Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Guide

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Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Guide- When deciding on an educational path or degree programme, many variables must be considered. There are both financial and geographical factors to consider. Future employment possibilities for the chosen professional path, as well as the reputation of the educational institution, must be considered.

The goal of this guide is to help students and those considering pursuing a cybersecurity-related educational route understand what Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (CAE-C) are and why having that information could be beneficial to their future employment.

What is a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cybersecurity?

The onerous conditions set out by the program’s joint sponsors have been met by institutions that have been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cybersecurity. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are the sponsors (DHS). The NSA and DHS grant the CAE-C designation to schools that agree to promoting the program’s goal of reducing vulnerability in our national information infrastructure by improving cyber defence higher education and research and generating cyber defence professionals.

The growing number of cyberattacks on both persons and corporations underlines the need for cybersecurity professionals to protect and defend our nation’s key infrastructure and networks. The CAE-C programme was created to fulfil the federal government’s rising demand for qualified and talented cybersecurity experts, as well as state and local governments and industry.

Colleges and universities with the CAE-C certification are publicly recognised by the government for their excellent cybersecurity-related programmes. These institutions have undergone a thorough review and have met stringent criteria to be designated. They are ideally positioned to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to protect and defend against today’s cyber threats.

Students interested in a cybersecurity career should seriously consider attending a CAE-C accredited university, whether their career ambitions include working for the federal government or in private enterprise. In the end, this decision should be taken into consideration.

CAE Programme Structure

In 1999, the National Security Agency (NSA) developed the Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education programme. Over the years, the program’s structure and nomenclature have changed multiple times. In order to keep this guide as simple as possible, we’ve selected the most up-to-date application names and descriptions. Former programme names and descriptions may still be in use at CAE institutions and may differ from those used here.

Schools can pursue one of three sorts of designations. Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD), Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations (CAE-CO), and Centers of Academic Excellence in Research (CAE-R) are the three types of centres (CAE-R).

Over 300 colleges around the country have received designations in Cyber Defense, Cyber Operations, and Research under the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (CAE-C) programme.

National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD)

The CAE-CD programme aims to train cybersecurity professionals to satisfy the demands of the country, government, business, and academia. The CAE-CO programme, which is complementary in character, focuses on technologies and techniques linked to specialised cyber operations (e.g., collection, exploitation, and reaction) in order to improve the nation’s national security posture.

The CAE-CD program’s declared objectives are to:

  • Promote greater education and research in cyber defence to reduce vulnerability in our national information infrastructure.
  • Educate and train an increasing number of specialists in cyber defence disciplines.
    Increase awareness of robust CD technology, policy, and practises that will enable our country to effectively prevent and respond to a catastrophic cyber disaster.
  • Make a major contribution to the advancement of cutting-edge cyber defence knowledge and practise

The CAE-CD curriculum focuses on a number of efforts that are crucial to the development of a cyber workforce. The demand for competent, skilled instructors, who are the keys to unlocking the door to a skilled cyber workforce, is at the forefront. There is an acknowledged lack of qualified educators, as the number of students pursuing cybersecurity degrees at the PhD or post-doctoral levels is dwindling, limiting the amount of people who can and would teach in an academic setting. Schools frequently have numerous cybersecurity faculty jobs available for extended periods of time, which is a significant constraint.

Four-Year Baccalaureate/Graduate Education, Two-Year Education, and Research are the three categories for the CAE-CD programme.

NSA/DHS CAE-CD designation is open to all regionally authorised two-year, four-year, and graduate-level universities in the United States, therefore make sure to check the status of your selected university.

In the field of cyber defence, the following institutions have been classified as CAEs:

  • The federal government has acknowledged them for their cyber defence programmes and courses.
  • Curricula should be linked to specific Knowledge Units that align with the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, a cybersecurity vocabulary used by educators, industry professionals, and government agencies across the country.
  • Have degree programmes that are a top choice for students looking to gain the knowledge and abilities they need to excel in the cybersecurity field.
  • Assist federal agencies by giving scholarly insight on DHS, NSA, and other federal agencies’ cyber-related programmes.
  • Serve as a possible source of government-academic researcher exchanges and a facilitator of those exchanges.
  • Assist faculty and research leaders in their development.
  • To help build the cyber industry, join a large network of cybersecurity experts, educators, researchers, and activists.
  • Are aware of the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program and the Federal CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Program, both of which offer student scholarships and awards.

There are 274 CAE-CD Institutions in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as of August 2019.

National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations (CAE-CO)

Although the CAE-CD and CAE-CO programmes have similar roots and interact closely, their objectives and needs are distinct. Both have particular, well-defined academic and programming standards, and both designate schools for a five-year period.

The CAE-CO programme is divided into two categories: fundamental and advanced. Four-year colleges and graduate-level universities offering computer science, electrical engineering, or computer engineering programmes are eligible. They could potentially collaborate between two or more of these departments or create a degree programme with equal technical depth.

