Abstract Carbon-supported copper (Cu/GAC) catalyst was prepared by conventional impregnation method and characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). The sizes of Cu particles dispersing on the surface of GAC were 0.3–1.5 μm, which could be penetrated by microwave so that Cu/GAC catalyst could absorb microwave energy effectively. The catalysis of Cu/GAC in microwave assisted catalytic oxidation of p-nitrophenol (PNP) in aqueous solution was investigated through a fixed bed reactor under ambient pressure and continuous flow mode. PNP removal reached 91.8% under optimized conditions, corresponding to 88% of TOC removal. It showed a higher PNP degradation and total organic carbon (TOC) removal for Cu/GAC catalyst than GAC alone, and Cu/GAC catalyst kept on a high catalysis and a good stability for a long time run, which indicated that GAC structure and catalytic capacity were improved by the load of Cu.