Going from driven student to inspiring teacher Naval Nuclear Power School Instructor

For both the college degreed and the non-college degreed professionals working in the field of nuclear power in America’s Navy, complex thinking is second nature. But helping to mentor these individuals are the Naval Nuclear Power School Instructors who teach nuclear-trained Officers and Enlisted personnel the theories and fundamentals behind the design and operation of Navy nuclear reactors and power plants.

You could help shape and share a comprehensive curriculum that delves into everything from science to math to engineering. So if teaching is your calling, and you want to be part of one of the most prestigious communities in America’s Navy, consider a career as a Naval Nuclear Power School Instructor.

Job Description

Atomic physics. Thermodynamics. Integral calculus. Some students live for this kind of challenging subject matter. And among them are those rare few who find that teaching the material can be even more fulfilling than studying it. In a sense, their ability to apply what they learn is magnified through the many individuals they go on to inspire.

Today’s Naval Nuclear Power School Instructors train the future Navy nuclear community through a technologically advanced curriculum that is taught with a sole purpose in mind: to prepare Navy Enlisted Sailors and Officers for their work in the fast-paced, competitive nuclear power field.

Specific Responsibilities

Specifically, Naval Nuclear Power School is a 24-week course in science and technology, designed to provide theoretical background knowledge of nuclear power. Naval Nuclear Power Instructors provide detailed knowledge of how to work the key aspects of a pressurized-water Navy nuclear power plant, which include:

  • Reactor core nuclear principles
  • Heat transfer and fluid systems
  • Plant chemistry and materials
  • Mechanical and electrical systems
  • Radiological control

For years, the Naval Nuclear Power School has been widely regarded as one of the most difficult academic programs in the country. In an instructor role, you will be at the heart of a world-class program and a legacy of excellence. Earning credentials and satisfaction that are impressive even by the standards of the most dedicated educators.

Work Environment

Like the nuclear propulsion field itself, the working environment at Naval Nuclear Power School (NNPS) in Charleston, South Carolina, is both challenging and rewarding. Much of your work will take place in an academic setting. You will study the same curriculum that you eventually teach, and facilitate the same collaborative learning environment that you first experienced in your own training.

Typically, there is one instructor per subject on duty each academic night, allowing students requiring additional assistance on their homework or studies to call upon you for mentoring. It is also important to note that much of the curriculum is highly classified and demands the utmost discretion.

Training and Advancement

Upon graduation from college, the formal training process of becoming an Officer in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program is officially underway. For those pursuing a Naval Nuclear Power School Instructor position, the first step is Officer Development School (ODS) – a five-week course in Newport, Rhode Island, that provides a comprehensive and intense introduction to the responsibilities of being a Navy Staff Corps Officer.

Upon completion of ODS, newly commissioned Officers move on to receive the advanced training that is at the core of Navy Nuclear Propulsion. Naval Nuclear Power School Instructors can expect to spend the next four years teaching future nuclear-trained Officers and Enlisted personnel the theory and fundamentals behind the design and operation of Navy nuclear propulsion plants, after undergoing the same advanced curriculum and training that they will expertly instruct.

Naval Nuclear Power School (NNPS)
Through Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC), Officers attend Nuke Power School in Charleston, South Carolina. This four-month comprehensive course of intensive study provides the foundation of knowledge necessary for a theoretical understanding of key areas involved in nuclear propulsion.

While at NNPS, Officers assume an intense workload focused on the subjects they will eventually teach. Subjects that could range from mathematics and physics to thermodynamics and electrical engineering.

Upon completion of NNPS, the student becomes the teacher. Power School Instructors then take the lead in administering the technologically advanced curriculum, working closely with both the Officer and Enlisted personnel who come through their classrooms.

Education Opportunities

For qualifying college graduates, Navy Nuclear Propulsion is a door leading to industry leadership and lifelong learning. Groundbreaking research and high-level civilian collaborations. Work that extends far beyond the military to impact the world at large.

For current undergraduate students who meet the prerequisite background, especially those pursuing preferred majors such as mathematics, engineering, physics or chemistry, there’s all of the above to look forward to – plus the chance to get paid while finishing school.

If accepted into the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) program as an aspiring Naval Nuclear Power School Instructor, you can:

  • Receive salary and benefits up to $168,300 and start receiving this funding up to 30 months prior to college graduation
  • Enjoy military health-care benefits while you are a student in the program

And once out of school, you’ll have a position waiting as a respected professional and Officer affiliated with one of the most accomplished nuclear programs on earth. Following the Naval Nuclear Power School Instructor path to an advanced education and accelerated hands-on experience like nowhere else.


Because of the exclusive nature of the NUPOC program and the magnitude of the responsibilities members will take on from a young age, requirements to become a candidate are comprehensive – and competition for acceptance is great.

The NUPOC program is open to both men and women. Beyond that, the following basic qualification criteria apply.

Age and Health
To be an eligible candidate, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be at least 19 years of age and less than 29 years of age at the time of commissioning – waivers up to age 35 may be available for Naval Nuclear Power School Instructors
  • Meet the physical standards of the Navy

Candidates must be graduates or students of an accredited college or university in the United States or in a United States territory pursuing a BS or MS (majoring in mathematics, engineering, physics, chemistry or other technical areas). Those still in school may apply as early as their sophomore year of college and must have:

  • Completed one academic year of calculus
  • Completed one academic year of calculus-based physics
  • A competitive GPA and a minimum grade of “B” in all technical courses

NUPOC Interview
All students who apply to the NUPOC program go through a rigorous screening process and are then selected for a personal interview with the Director of Naval Reactors in Washington, D.C.

The first part of the interview process focuses on technical questions from calculus, physics and other technical courses. The majority of the questions are from calculus and physics, and you may be asked questions from other topics in your major. This part of the interview process typically lasts 30–40 minutes and contains two to four major questions per interview.

The second part of the interview process involves meeting with Admiral John Richardson, the current director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program. During this interview, he will review your transcripts and the evaluations from your technical interviews, and he will assess your communication skills, interests and motivation for the program. Admiral Richardson personally selects all prospective Nuclear Officers.

VIP Tour
If you’re a qualified Nuclear Propulsion Officer candidate, the Navy offers a two-day VIP trip that allows you to immerse yourself in this world. Take a tour of Naval Nuclear Power School in Charleston, South Carolina. Interact with current and prospective Officers and ask questions. Learn about the rich history of the Navy and its nuclear program. This is a chance to learn firsthand what it may be like to launch your future as a Nuclear Officer in the Navy.

Download a NUPOC Application Checklist
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Download the Navy Recruiting Command’s NUPOC Study Guide
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After the Navy

What consistently sets those with experience in the Nuclear Navy apart is focused intellect with the ability to think outside the box. Unrelenting passion to answer the questions others find incomprehensible. And demonstrated leadership – whatever the challenge, whatever form it takes.

America’s Navy accelerates the development of those with intelligence, character and motivation and channels all that into real-world applications. Skills are nurtured. Creative problem solving is encouraged. Opportunities to grow and control the path your career takes are readily available. Whether it’s continuing education, world-class facilities or professional funding, the infrastructure is already in place.

After fulfilling a commitment of four years, you could use your invaluable experience to pursue any of a multitude of possibilities that await former Nuclear Officers in the civilian sector.