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Nothing projects naval power and capability more instantaneously than the U.S. Navy’s Fleet of nuclear powered aircraft carriers. Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) with advanced nuclear training oversee the propulsion systems and personnel aboard these multibillion-dollar, megaton cities at sea.
Aircraft carriers are at the core of ongoing missions because of their potential to carry so much of the Navy’s capabilities forward. Nuclear Surface Warfare Officers ensure that Sailors in their department maintain and operate the ship’s complex systems safely and efficiently.
Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) form the backbone of Fleet leadership. In this role you could serve as Commanding Officer over an elite crew and be an authority in every aspect of your Navy assignments. Your responsibilities could include:
There are no part-time jobs available for this career track.
Nuclear Surface Warfare Officers are exposed to a variety of different work environments, from academic settings, to training on prototype units, to sea tours and shore assignments. The time spent on conventional ships and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers involves deployments of several months at a time. Fully qualified members may go on to hold positions that involve instructing, advising, consulting, recruiting or commanding surface ships.
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 Surface Warfare 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.
Then comes assignment on a first sea tour as a Division Officer on a conventional ship, commanding a team of Sailors responsible for anything from electronics to weapons to engineering systems. Here, Officers work toward Surface Warfare qualification.
After their first sea tour, Officers will attend 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.
Next comes Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU), often referred to as Prototype. 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.
The next phase of training is a second sea tour as a division Officer in the engineering plant of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. This tour alternates between deployments, patrols, days in port, maintenance, local operations and leave.
After completing their sea tours, Surface Warfare Officers may fill positions anywhere from Nuclear Power School to Prototype to other jobs ashore. They 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: to one day command their own surface ship.
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 Surface Warfare 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. And beyond undergraduate and formal Navy training and education, Surface Warfare Officers (Nuclear) can also pursue additional graduate education by:
There’s also potential to pursue international and federal certifications, as well as state nuclear licensures.
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.