Thursday, June 9, 2016

NUPOC Program FAQs and Best Practices

** If you have a question that you feel has not been addressed here or is not being addressed by your recruiter (find yours here) please contact me via the comment section at the bottom of the page and I will attempt to address it either individually, by reaching out to your recruiter or by updating this post


Here are a few frequently asked questions from applicants that I will attempt to answer to the best of my ability:

1.  What do I need to Qualify for NUPOC?

Answer:  First a caveat: I'm overly simplifying here.   Having said that the baseline requirements to be eligible for NUPOC are (a) You are an American citizen (b) You either have or are on your way to completing (at least) a bachelor's degree (c) you have completed two semesters of Calculus and two semesters of Physics (d) you are between the ages of 19-29 (waivers are available up to age 35 depending on the circumstance --- ask your officer recruiter).

2.  What are the minimum academic standards to apply for NUPOC / How hard is it to be accepted into NUPOC?

Answer:  First off -- it never hurts to ask your Officer Recruiter to submit a "pre-screen" to see if you qualify.  Having said that, if you're below a 3.0 GPA you probably should save your time unless you're at Harvard/MIT/Stanford etc... and even then you should step up and raise it.  SAT Scores are not technically required because we get a trickle of prior-enlisted applicants who have not taken them, but if your SAT scores are below ~1200 that is likely to be looked askance at (especially if your GPA is marginal; also note that for the SAT we are most concerned about the math portion, and we ignore writing entirely).  I would recommend you take a peek at the profile of NUPOC Accessions which was posted about a week ago as a starting point.  A rough estimate could be the lower bound of the interquartile range less about 10%.

3.  Does College Prestige matter for my NUPOC application?

Answer: Yes. There is a tiered system that is used by our office and Naval Reactors which is not publicly accessible, but it is largely based on publicly available rankings of Universities such as US News and World Report, etc.  There is also some room for discretion by screeners.  So long as you are going to an accredited four-year institution and have good grades you should still apply if you're are interested -- School Prestige is a secondary consideration to performance.

4.  Does my Major matter?

Answer: Yes, but this is negotiable.  For example, I was an Economics Major at the Naval Academy but had taken the required technical courses and done well and easily met all other criteria.  Two interviews ago a Music Composition major was accepted (April 2016) -- this sort of thing is not the norm, but it is still fairly common.  For Instructor and NRE positions your major must be technical (Math/Science/Engineering), but for Submarines and Surface the focus on leadership and broader-spectrum academic ability is larger and if you are a non-technical major but have done well and have good test scores there is a high likelihood that you will be given an opportunity to interview.  You would still need to meet the minimum requirements of 2 semesters of Calculus and Physics --- talk to your officer recruiter for individual cases close to graduation where taking new classes is impossible.  In such instances, if the rest of an application is extremely impressive, waivers might be considered.

5.  Do my class choices matter?

Answer:  Yes.  Most importantly, get good grades in the classes you take.  If all your classes sound like 'underwater basket weaving' or 'Argentinian Women's Studies' it's obviously not going to help your application.  Having said that, as long as you're taking serious coursework and you meet the base requirements for the NUPOC Program of 2 semesters of Calculus and 2 semesters of Physics you can apply.  Nuclear-specific coursework is encouraged if offered at your school but will not give you an explicit advantage.

6. Do my extracurriculars matter?

Answer:  Yes. We're looking for LEADERs and Engineers.  We don't just want mousy brainiacs.  The "Whole Person Concept" applies, and I've seen several people be accepted by the Admiral despite shaky interviews because of very strong personal presence and extracurriculars.  Having said that, this is clearly secondary to the technical/academic ability piece.

7.  When can I apply for NUPOC?

Answer:  For Submarines / Surface / Prototype Instructor / Power School Instructor you can attend an interview in DC up to 30 months prior to graduation.  Thus, for a May graduate, an applicant could attend an interview the December of their Sophomore year at the earliest.  You can start the application process a few months before that obviously to ensure that you are ready to attend an interview as early as possible.  For Naval Reactors Engineer the earliest is 18 months prior to graduation which would work out to the same month but of your Junior year.

