Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Engineer Professional Advisory Committee

The Commissioned Corps

Welcome to the United States Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps Engineer Professional Advisory Committee Recruitment and Retention Website and thank you for your interest in the Commissioned Corps. Portions of the information contained here are available via the main PHS website ( that you are strongly encouraged to visit. This page attempts to clarify some information and hopefully improve your understanding of opportunities for Engineers seeking full time employment as a Commissioned Corps officer, or participating in the Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program.

Engineering Career Opportunities

The U.S. Public Health Service employs engineers from diverse backgrounds and engineering disciplines. Opportunities with PHS provide for career progression and growth as an officer and a professional. Whether they are engaged in planning, design, project management, research, or technical consultations, PHS engineers have unique opportunities to advance the health and well-being of humankind. If you desire challenging and unique opportunities to practice your profession, advance your career, and perform humanitarian service, then look closely at the engineering opportunities offered by the United States Public Health Service!

The Commissioned Corps is a critical component of the largest public health program in the world. Engineering officers serve throughout the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as other non-HHS federal agencies.

HHS Agencies

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

          - View presentation: Engineers at the CDC and ATSDR

Food and Drug Administration

          - View presentation: Engineers at the FDA

Health Resources and Services Administration

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Indian Health Service

          - View presentation: Introduction to IHS

National Institutes of Health

          - View presentation: Engineers at the NIH

Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health

Office of the Secretary

Program Support Center

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

 Non-HHS agencies

District of Columbia Commission on Mental Health Services

Environmental Protection Agency

Federal Bureau of Prisons

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National Park Service

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Defense

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Division of Immigration Health Services (DIHS)

U.S. Coast Guard

U.S. Marshals Service

 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.

Engineer Professional Advisory Committee Connectors Program

The EPAC Connector Program was established in 2015, following the Engineer Placement and Advisory Program, as an initiative within the Recruitment and Retention subcommittee to assist potential Commission Corps Candidates through the appointment process. EPAC Connectors are current Commissioned Corps engineer officers who volunteer to work directly with candidates. They answer general appointment questions, provide insight into engineering within the Commissioned Corps and advise candidates with job searches. Connectors defer to the Division of Commissioned Corps Personnel and Readiness on specific questions related to medical eligibility, security clearance, or application status. Connectors provide informal mentorship to potential candidates as they navigate through the appointment process. The EPAC Connector Program also tracks candidate application milestones to determine obstacles and help improve the Commissioned Corps appointment process. While candidates are not obligated to participate in the Connectors program, the information gathered allows EPAC to better assist you and other engineers to be appointed into PHS Commissioned Corps.

Please contact the EPAC Recruitment and Retention subcommittee at with any questions.

Opportunities and Support for Engineer Officers

EPAC Welcome Package

New Officer Guide

USPHS Commissioned Corps Engineering Officer's Recruiting Guidance

Career Development Resources

The Engineer Professional Advisory Committee

Best Kept Secrets - Engineer Category


The Commissioned Officers Association

The Society of American Military Engineers

Association of Military Surgeons of the United States

The Military Officers Association of America

National Society of Professional Engineers

Page Last Modified on 11/14/2019

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