Thursday, June 16, 2016

Nuclear Power School and Nuclear Prototype Instructors

While most of this site's discussion is focused on the Submarine and Surface Warfare career paths, there are also extremely important and rewarding jobs as Instructors which we offer.  I'll give a summary of the positions, a discussion of what is the same and what is different about the Instructor positions from Operational (Subs/Surface) positions, and a discussion of similarities and differences between the two Instructor options.  We conduct orientation trips to Charleston, SC approximately quarterly to provide an opportunity for interested students to get a better feel for what each position involves and to discuss various aspects with current instructors.

Nuclear Power School Instructor:

All Officers and enlisted personnel that will serve on Naval Nuclear Propulsion Plants begin their service with 6 months of intensive technical training at Naval Nuclear Propulsion Training Command --- aka Nuclear Power School (NPS) in Charleston, SC.  In order to ensure that these students gain the requisite knowledge to go forth and be proficient operators and leaders we need exceptional individuals to teach them.  There are two major sources of NPS Instructors:  NUPOC and nuclear-trained personnel who performed at a high level in the operational fleet and have been temporarily reassigned to NPS to teach.  The role of NPS Instructor is focused on the teaching of the academic theory in a classroom environment.

Nuclear Propulsion Training Unit (NPTU) Instructor:

After completing NPS, sailors and Officers are sent to one of the four NPTUs (colloquially "Prototypes") which are split between Ballston Spa, NY (just outside Saratoga Springs) and Charleston, SC.  All Prototype Instructors accessed through the NUPOC Program will work at the two Charleston prototypes (the NY prototypes are run by the Dept. of Energy and Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory).  At prototype personnel are taught to apply the theoretical knowledge they gained at Nuclear Power School to an operational Nuclear Reactor.  Much of this continues to be book learning dedicated to learning how individual systems and components operate, however it gradually shifts to a focus on actually performing operations that are commonly performed at sea.  In this way, sound practices and experience are built up in a controlled environment.

As a Prototype Instructor you have several roles, but most significantly you will provide oversight, guidance and evaluations to Officer students who are learning to stand watch in charge of the reactors -- as Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW).  You will also have responsibility for a division of enlisted instructors (mechanics, electricians, electronics technicians or engineering laboratory technicians) along with their associated training and maintenance, much as would be the case on an operational submarine or carrier.

How These Positions are the Same as Submarines/Surface:

- Pay while in NUPOC is the same
- Commissioned as a Naval Officer upon graduation
- Pay structure and promotion structure are the same during 5-year contract
- Can join NUPOC up to 30 months prior to graduation
- Earn GI Bill/Yellow Ribbon and other VA benefits
- Time in NUPOC and as instructor counts towards Navy Retirement at 20 years

How Both Instructor Positions Differ from Submarines/Surface:

- No $15,000 bonus for getting accepted
- Attend Officer Development School (ODS) after graduation, not OCS
- Permanently stationed in Charleston, SC (anecdotally, my favorite east coast city save Annapolis)
- Higher minimum academic standards
- Must have a technical major to be eligible
- At end of 5-year commitment have option to leave Navy or "laterally transfer" to another community in the Navy (ie. Engineering Duty Officer, Human Resources, Intelligence, Cryptology, Meteorology, Medical, Civil Engineering Corps, etc)
- Opportunities exist to complete advanced degrees simultaneous with job (Sub/SWO usually must wait until shore duty based on available time)

How NPS differs from NPTU:

- NPS has standard working hours while NPTU operates based on a shift schedule
  • Like civilian reactors, the day is split into shifts so some times you might be working odd hours at NPTU.  Some like this, others do not.  
- NPS is almost exclusively theory-based classroom instruction
  • NPTU has classroom components, but much of it is practical/applied training
- NPTU Instructor operating time can be applied towards a PE license
  • NPS Instructor time cannot, though you can get teaching certifications which help to open doors to academia -- especially when coupled with the ability to pursue advanced degrees in Charleston and have the GI Bill to use later.


  1. Hi Brian,

    What would generally be the cutoff GPA for consideration for the instructor position, I feel like I read it was a 3.4 but I haven't been able to find that information again?

    I'm in my junior year and my major is Math. I've gotten an A in both my physics classes, Calculus 3, and Mathematical Structures, but only a B in my lower level math and technical courses so my GPA is about a 3.4. My Math SAT was a 680 if that helps at all.

    I know nothing is definitive until my recruiter gets my academic prescreen done, but would I have a reasonable shot at getting an interview?

    1. There’s a shot. I’m not sure it’s 50-50, but it’s >0. Two significant questions will be what school and what is the trend?

    2. Arizona State University. I honestly don't know if we've got a great reputation or not, but I believe we're one of the the largest universities.

      The trend is upwards, but I pretty much just went from Making mostly B's my first few years to making mostly A's recently. So not a major change but I've never gotten below a B.

      Thanks for your help.

  2. aSU probably doesn’t help or hurt. The trend will reflect positively— tell your recruiter to explicitly note that on the prescreen