8.  How long does a NUPOC application take?

Answer:  Much of this depends on how quickly you complete the paperwork you will be given by your officer recruiter.  If you have medical issues that need to be resolved this can also extend the process a good deal (if you are medically disqualified but interested in Naval Nuclear Power, consider the Civilian Prime Contractors listed towards the bottom right of the homepage: BPMI, BMPC, Naval Nuclear Laboratories). A couple of years ago the average application time was about 6-7 months.  We've been able to reduce that average to about 2-3 months and are continuing to look for ways to streamline the process.

9.  How do I get onto a list for the next Interview in DC?

Answer:  I make the list monthly based on (a) how many spots we have available for the interview -- usually 30-35, (b) what designators/positions are most in demand by the Navy (most Nuclear Officers are Submarine officers so the majority of our interview spots go to them) (c) who has their applications completed.  To expound a bit, to have your application completed for purposes of being ready to interview in DC you need the following items to be done:

     1. Complete your "Program Documents" and submit them to your recruiter.
     2. Complete a physical at MEPS and supply any additional documentation required as needed to obtain medical approval.
     3.  Complete your "SF86" and submit your fingerprints to the Office of Personnel Management in order to commence your security investigation.

In addition to this, in most cases we require applicants to take the trip to San Diego (the "NVIP") to see a Submarine and Surface Ship and interact with Officers in positions they might one day have.  This is able to be waived in specific circumstances, but only rarely.  The trip is free, informative, and does not involve any sort of obligation, so it's a silly thing to try to avoid anyways.  Most people like what they see, but a minority do come away having decided not to pursue the program any further.

10. What is the pass rate in DC? 

Answer:  Averaged over the past several years the pass rate has been right at 90%.  In the past 6 months, this has trended upward slightly, but there can be a good bit of variation from month-to-month.  I've seen it be as high as 96% some months and as low as 80% in others.  Study hard and make sure you aren't in the minority!  (for perspective, the most recent interview on June 22nd had 33 applicants of which 31 were accepted.  This was slightly above average, but in the normal range)

11. Is the Navy NUPOC Program a Scholarship?

Answer: No.  While the purpose of the NUPOC Program is to pay you while in school to let you focus on your studies (and make the program appealing to elite Engineering and other college students so that we only bring in the best applicants), it does not function as a scholarship.  Your pay will go directly into a checking account twice a month and nothing will be given directly to the school.  You can use this to pay for tuition or other expenses as you see fit.

12. Is NUPOC a better deal than NROTC scholarships?  What are the differences?

Answer: It really depends on your situation and your goals going forward.  Below are the advantages as I see them.

Advantages of NROTC scholarships over the NUPOC Program:

     1. Unlike NUPOC which you can enter a maximum of 30 months prior to graduation, you can start an NROTC program when you arrive at a college.
     2. As an NROTC midshipman, you have the option to choose Submarine / Surface Nuclear options but are also able to pursue non-nuclear options such as Pilot, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Naval Flight Officer and Non-Nuclear Surface Warfare.
     3. In some cases, the cost of your education which is covered by the NROTC scholarship will exceed the amount of pay you would get from NUPOC.

Advantages of the NUPOC Program over NROTC Scholarships:

     1.  Time in NUPOC counts as active duty service
          a. Earn Leave (vacation) days at a rate of 30/year while in school which accumulate
          b. NUPOC time counts towards Retirement (NROTC time does not)
     2. NUPOC is the ONLY path to a job as a Power School or Prototype Instructor
     3. NUPOC requires no special classes, uniforms or drilling once accepted (ROTC does)
     4. NUPOC time counts towards GI Bill benefits
          a. NROTC time doesn't count and actually delays receipt of GI Bill benefits by an additional five years (so you would not receive these benefits in full until 8 years after commissioning).
          b. Naval Academy works the same way as NROTC in this regard
     5. NUPOC pay is more flexible in that it comes to you personally and not directly to your University.
     6. NUPOC allows you to select a particular job immediately upon acceptance to the program, while ROTC does not permit you to choose until your Senior year.

