From a CG Cadet undergoing sea phase training:
Everything on here about the Canadian Coast Guard College(CCGC) is about right, let me just throw in some facts to replace some of the speculations.
The CCGC takes applications up until January of each hiring year, and there are no age restrictions. A few years before I joined, the college graduated a man in his fifties. In my year, the average age, out of 40 cadets, is 27. After the application deadline passes, the college will send out dates for aptitude tests around late February. Out of everyone that passes the aptitude tests, they select an unspecified number to interview sometime in late April. You will also be asked to take a medical and fill out all the forms for security checks. By early June, you should get a conditional acceptance phone call or a rejection letter. Once your security check clears, they'll call and arrange a date to fly you, at their expense, to the college. You'll receive all the standard information packages etc... that go along with joining any other college from out of province.
The deal is 47 months of training in return for 48 months of work. The divide for the engineering program is: 12 months at the college, 4 months at sea, 16 months at the college, 5 months at sea, 10 months at the college. If you decide to stop working for the CCG before your 4 months have elapsed, you are required to pay a prorated amount of your allowance pay(more about that further down) back to the feds. You are provided with room and board on campus as well as one trip home (at christmas) per year. You get 2 weeks off at christmas and 3 weeks off in the summer, subject to your training requirements (sea phase can push those numbers around, depending on each ship's individual crew change dates). If you so desire, you are permitted to live off-campus provided you get to morning divisions on time and are present for your duty-shifts.
The pay is a fixed rate 'allowance' that you receive every two weeks. The amount gradually increases from first to fourth year. A first year cadet will receive approximately 120$ net every two weeks. During sea phase, you are provided with an extra allowance of about 1000$ per month. Aside from that, the college will pay for all of your training, including books, 100$/year for binders, pens, etc..(you have to buy through their account with corporate express, but they have a massive discount). After the first year, you will have your ROC-M(radio) license, your advanced marine first responder certs, and the top level M.E.D.s.
You will also get the full benefits of a public servant. Medical coverage for you and your family, dental coverage, you start paying into your government pension right away and you become a guild member.
When you graduate, you will have a Bachelor's in Marine Technology(??) and your 4th class motors. The real deal is your exemptions. As you gather your sea time, you won't have to be studying for upcoming technical drawings for 2nd, or your thermal dynamics or anything, that'll all be done.
The big number that keeps getting thrown at us is "50% of the officers will have retired by 2012", or something to that effect. Essentially, you'll get a lot of sea time, fast, so you can well expect to have enough sea time to write your 2nds by the time your 4 years of commitment are done.
With all the facts out of the way, here is my opinion after my first year. It's worth it. Personally, I didn't further my career for 9 years after getting out of high school, so 4 years at the college was a no-brainer, by the numbers. You just have to be prepared to put up with a lot of BS. You are required to be in uniform, properly ironed etc... You are inspected at morning divisions, you have to (try to) march, your rooms are inspected. You have 40 hours of classes per week, and then you have a boat load of assignments and projects and studying to do on your off time (by third term, expect to be drawing at least 10 hours a week).
You have to work a duty shift about once a month, patrolling halls etc.... In order to satisfy the requirements of the useless bachelor's degree, you have to take some pretty ridiculous courses (communications, gym...), all of which sound better on paper than they are. And the food isn't the best.... But, it doesn't matter, because you've got your mates, you're all in it together and the cadet-run campus bar Chez Nous is open and selling as cheap as the law permits(2.50/drink). I don't regret joining, and I've made a lot of what I expect to be life-long friends. Although I haven't tried to get into the marine engineering sector any other way, I'd recommend this method to any of my friends.
Really though, aside from the free education, the benefits, and any other good reason to join, I joined because of the job. I wanted to work for an organization that wasn't in it for the money. We aren't out there for profit, we're out there for Canada. And we're not getting paid as much as the commercial sector, but we do our best to keep our waterways open, protect our EEZ from harmful commercial activity, and keep sailors in Canadian waters safe. I don't imagine there any many feelings better than coming home after being part of a team that rescued people from a hazardous situation.
Hope that's cleared up any questions about the CCGC.
Good luck with your hunt!
Officer Cadet Michael Paynter
The college year starts when most education facilities do, last week of August.
They are currently renovating the college campus in order to accommodate an increase of cadets to meet the demand. In 2011, they expect to take on 64 new cadets. I think that it's still 48 for 2010, but it may be higher.