Navy Enlisted Rating (Job) Descriptions and Qualification Factors

Nuclear Field (NF)

NORFOLK, VA - OCTOBER 13: In this U.S. Navy handout, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman departs Pier 14 at Norfolk Naval Station October 13, 2004 in Norfolk, Virginia. (Photo by Jason R. Zalasky/U.S. Navy via Getty Images
••• U.S. Navy/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Note: NF is not an actual rating, but rather a specialized enlistment program.

The Navy’s Nuclear Field (NF) program offers extensive training as nuclear propulsion plant operators and technicians to young men and women with aptitude in mathematics and science. The standards for selection for enlistment in the Navy’s NF program are high. People applying for NF training must be dedicated to pursuing the challenge this highly technical field offers. Applicants should be mature, responsible, and capable of working well under pressure.


NF candidates must be U.S. citizens. Candidates must also not have reached their 25th birthday by the time they enter active duty (ship out to basic training). However, age-waivers will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Applicants must be a high school diploma graduate (not GED) with successful completion of one year of Algebra, and able to meet Secret security clearance requirements.


Active duty obligation is six years. Applicants must enlist for four years and concurrently execute an agreement to extend their enlistment for 24 months to accommodate the additional training involved.


Personnel selected for nuclear training enter the Navy in pay grade E-3. Accelerated advancement to pay grade E-4 is authorized after personnel completes all advancement-in-rate requirements (to include minimum time in rate) and “A” School, provided eligibility in the NF Program is maintained.

Enlistment and reenlistment bonuses in addition to Navy salary, special duty assignment pay, and allowances for food and housing are available. Those who volunteer and are selected to serve on nuclear submarines (men only) are eligible for added submarine duty incentive pay from the day they graduate from nuclear training.

Career Opportunities

Three Navy job specialties, called “ratings,” are included in the NF community: Machinist’s Mate (MM), Electrician’s Mate (EM), and Electronics Technician (ET). The rating in which an NF candidate is trained is determined at the Recruit Training Center (boot camp).

Nuclear-trained MMs, EMs, and ETs perform duties in nuclear propulsion plants operating reactor control, propulsion and power generation systems. The character of NF jobs is mentally stimulating and offers career growth. The NF provides opportunities to work closely with specialists in the nuclear, technology, and engineering fields.

The educational opportunities available to the nuclear-trained Sailor range from college-level classes in physics, chemistry, mathematics, electrical engineering and thermodynamics to nuclear engineering training in nuclear power plant design, construction, instrumentation, and operations. The American Council on Education (ACE) has verified the extensive nature and unsurpassed quality of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion training program by recommending up to 77 semester hours of college credit.

Career Path

After recruit training, NF candidates report to the NF “A” School in Charleston, SC for technical training in their specific ratings. They then attend Nuclear Power School (NPS) in Charleston, SC, where they learn theory and practical application of nuclear physics and reactor engineering. Following NPS, candidates begin prototype training in their rating specialty at one of two Nuclear Power Training Units (NPTUs). After nuclear power training, NF Sailors are designated nuclear propulsion plant operators.

They may be assigned to modern nuclear-powered aircraft carriers or volunteer for submarine service (men only).

VE+AR+MK+NAPT = 290 (with minimum 50 NAPT score) or AR+MK+EI+GS+NAPT = 290 (with minimum 50 NAPT score) or VE+AR+MK+MC = 252 (No NAPT required) or AR+MK+EI+GS = 252 (No NAPT required).

Other Requirements:

Security Clearance, (SECRET) required. Must be a U.S. Citizen. At least 17 years of age but not have reached 25th birthday by active duty date (waivers on a case basis). Police Record Checks required. Any offense (except minor traffic) in DEP requires a waiver. Any history of drug use (including marijuana) requires a waiver. Must provide complete transcripts of high school
records. Must have completed one full year of algebra in HS or college.

Technical Training Information:

  • MM Rating - Charleston, SC -- 3 months
    EM Rating -- Charleston, SC -- 6 months
    ET Rating -- Charleston, SC -- 6 months
    All -- Charleston, SC -- 6 months (Nuclear Power School)
    All -- Ballson Spa, NY or Charleston, SC -- 6 months (Nuclear Power Training Unit)

Machinist's Mate Nuclear Field "a" School

This course provides basic knowledge of technical mathematics and a basic understanding of the theory and operation of a steam power plant. Students learn to operate tools, test equipment, and system components; read blueprints; practice rigging techniques, and perform maintenance procedures such as packing a valve or aligning a pump coupling.

