Sunday, August 3, 2008

Navy Nuclear Power School rundown

Power school was pretty much what I expected. With proper security kept in mind, here is the rundown of what YOU can probably expect:

First week
Orientation, lots of waiting around for briefs. Short days. Thumbs up.

After first week
Classes all day, Monday through Friday, with a couple study halls thrown in for good measure. Typically 3 subjects a day are taught, consisting of 2-3 hour lectures each. These days it's all power-point style and whiteboards. You can also look forward to an exam or two almost every week. Exams are 2 hours each (with a 3 hour final in each subject) and are time-intensive. Go go go.

What's required
The hours you spend at power school in excess of an 8 hour day are logged. The amount of "extra" time you spend at school depends on how adept you are at memorizing large amounts of information. Most officer students had around 10-25 extra hours at the end of the 7-day week. (hrs logged Monday morning-Sunday night). I typically averaged 17 hours a week and did well.

The exams focus on what we liked to call "verbatim understanding". It's intimidating and frustrating at first for people like me, who don't memorize something the first couple times they read it, but the vast majority of people get used to it. We only had a couple people wash out of our class of around 80. The material is covered quickly and delivered in large amounts. Again, you'll get used to it.

Exams are typically graded the same day they are taken, which eliminates any need for overnight anxiety about a test. Grades are posted in the back of the room and in our class the person with the highest grade bought bagels/donuts for everyone the next morning.

At the end of it all there is a comprehensive final, which is about as fun as it sounds. The good news is that "comp party" occurs directly afterwards at a bar of your choice. Someone in your class will organize it, usually collecting money for an open bar. Staff and students go and comp grades are announced there. Great time.

Being one of the few married guys in my particular class, I didn't get out much. But most of my fellow classmates went out quite a bit. Charleston is a beautiful place and the downtown area is awesome. PT time is built into your schedule everyday (this is a relatively new thing) and once a week your class will have group PT. We played a lot of team sports. That PT time is GREAT because they don't offer it when you go to prototype and it is sorely missed.

My impressions
I have to say that I didn't really like power school too much. In retrospect most of it was my fault. Having an exam every week was like having a dark cloud over my head constantly. But it was all artificial stress. Towards the end of my time in Charleston I learned to relax, prepare as much as I could and trust my abilities. My advice would be to work hard, but don't let a single exam get you down. It's not worth it. Also, try to get as much done as you can during the week to minimize the amount of time you have to spend at school during the weekends. That was also something I didn't get the hang of until the 2nd half of my time in Charleston. Once I got the hang of those two things, my life improved quite a bit. For most people this was not an issue.

Towards the end of power school you will put in a request sheet indicating your preference of which prototype you would like to go to. There is one in Charleston and one in Ballston Spa, NY. Most people get what they request. Married guys with families typically request to stay in Charleston and 95% of the time get their wish. I, however, fell into that 5% category and was moved to NY. That being said, Ballston Spa (Saratoga Springs) is a beautiful area and we are very happy with how things turned out.


bothenook said...

as we used to say back in the day... "learning about nuclear power from the navy is like trying to take a drink from a charged fire hose."

Mark said...

Hey thanks for your input -- I'm pretty good not letting it get to me except waiting for the scores to come out and the initial reaction. Surely you recall. If you don't mind I might email you sometime with questions about the Ballston Spa region?

Pat said...

I like bo's analogy. I was told it was a $100000 education (1983) fed to you rectally one nickel at a time.


Anonymous said...

Do you think you could give a run down of the Prototype schedule and your thoughts about it? I too am married and I just wonder how much I'll see my wife.

C said...


Yep, no problem. Working on it.

imaseoulman said...

First, thanks for posting this, it provided some good information. I'm getting ready to enter Nuke School (I ship to basic on Feb. 9th). I'm excited and of course unsure of what to expect...nobody I talk to seems to know anything.

I've got three years of college under my belt and a 98 ASVAB, so academically I feel prepared, but my big question is about the class schedule. Will I be in class seven days a week? Am I only required to be there for five and six days and the other time is just used for study?

