Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Engineer Professional Advisory Committee

Engineering Graduates Seeking Full-Time Employment

Qualified engineers can apply to the Commissioned Corps during annual one-month open windows. Please visit for current application schedules and information for applying to the Corps. Former participants in the Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (COSTEP) are eligible to apply at any time as long as they meet the qualifying criteria.

To be called to active duty into the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service the applicant must gain employment in one of the agencies identified above. Applicants frequently opt to accept positions within HHS or partnering non-HHS agencies as a Civil Service employee and then convert to the Commissioned Corps. This approach allows candidates to begin their professional careers while completing the USPHS boarding process. A portion of the current engineer vacancies eligible for Commissioned Corps appointment can be found here: PHS Engineer Vacancy List.

Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (COSTEP)

The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Junior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (JRCOSTEP) is a program for students. The JRCOSTEP program is a temporary Federal job lasting anywhere from 1 month to 4 months with no future service obligation. Application to the JRCOSTEP program is typically restricted to two-month open window periods. Please visit for the most up to date information regarding application schedules.

JRCOSTEP externships vary depending on your interests, the agency, and location, but each job provides valuable career experience. While many agencies are eligible to employ JRCOSTEPs, the Indian Health Service Division of Sanitation Facilities Construction (DSFC) hires the majority. The IHS DSFC constructs water and sewer infrastructure on Indian reservations and provides operation and maintenance training to operators. JRCOSTEPs are placed with experienced engineers and frequently conduct design work, water sampling, equipment testing, and construction inspection. The work with IHS is often outdoors in remote and rural environments.

Students receive the basic pay and allowances of an Ensign Officer (pay grade O-1) and receive some reimbursement for relocation expenses to their worksite. Pay is adjusted with dependency status, local housing costs and duration of prior military service and JRCOSTEPs receive the same health care and leave benefits as the military, and have access to military base facilities. While the PHS is a uniform service, JRCOSTEP engineers are not typically expected to purchase and wear the uniform. While JRCOSTEPs are responsible for finding and paying for housing, local supervisors can often help students find affordable temporary housing.

The JRCOSTEP program requires that students be US citizens and enrolled in an ABET accredited professional engineering program (engineering technology is not applicable). The JRCOSTEP program requires that the student have completed a minimum 2 years of study by their start date.

Page Last Modified on 4/10/2020

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