Electrician's Mate Nuclear Field "a" School

This course provides basic knowledge of technical mathematics and a basic

understanding of power distribution. Students solve basic equations using phasors, vector notations, and basic trigonometry and analyze DC and AC circuits. Students demonstrate working knowledge of DC and AC motors and generators. Students learn to operate electrical equipment using controllers, and to properly test, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair electrical circuits, motors, cables, circuit breakers, and other related electrical equipment for power distribution.

Electronics Technician Nuclear Field "a" School

This course provides basic knowledge of technical mathematics and a good working knowledge of electricity and electronics, solid state devices, digital logic and systems, microprocessors, and instrumentation and control circuits. Students learn to interpret schematic diagrams and use appropriate test equipment to isolate and correct faults in electronic systems.

Nuclear Power School

This course provides a comprehensive understanding of a pressurized-water Naval nuclear power plant, including reactor core nuclear principles, heat transfer and fluid systems, plant chemistry and materials, mechanical and electrical systems, and radiological control.

Prototype Training

This course provides knowledge of the fundamentals of a Naval nuclear power plant and the interrelationship of its mechanical, electrical, and reactor subsystems. Students develop oral communications skills. Students understand the physical nature of nuclear radiation, its detection, interaction with matter and human health consequences, and gain knowledge of the safe operation of a complex Naval nuclear power plant and its sophisticated subsystems with an emphasis on basic industrial safety principles.

Students learn to identify, troubleshoot, and correct problems in nuclear mechanical, electrical, or reactor control systems at the component level with an emphasis on reactor systems, and apply earlier technical classroom knowledge gained to the practical, safe operation of Naval nuclear power plants. Officers are given the broadest understanding of the plant subsystems and are taught command skills to effectively lead the watch team in the safe operation of a Naval nuclear power plant.

Nuclear Field Statement of Understanding

Active Duty Service Obligation - Six years: accomplished by a four-year enlistment, plus a two-year extension of enlistment for training in the Nuclear Field.

Rating Assignment - During recruit training, personnel not already guaranteed Machinist's Mate training will be selected for training in one of the following ratings: Machinist's Mate, Electrician's Mate or Electronics Technician. This decision will be based on the needs of the service, test score profile and, so far as possible, upon the personal desire of the individual.

Challenging Program- The training program consists of three stages: 1) four to six months of intensive classroom instruction at Nuclear Field Class "A" school; 2) six months of intensive classroom instruction in mathematics, physics and basic engineering sciences at Nuclear Power School; and 3) six months of rigorous operational training and qualification on a nuclear reactor prototype plant. Nuclear Field personnel must demonstrate good academic performance in all phases of training. Markedly inferior performance, including very low passing final grades or obvious lack of effort in any training phase may result in disenrollment from the Nuclear Field program.

Duty Assignment - The Nuclear Field program trains personnel for nuclear submarines (men only) and nuclear surface ship assignments. No promise can be made regarding the type of duty assigned.

Automatic Advancement- Personnel in the Nuclear Field program will be enlisted in pay grade E-3. Advancement to pay grade E-4 is authorized only after personnel complete all advancement-in-rate requirements (to include minimum time in rate) and Class "A" School, provided eligibility in the Nuclear Field program is maintained. If Nuclear Field Class "A" School training is not completed, the member will be administratively reduced to E-2 or E-1, depending on the member's time in rate at the date of  disenrollment.

Upon acceptance of automatic advancement to pay grade E-4, the member will be obligated for 12-months of the two-year extension, in addition to the four-year enlistment, regardless of whether or not advanced training is completed.​

Termination of training- Having once volunteered, a Nuclear Field recruit will not be dropped for reason of non-volunteering. Determination of additional obligated service required following disenrollment from the Nuclear Field program will be in accordance with MILPERSMAN 1160-080.

Character- Personnel in the Nuclear Field program must continually demonstrate by their professional performance, academic achievement and military behavior that they possess the ability, maturity, personal reliability, and integrity to complete the demanding training program and serve successfully as nuclear propulsion plant operators in the fleet. Consequently, any event which cast serious doubt on the member's ability to continually satisfy these high standards of conduct may result in that member's disenrollment from the Nuclear Field program.

Drug Abuse- Entry into or continuation in the Nuclear Field program will be denied to any individual who has been convicted of, or who is identified as having, illegally, wrongfully or otherwise improperly used marijuana, narcotics, inhaled substances or other controlled substances, or illegally or wrongfully possessed or engaged in the sale of the same. This restriction applies prior to and after entry into active service, with the exception of waivers granted for experimental use of marijuana prior to entry into active duty.