In summary, looking at the short term monetary benefits in a vacuum, the determination as to which is better depends on the cost of tuition and resultant size of your NROTC scholarship vs. your NUPOC Program pay.  Zooming out and looking at the big picture, the other benefits of NUPOC significantly outweigh those of ROTC in most cases, but you should take the time to examine your specific circumstances.  One big caveat, however: NUPOC is only a good deal if you want to do one of the positions we offer (seems obvious, right?!).  If you're interested in the Navy but lukewarm about the Nuclear jobs that we offer and think that Pilot might be more up your alley, then NROTC is probably the ticket.

13. I was excited to do NUPOC but I can't because I can't get my medical clearance (or some other reason).  What are my options?

Answer:  There are a variety of reasons you might be unable to pursue the NUPOC program.  This answer will assume that you meet the academic profile to be considered.  Given that, the most common reason you might not be able to complete an application and go to interview is an issue at MEPs obtaining medical clearance.  If this happens to you, but you are still interested in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, I would recommend you look at the opportunities at our civilian laboratories and design/production facilities, Naval Nuclear Laboratories, and BPMI.

14.  I went to the interview, but was not accepted.  What can I do?  Can I reinterview later?

Answer:  We hope and expect that everyone we bring to DC will be accepted, otherwise we would not bring you that month and would allow you to study longer (for the record, you can always delay to a later interview and should never feel pressure to go a particular month from our office or your recruiter). The reality, however, is that not everyone passes.  In some circumstances, the Admiral will say "No" at the interview, but will leave the door open for you to come back at a set point in the future, for example after another semester or year of classes.  This is most common with applicants early in their academic career who he sees potential in but had some shaky technical interviews, but can happen to anyone.  If you are invited to come back, this will be communicated to you in DC.  Otherwise, the door is shut to second chances at an interview.

Having said that, you are still encouraged to pursue the opportunities at our civilian contractors linked at the right and above in the answer to number 13.  Additionally, you could still pursue opportunities as a Naval Officer in a non-Nuclear community such as Pilot, Naval Flight Officer, Surface Warfare, Navy Civil Engineering Corps and others.  Most of the benefits discussed on this page of being a Nuclear Officer also apply to these other communities, though your actual job would obviously be different.  If you met our screening to come to interview in DC, you are likely to be highly competitive for these alternative options.

15.  Does NUPOC have internships?  I'd be more interested in those b/c I'm still far from graduation.

Answer: Yes and no.  There are a few internships and fellowships available through the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (linked at right) such as SULI and a few positions with our civilian design/research laboratories.  The application processes for these are all separate from NUPOC.

The important thing to keep in mind here is that NUPOC will NOT preclude you from doing outside jobs / co-ops / internships / research while you complete your degree.  These could be with us, or outside firms as you see fit.  If you're getting paid in this role that has no impact on your NUPOC pay -- it just means you're receiving two paychecks.  The only time we would ask you to steer clear of activities outside of school is if you are overextending yourself and your academics are clearly suffering as a result.  You should also be forthright with firms you might work about your post-graduation commitments.

16.  If NUPOC is so awesome, why don't more people do it?  

Answer:  First, for perspective, quite a few actually do.  Over 300 applicants attend interviews each year for the NUPOC program.

After that, the three key constraints are (a) building awareness among the target audience, (b) Overcoming the "different" factor, and (c) high competitive standards for the program mean many people who want to pursue it are ineligible.

No one can apply for a program that they don't know about, and there is some initial hesitation to pursue a path that is very different than most of the alternatives applicants might be considering.  On balance, I think the differences for NUPOC are a huge positive, but it takes time and research for individuals to determine if they agree with my assessment in their own unique circumstances.  I also built this website to lower the barrier to entry for finding information about the program, as previously there was no compiled resource.  It is my hope that by making it easy for people to research the program it will facilitate an informed decision to (or not to) pursue an application.