I'm wondering if while in Charleston, I'll be able to take one Saturday off and go for a day trip.

Also, I'm wondering about housing for my wife and kid (I'll be one of the few, too). Will we have to find an apartment, or will we apply for base housing.

Thank you very much for any help you can provide.

blunoz said...

Where'd the prototype post go? I got your post about prototype in my Google Reader. After I read it, I clicked on over to post a comment, but the prototype post isn't here.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading the post. Sounds like not much has changed in 14 years. I'm glad you found the experience rewarding. It's a great feeling of accomplishment when you qualify and graduate.

C said...


Had a few gremlins to work out with the original prototype post. Apparently when you insert "<" (as a 'less than' symbol) it takes it as html. It's back now, glad you enjoyed it.


The enlisted (you mentioned going to basic) experience is going to be different and I don't know the details about it. Normally guys fresh out of boot have to live on-base in a dormitory type setting. They are subject to many more restrictions than you will be. As a married guy, you get to live elsewhere on your own. I'm not certain if you're limited to the housing on-base (which ain't too shabby, 843-797-5631) or if you can live out in town. Either way it won't be too bad. I don't think taking a Saturday day trip would be a problem at some time. You'll only have class Monday-Friday. That's pretty much the extent of my knowledge. Hope it helps somewhat.

Pete said...

Anyone wanting more details regarding the Navy Nuclear Power Pipeline should visit

Anonymous said...

what is the weekend situation like? Is it possible to use leave or not really a chance?

Anonymous said...

I usually went out friday and saturday nights. Saturday morning id wake up work on my homework for a bit then finish it sunday evening. This seemed to work for me. It really helped not spending all my time in the building.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Absurdity what that

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Real Estate said...

Okay so my son took the test via navy scored 95 as a senior in highschool and may be eligible for this "Navy Nuclear Power School" program. It is being represented to him and a elite and specialized training opportunity, so let's hear it guys...for a mom with her baby boy going off to the it an elite and special training opportunity only available to a few qualified or is it created so they can fill something that nobody wants to do....your thoughts?

FineNavyGray said...

Real Estate:

The answer, as usual, lies somewhere in between. What is true is that not everybody can do the job and it takes very smart and motivated individuals to succeed. What is also true is that companies who know what nukes are absolutely love them after the Navy. And for good reason. Pay during and after the Navy is higher to compensate for this. The flip side of it is that it's a hard job, with long, sometimes lonely periods at sea. The work and expectations placed upon nuke sailors are very demanding. That's why it's a hard fill position.. the job takes a very specific kind of person to begin with, and then whittles away those who can't take the heat. But it can be very rewarding.

brandon said...

you forgot that once you get to a submarine life sucks, Never Again Volunteer Yourself, FTN


Real Navy said...

There is always a sorehead in every community post. Poor Brandon, he didn't like life aboard a sub, boo hoo. It is a shame that the Navy didn't conform itself to Brandon's specific wants and needs, but did he really think it would. If he was a nuke he knew he would only be going to a carrier or a sub, was he forced into subs or did he volunteer? How much responsibility does Brandon take for his Navy experience? As for his "FTN", well the "N" is better off without him. C'mon Brandon, be a man...get over it!

Matt said...

I recently (september) swore into the Navy and was accepted to the nuclear school. I was wondering what I was supposed to expect, because I have never been in college. I am finishing my senior year this year and am curious as what I should expect as far as structure goes. If you'd respond I'd be very grateful. If you'd prefer to email me my address is

sarahyangg said...

Awesome! Thanks so much for posting this. I'm currently trying to get security clearance to get into the Nuke program, and your summary helps a lot. Would you say the teachers/lectures prepare you a lot for what you need to know? And on your own time is just committing it all to memory? Or do you pretty much have to self-study most of the material? I just finished a bachelor's in structural eng and it was hard for me because we had to learn everything on our own. I'm worried that I'll do poorly in Nuke school if it's the same way.

Unknown said...

Great post. Been in the NUPOC program for the last two years and headed to OCS this summer. Thanks for your insight.

Unknown said...
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