Special Pay- Personnel in the Nuclear Field who have completed Nuclear Power Training and been awarded a nuclear NEC receive Special Duty Assignment Pay (SDAP) in accordance with applicable NAVADMIN. Personnel assigned to submarine duty are eligible for submarine duty incentive pay, according to current pay tables.

College Credit - College Credit is not granted by the Navy for courses studied at Nuclear Power School.

Department of Energy License to Operate a Reactor-A license from the Department of Energy to operate a reactor plant is not granted by virtue of this training.

Advanced Education- While Nuclear Field training may enhance a candidate’s suitability for Navy advanced educational or officer candidate programs, no promise or guarantee of selection nor eligibility for any such program should be inferred.

About "Nuke Training"

Note: The following information was provided online by username SCHOOLBOYROW:

A little background about myself, I'm a 25-year-old college grad (B.A. in Business Administration) who worked for a few software companies after graduating. I signed my DEP papers in July of 2002 and left for RTC in February of 2003. I'm in my 3 months here at NNPTC (Naval Nuclear Power Training Command).

Boot Camp is what it is. It's all you make of it. It can suck pretty bad, or you can just suck it up and take it. As a nuke, you'll get picked on for at least giving the impression that you are smart (it comes with the territory). You'll probably be the division EPO or the Yeoman. They aren't hard jobs (compared to being RPOC or AROC), but they still are a pain in the butt. I remember many watches getting yelled at for not having the shiniest boots because I was writing a study guide per order of my RDC.

I had 7 other Nukes in my division. We all pretty much caught a bunch of poop when we did something dumb (like an incorrect stencil), but depending on your RDC there is some give and take. I know my RDC loved me because he thought I was crazy, in the sense of "Why the #$&* are you here?". You'll get that quite a bit. But I loved my RDC to death, so if you ever get Chief Wise (probably Senior Chief Wise, by now), just listen. It's in your best interest.

I graduated from boot camp on April 18th. Myself and 5 other shipmates (one got held back to go to Plato, which is an English language betterment course from what I understand). I was one of 43 nukes to arrive that night, one of the largest single indoc classes ever at NNPTC. Arriving at NNPTC is an absolute shock. You've been training on rank and recognition, and the Third Class requires a greeting right? Well, here, only the Third Classes with a white badge (staff) require that. Somebody in the group will screw up and say "Good evening Petty Officer." And the fellow whom you directed that too will probably laugh because six months ago they were in the same boat (unless you get some high and mighty, lifetime T-Tracker).

They'll give you a room and roommate. The BEQs here are pretty darn nice. Your racks aren't bunked, so that is a welcome change. You don't have to do pushups before you use the head. Heck, many times, you'll find using commonly accepted Navy terminology pretty rare. After that first weekend (which you have to be in uniform for on base and off base), you'll meander around for 2 days, and then start indoc on Wednesday.

On this command, underage drinking and drug use (as they should be) are frowned upon. You'll find that they hold nukes to a higher standard. As well they should. Because after a while, you'll find out that you are among some of the brightest people the enlisted ranks have to offer.

Are there freaks here? Yes. But no more than in high school or college. People are still people. The Navy becomes less of a life here, and more of a job. Your job is to learn how to work in a nuclear power plant. I mean, I've seen some strange stuff down here, everyone from Morpheous (a bald, African-American fellow, who has an affinity for wearing a floor-length black leather coat), to Captain Startrek (who has a full Star Trek outfit). And you'll meet the requisite amount of S-bags (Captain Planet (i.e., a person who has graduated A-School, but is now an E-1 due to his going to mast multiple times), Particle Boy/Man, Propeller Head), but really it is no different than any other command.

I've met lots of great people here, and in my 3 months here, had a lot of fun with people I would have never met had it not been for Nuke school.

Most people are friendly. But this place has a very ugly side to it. It is very competitive down here. If you are a person who flys off the handle if you aren't the absolute best at everything, you may not be able to handle it here. But if you can accept the results produced by your best effort, then Nuke school is a great place to be.

The academic rigors are here are pretty torturous. It is tech school on speed. 8 hours of classes and then at least two hours of studying per night. Your fun on weekdays (and occasionally weeknights) will be precluded with studying for an exam. It's all about time management.

If you are looking for a challenge, this is the place to be.