17. What are the downsides of NUPOC?

Answer:  It depends on the position that you are seeking, but I'll give my general take with respect to submarines (my path in the program) --- again with the caveat that this is one man's opinion and intended only as food for thought.  I'm not going to discuss the many positives here because there's quite a bit of discussion of them elsewhere on the site.  I do think they strongly outway any downsides, but this discussion may be valuable for you.

(a) (After graduation) The job is genuinely hard.  Not every single day is filled with mind-wracking challenges, but you will frequently be exposed to new environments, given significant responsibility over people, programs, and systems, and there can be periods of long hours and a lot of stress.  This is especially true while you are qualifying (learning how to do your job when you show up on the submarine), preparing for major inspections or operational examinations, or leading dynamic missions overseas.  I don't really consider the difficulty to be a downside (few things of value are easy, in my experience), but it depends on your perspective.

(b) (If you select Submarines / Surface) Sometimes you will be gone for training or missions.  This is a minority of the time you are attached to the submarine (for me it was ~35% in total) or surface ship, but it's not insignificant.  In most cases, you still have contact via email to friends and loved ones, but if you are on a critical mission overseas where transmitting messages could give away your location, this could be curtailed for a period as well.  I didn't mind this aspect much, and I actually found being at sea to be comfortable and relaxing after I settled into my routine after a couple of days, but this is clearly a difference.

(c) "Duty".  Unlike an office job, not every single person goes home at the end of the day. The enlisted crew (you won't be in this group) is split up into duty sections which rotate and one "section" of sailors remain onboard throughout the night.  At least one and sometimes two officers will stay to be in charge of the Sub/ship and these sailors should something go wrong.  In this role, you are responsible for the submarine and are the Commanding Officer's direct representative.

You are not "working" the whole time.  You're basically there to be the go-to leader if a major event happens.  You also tour the submarine before bed to ensure that nothing is out of the ordinary. Otherwise, you can read, sleep, study, play video games, watch TV, etc -- but you're doing it on the submarine that night.

18. Does the NUPOC program value "diversity"? Do race or gender quotas exist?

In line with the broader military, we do seek a diverse pool of applicants that mirrors the population of the country we serve.  Having said that, diversity never takes precedence over the objective qualification standard that all applicants must meet in order to be accepted.  In all cases, the officer next to you once you are commissioned in the NUPOC program will have gone through the exact same process as you and met the same standard.  We do actively participate in programs with NSBE, AISES, SHPE, SWE, etc, to find qualified applicants of all backgrounds, and we are always looking for ways to build awareness of the program to all qualified potential applicants.

There are some gender limits, but these have no bearing on required qualifications and are purely a function of logistical realities -- for example, Submarine Officer positions only became available to females in the past 5 years and less than half of the 70+ operational submarines have been converted to accommodate both genders.  As such, the number of female Submarine Officer positions is quite limited, but growing gradually as more are converted.

19.  I heard that I can't travel abroad if I'm in NUPOC.  Is this true?

No, that is not true.  I've personally visited over 20 countries while on active duty (about 1/3 were with the Navy, the rest for pleasure on my own dime).  There may be places that you can't go due to concerns with your security clearance or your safety (Iran, Iraq, Syria, China, Russia, Mali, Libya, Egypt, North Korea --- probably off the table for starters), but travel is absolutely permitted.  Once you are accepted, you will need to discuss pending travel plans and will likely have to submit a "chit" which is basically a formal notification of where you are going to be and a request that it be approved, and you will need to watch a couple of basic safety training videos online, but all in all the process is fairly painless.  If you have specific questions and are already in the process of applying you should ask your recruiter.

20.  I'm trying to study for my upcoming interviews, but the list of study topics on this site is vague and doesn't have example problems or answers on it.  How should I focus my studies?  

