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Nuclear Submarine Officers are in charge of all that goes into driving, powering, arming and operating the Navy’s Fleet of attack, ballistic missile and guided missile submarines. The stealth technology and advanced warfare capabilities of these nuclear-powered vessels, magnified by the sheer aptitude of those at the helm, has led to years of successful conflict engagement and deterrence.
The Officers who man these $1.5 billion vessels are held to the highest of standards and have extraordinary roles and responsibilities. Only a select group of disciplined and committed Officers are given the opportunity to lead departments up to an entire crew, commanding some of the most technologically advanced equipment in the world.
Submarine Officers ensure that all systems run smoothly, which means they could be in charge of any of the following:
There are no part-time jobs available for this career track.
Submarine Officers are exposed to a variety of different work environments, from academic classroom settings, to training on prototype units, to sea tours and shore assignments. The time spent on submarines involves deployments of a few to several months at a time, requiring the obvious adjustment to life on a space-limited submarine. Learn more about life on a sub.
Submarine Officers must complete specific qualifications as part of their training during Fleet tours and are expected to pursue advanced education opportunities. Promotion opportunities are regularly available but competitive and based on performance. It’s also important to note that specialized training received and work experience gained in the course of service can lead to valuable credentialing and occupational opportunities in related fields.
Upon graduation from college, the formal training process of becoming an Officer in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program is officially underway. For those going the Submarine Officer (Nuclear) route, the first step is Officer Candidate School (OCS) – a 12-week course in Newport, R.I., that is tailored to train and prepare college graduates to become commissioned as Navy Line Officers.
Upon completion of OCS, newly commissioned Officers move on to receive the advanced training that is at the core of Navy Nuclear Propulsion, starting with Naval Nuclear Power School (NNPS) in Charleston, S.C. This 24-week graduate-level course of intensive study covers a variety of science and technology-based subjects from ordinary and partial differential equations, to thermodynamics to reactor dynamics. NNPS provides the foundation of knowledge necessary for a theoretical understanding of nuclear propulsion.
From there, Submarine Officers attend Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU), often referred to as Prototype, in either Charleston, S.C., or Ballston Spa, N.Y. This 26-week course involves hands-on training with several operational reactor prototypes. Here, Officers apply the concepts learned at Nuke Power School – studying systems and components of a nuclear propulsion plant and working with all the associated systems of a full-scale operating plant. The training culminates with qualification as Engineering Officer of the Watch.
Next comes Submarine Officer Basic Course (SOBC), a 12-week course located in New London, Conn. There, Officers learn all about submarine operations, including safety, damage control, seamanship and the responsibilities of leading an advanced submarine crew as a division Officer before reporting to an assigned submarine. Officers may receive an additional six weeks of advanced training through the strategic weapons system course at Trident Training Facilities in either Kings Bay, Ga., or Bangor, Wash.
Shore-based training ends with an assignment as a Division Officer on a submarine, managing a team of highly trained Enlisted Submariners. Officers work toward a personal submarine qualification program that culminates in being designated as “Qualified in Submarines,” earning the right to wear the coveted Gold Dolphins insignia and take on all the responsibilities that go with it. Typically, this is a three-year tour alternating between deployments, patrols, various ports of call around the world, as well as periods of time at home port conducting maintenance, training, local operations or taking leave.
After the first sea tour comes a shore assignment lasting approximately two to three years. During this period, Officers fill positions anywhere from Nuclear Power School to Prototype to Submarine School. Others may be selected to serve on high-level staffs, commands and strategic projects, or they may elect to work in recruitment positions or further their education at Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). The ultimate goal for many is to one day command their own submarine.
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 through the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) program.
Interested candidates should contact a local recruiter to discuss the opportunity to participate in a fleet visit to see if this career is right for you. The fleet visit is an all-expense paid 3-day trip to San Diego to visit an active Submarine and meet with currently serving Submarine Officers. There is no obligation, and these trips are held monthly.
If accepted into the NUPOC program as an aspiring Submarine Officer (Nuclear), you can:
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. Beyond undergraduate and formal Navy training and education, Submarine Officers (Nuclear) can also pursue additional graduate education by:
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 extensive and competition for acceptance is great.
The NUPOC program is open to both men and women. The following program qualification criteria apply.
To be an eligible candidate, you must:
Candidates must be graduates or students of an accredited college or university in the United States or in a United States territory pursuing a BA, BS or MS (preferably 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:
Learn more about the NUPOC program.
General qualifications may vary depending upon whether you’re currently serving, whether you’ve served before or whether you’ve never served before.