The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE): Building a Digital Nation is supported by the CAE-CO Program. It contributes to the goal of increasing the number of skilled people who can sustain a cyber-secure nation. The CAE-Cyber Operations programme is a highly technical, inter-disciplinary higher education curriculum with a strong foundation in computer science, computer engineering, or electrical engineering, as well as numerous possibilities for hands-on learning through labs and exercises.

Based on the particular goal and authorities associated with that mission, the CAE-CO programme focuses on workforce development for the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, and law enforcement communities. The Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense programmes are supplemented by the CAE-Cyber Operations programme. It focuses on technology and tactics linked to specialised cyber operations (e.g., collection, exploitation, and reaction) in order to improve our nation’s national security posture.

Four-year colleges and graduate-level universities are eligible to participate in the CAE-CO programme. CAE-Cyber Operations programmes must be housed in a department of computer science, electrical engineering, or computer engineering, or in a degree programme with a comparable level of technical depth, or in a partnership between two or more of these departments.

Institutions that have been designated as Cyber Operations Centers of Excellence (CAEs) include:

  • Recognize the institution’s cyber operations programmes and curricula on a federal level.
  • Assist students in developing trust in degree programmes as a viable option for learning the essential knowledge and skills to thrive in the cybersecurity sector.
  • Provide students with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work alongside NSA workers and technical directors on real-world, mission-critical problems during a 12-week summer internship.
  • Serve as a possible source of government-academic researcher exchanges and a facilitator of those exchanges.
  • To help advance the cyber field, join the CAE Community of cybersecurity professionals, educators, researchers, and activists.
  • Through the Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service Program, provide chances for student scholarships and fellowships.

Since its inception in 2012, the CAE-CO programme has grown to include 21 institutions.
National Centers for Academic Excellence in Research (CAE-R)

A CAE-R institution’s mission is to promote proactive knowledge of robust cyber protection technology, policy, and practises. Developing a workforce with these abilities will allow our country to successfully avoid and respond to a catastrophic cyber disaster.

The CAE-R Program’s mission is to:

  • Schools with programmes that incorporate CD research activities into the curriculum and classroom context should be recognised.
  • Provide insight on academic CD programmes (with their reach into the industry) that can support advanced educational, research, and development capabilities to the NSA, DHS, and other federal agencies.
  • Serve as a possible source and facilitator for researcher exchanges between the government and academia.
  • Give CD research centres the chance to delve deeper into much-needed solutions for protecting key information systems and networks.

A Department of Defense school, a Ph.D.-producing military academy, or a regionally authorised, degree-granting four-year college must all be CAE-R institutions. According to the Carnegie Foundation Basic Classification method, they must be classified as a Doctoral University – Highest Research Activity, Higher Research Activity, or Moderate Research Activity. They can also provide a written justification describing their significant CD research. The CAE-R criteria call for evidence of CD Research projects (both faculty and student), publications, graduate-level production, and research funding.

Why CAEs are Important to Students

Choosing a college is about more than just getting a diploma with the student’s name on it. The location of a student’s school has an impact on many elements of their life, from academics to social activities and beyond. Given the significance of this decision, prospective students should think long and hard about where they want to attend.

Choosing a CAE-C approved school ensures that the student will be taught the most up-to-date curriculum that meets the most stringent criteria. The program’s curriculum has been approved by the NSA/DHS cosponsors and is consistent across all CAE-C schools.

The quality of a student’s educational experience as well as the outcome in terms of job placement can be strongly influenced by the support they receive from their teachers, peers, and the institution. Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity are meant to give each student with unrivalled support.

CAE graduates frequently attest to the program’s support, both in terms of high technical instruction and social support that enhances the educational experience.

In a recent edition of the Community Quarterly, the NSA/DHS Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity’s quarterly publication, Danielle Santos, a graduate of California State University San Bernardino, a CAE-CD school, detailed her educational experience. “The programme provided me with endless opportunities outside of the classroom to strengthen my technical and interpersonal skills,” she said. The InfoSec group offered technical tasks to work on, such as determining how to use an Xbox 360 for reasons other than video games, as well as Saturday workshops to learn about Defense in Depth strategies. The CAE office also organised events and activities for students to practise their elevator pitches by attending career fairs and networking with local professionals.”

“Don’t sleep on these opportunities!” Santos said when asked what advice she would give to existing or prospective CAE students. Students, particularly those pursuing a cybersecurity degree, have access to a wealth of information. Tuition scholarships, conference travel scholarships, opportunities to present projects and papers, free virtual employment fairs, special hiring and training programmes for fresh grads, and so on. Take advantage of these opportunities while you still have them, and network, network, network!”

Employers frequently check for more than a student’s name on a diploma. They want guarantees that the student’s educational curriculum will equip them for the demands of the workplace. A degree from a CAE-C school provides that assurance to potential employers. They can be confident that the student has been exposed to all facets of cybersecurity and is a member of the community.