It's true that the list of study topics (see link on right side of this page) is fairly vague and does not include specific practice questions.  This is on purpose and is the result of specific guidance we have from Naval Reactors.  Having said that, I can provide some general guidance / thoughts on how best to prepare:

(a) Take advantage of individuals who you may know that have already been to an interview.  Pick their mind and see if they have any lessons learned.  You might also practice a couple of interviews with them.

(b) Master your core Calculus and Physics topics.  These classes are prerequisites to apply and are by far the most commonly asked questions during interviews.  Once you are comfortable with these topics then delve into technical aspects of your major and the other topics noted on the list of study topics (buoyancy, electrical circuits, thermodynamics, chemistry, etc).

(c) Review other study material.  Open courseware from MIT, KhanAcademy, YouTube videos walking through technical questions, NUPOC study guides compiled by various universities who have had many applicants come through the interview process, etc.

If you follow this guidance and devote the appropriate amount of time to being prepared for the interviews you should be well-positioned to be successful in DC.  Remember, however, that technically any coursework that you've taken is fair game to be asked about.  If you have an anomalously poor grade in a particular course one of your interviewers may ask a question from that material also.

21.  Do I get BAH and BAS during the training at OCS, Power School, and Prototype?  Or does that not start until after I am done with those training periods?  

As discussed separately on this site, your pay while in NUPOC consists of your "base pay", "BAS", and"BAH".  Once you report to OCS or ODS in Newport, RI, you will have your food and lodging provided free of cost until you graduate, so your food and housing allowances are suspended for the 2-3 months you are there (BAS/BAH respectively).  They resume as soon as you graduate (at the O1 paygrade instead of E6/E7 before starting OCS) and this will continue through the rest of your Navy career.

You will have the option in some cases to live on Navy-provided housing which is "free" but negates your BAH.  I never did this (or even seriously considered it) because it was always easy to find what I considered to be much more appealing options (ie. Beach > Navy Base) for less than the total BAH amount and thereby bank a substantial sum each month.  I'm just mentioning it because it's an option.  If you meet me in DC, feel free to ask about housing options in Charleston and afterwards.


As I indicated, if there are additional questions related to any aspect of the NUPOC Program that you have which are not addressed here and you are not getting satisfactory answers from your recruiter please feel free to contact me at the portal at the bottom of this site.


  1. Hi, thanks for this site. I'm crossposting this from, hope that's okay. Have a couple questions that I'm still not clear on.

    I'm currently a rising senior looking at NUPOC/nuke officer. I'm an economics major with a minor in math (calc 1-3, linear algebra, also did Analysis), and gpa is 3.86, but I haven't taken any physics classes.

    I know the program asks for 1 year of calc and 1 year of calc based physics, but my question is, is this a strict requirement in the sense that the navy needs to see the physics classes on my transcript? I ask because I'll have the time this semester to self-study the material on the NUPOC study guide, but I don't have enough credits to take the physics classes proper, except maybe at a community college after graduation perhaps.

    Last, I would want to go sub; I notice from this site that sub and SWO nuke are the only ones where a technical major is not required, but I think sub would be the one for me.

    Thanks for your help,


    1. Ben,

      I'm glad you are finding this to be a helpful resource. I'm also glad you're leaning towards Subs... it was my choice also so I am quite biased!

      Regarding your question regarding physics, it is sometimes waived but that is on a case by case basis. The fact that you are in your last year makes it more likely, but you really just need to reach out to your school's recruiter and ask for a pre-screen. For what it is worth, I am optimistic that your case would be given a thumbs up based on your GPA, but I can't be certain.

      Cheers from Bali,

    2. Thanks. My recruiter responded:

      "Nuclear officers must have an engineering degree with a very competitive GPA."

      But I haven't spoken with him too much, he wants to see the results of a pulmonary function test for asthma first, so perhaps once that's cleared I can let him know that I'll work my best to get nuke.


    3. Ben,

      Your recruiter is wrong. Two of the 12 LTs who run NUPOC Accessions are economics majors, and while most applicants are indeed engineering majors we get a steady stream of liberal arts applications as well. Having a non-technical major takes Instructor and NRE positions off the table. Send me an email with detailed information on your GPA, major, grades in math/technical courses, recruiters name and summary of your question. I am out of the office in Asia for two weeks but will forward it to colleagues in the office.

