements for A-school Attendance ACN 112/21
  • ASVAB and AFCT Waiver Request Procedures Process Guide
  • ASVAB Updated FAQs