Another CAE alumni, Steven Hernandez of Idaho State University, was asked about the program’s impact on his career. “It’s directly tied to my success and capacity to bring value to my employer and the Nation,” he said in the Community Quarterly. The community I’m a part of is one of the most essential components of the programme. People in this community stay in touch and call each other when things are going well and when things are going badly. The curriculum cultivated this cohort attitude by presenting us with tasks that could only be solved by working together.”

Why CAE Designation is Important to Schools

Recruitment Benefits

Many institutions and schools are offering amenities and conveniences to potential students, such as computers and tablets, gourmet eating plans, and extravagant housing and recreational facilities. These are actions taken in response to consumer demand. And the reality is that these kinds of services and possibilities are becoming increasingly popular among students. To be sure, school authorities insist that they are primarily boosting their academic profile in order to attract students.

Being accredited as a CAE school would help you attract students who have ability and interest in cybersecurity-related industries. Students will undoubtedly be directed to CAE-C accredited institutions by federal agencies and contractors looking for educational options to satisfy their needs.

Financial Benefits

While the NSA and DHS do not finance CAE recognised universities, once they have one, they can apply for grants such as the Department of Defense Cybersecurity Scholarship Program (DoD CySP). They can also apply for a Scholarship for Service from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Schools are not restricted to pursuing a single classification and are encouraged to do so.

Grants from the Cybersecurity National Action Plan are available to CAE schools. One of the goals of this strategy is to strengthen the National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Program and expand the number of academic institutions and students that participate. They seek to assist current participants, grow the number of students studying cybersecurity at those schools, and improve student knowledge through programme and curriculum changes.

Support from the CAE community

The National Science Foundation has supported the project Catalyzing Computing and Cybersecurity at Community Colleges (C5). C5 promotes the establishment of a countrywide network of community colleges that have passed national cybersecurity education standards, resulting in more and better-prepared graduates for the workforce and, in turn, a more secure nation.

C5 has increased the number of community colleges around the country that have been designated as National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) for cybersecurity education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The project helps schools with the CAE Application Assistance Program by pairing them with skilled mentors who can help them with the application process.

In 2017, the CAE-Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) Resource Centers were designated. These Centers are a network of CAE-CD institutions that will assist applicant universities with resources and guidance. Hub, Consultation, and National resource centres are the three types of resource centres that can help at a regional and national level.

The Center CAE Regional Resource Centers (CRRCs) will serve as a nexus for CAE-CD Candidates Program institutions in a certain geographic region. For designated and prospective institutions, they will host a variety of programme and faculty professional development workshops, seminars, and courses.

Additional Resources for Schools

ATE Center Resource

For more than 25 years, the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) programme has supported innovation at two-year colleges.

ATE fosters the education of scientific and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary school levels, with a concentration on the high-technology sectors that drive our nation’s economy and strong ties between academic institutions and industry.

Curriculum creation, professional development for college faculty and secondary school teachers, career routes from secondary schools to two-year colleges and from two-year colleges to four-year institutions, and other activities are all supported by the ATE programme. Advanced manufacturing technologies, agricultural and biotechnologies, energy and environmental technologies, engineering technologies, information technologies, micro and nanotechnologies, security technologies, and learning, evaluation, and research are among the fields of technology supported by the ATE programme.

NCYTE Center Website –

CyberWatch Website –

CSSIA website


The Gen Cyber programme aims to boost interest in cybersecurity careers and diversity in the cybersecurity workforce, as well as to teach all kids proper and safe online behaviour and to enhance teaching methods for K-12 students. This programme provides kids and teachers with free cybersecurity summer camp programmes. This programme is supported by the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation.


The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) is the most comprehensive cybersecurity training resource available online. NICCS connects federal employees, students, educators, and businesses with cybersecurity training providers all throughout the country.

The United States must establish a workforce of qualified cybersecurity specialists as technology progresses. The United States’ significant investment in initiatives like NICCS helps citizens find the education and training they need to develop their professions and close the cybersecurity workforce’s skill gaps.

NICCS gives the United States the tools it needs to ensure that citizens and the workforce have better cybersecurity skills. The cybersecurity courses in the catalogue are taught by approved institutions, National Centers of Academic Excellence, federal agencies, and other training organisations. Each course is aligned with the National Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, which serves as the foundation for the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education’s (NICE) attempt to standardise cybersecurity education.

The Cybersecurity Education and Awareness Branch (CE&A) of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Cybersecurity and Communications is responsible for NICCS (CS&C). CE&A supports cybersecurity awareness, training, education, and career structure, with the additional goal of increasing the number of cybersecurity professionals in the United States.

Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Cybers Guards. Prior to that, She was responsible for leading its Cyber Security Practice and Cyber Security Operations Center, which provided managed security services.