      No promises that it will work, but it isn't a blanket "no".

      Cheers from Bali

  2. Also, did you take AP Physics? That can be helpful.

    To send email use the portal at bottom of the homepage. It goes to my personal Gmail.

  3. Would there be any constraints for a student-athlete in terms of getting accepted into the program? I am a division 1 football player and I am very interested in this program because the USNA did not work out, however, I am unsure of how football will impact my ability to do so.

    1. Apologies for the delay -- I did not see this until just now. There are no restrictions on athletics, so long as you maintain your academic performance. There really isn't any time commitment on your end outside of your normal routine of classes and extracurriculars (in your case, Football) so there should not be any interference.

    2. There are actually quite a few D1 football (and other sports) players in the program. This isn't D1, but here's a video that gives a bit of a case in point:

  4. If accepted into the NUPOC program will you receive BAQ\VHA\BAS while your attending college? Is E6 basepay your only entitlement?

  5. Thomas, You have 3 separate portions of your pay while in the NUPOC program. (1) Base Pay, (2) BAH (Housing Allowance), and (3) BAS (Subsistence/Food allowance). Links for all of them are on the right side of the page, and I walk through how to calculate what your total will be (BAH varies based on location) during NUPOC and then afterwards as an Officer in the "What is NUPOC" Discussion (see link on menu bar near the top of the page).

  6. LT Linville, I have a question about the process.
    I was going to have a final interview at DC last year but NR did not let me go due to my security reason. I was informed that 3 days before the final interview. I went to the VIP tour and passed the medical test and the first phone interview. I also had a flight ticket to the DC interview. However, they told me that they do not usually accept the applicants who became a US citizen less than a year. I actually earned a US citizenship last April and submitted my application right away because I was waiting for it.
    This was my situation. My question is that "is the application for top security clearance going to be submitted after OCS?" I am confused between top security clearance and the background check from the entity. NR told me that if my background gets cleared by the entity, they would reconsider my application. But I haven't heared any update for my background check about 5 months. I heared that they have lots of delays. I do not know why.

    I am waiting until late April because I am going to be a US citizen for a year. But some people told me that if NR denied my application, I would not be eligible for NUPOC anymore. Is this true?

    I really need to know the process of this program because I have been preparing this program for a year and half. I really want to get in this program.

    Thank you for reading my question.


  7. Wonseok, There are two processes that run in parallel for security clearance to interview. One is the actually processing of a security investigation by the Office of Personnel Management. This is the standard process for all government positions that require a security clearance. The second process is specific to Navy Nuclear Programs and is handled within the Office of Naval Reactors.

    A variety of issues can result in a failure to receive a clearance to interview from either of those two paths. Often if citizenship has only recently been obtained it will cause them to deny a request or to want to delay for some period.

    Send a note via the portal at the bottom of this page and include the name of your recruiter and any other pertinent information and I'll try to look into it when I'm back in the office. I'll be gone this week for the March DC Interviews.

    If your secret clearance was obtained via OPM, it is possible that NR would look at that fact and reconsider their initial answer, but I can't say for certain whether or not they will do so.

  8. LT. Linville, thank you so much for your answer.

    My recruiter was LT. Shaun Penrod, but his shore duty was done right after my application was denied. Now, LT Kyra Borromeo is my recruiter. The office is located in Santa Monica in CA. They were very helpful and willing to help me all the time. I am trying to keep contacting my recruiter to know if there is any update from my security clearance.

    Previous Recruiter: LT. Shaun Penrod
    Current Recruiter: LT. Kyra Borromeo
    Office Location: Santa Monica, CA
    Applicant: Wonseok Yoon
    Process: Finished NVIP tour, Medical and Phone Interview

    I look forward to hearing from you next week.
    Thank you.

  9. Please reach out via the portal all the way at the bottom of the page as well. Below the eagle image.