NSA targets college students to fill cyber professionals shortage

July 22, 2014

Jenna Lyons

In response to a shortage of cyber professionals in the U.S., the National Security Administration is reaching out to a younger crowd: college students.

Beginning in 2012, the NSA started its National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations Program at select universities across the nation to attract students to the field.

On July 14, the agency announced that five new schools would join the program, bringing the number of participating universities to 13. The new recruits include New York University, Towson University in Maryland, The United States Military Academy, University of Cincinnati and University of New Orleans.

RAND Corporation released a report in June on the nation’s cyber professional shortage, citing the NSA as the largest and leading employer of cyber security professionals.

“For the most part,” the study states, “the NSA makes rather than buys cybersecurity professionals,” adding that 80% of its hires are for entry-level positions.

The five schools newly designated National Centers of Academic Excellence went through a rigorous application process. Universities must prove they meet 10 criteria to apply, which include having accreditation of their academic program, having at least two faculty teaching cyber courses and undergoing a detailed, on-site curriculum review.

Selected schools do not receive any funds, but Steven LaFountain, dean of the NSA’s College of Cyber, says that the designation helps schools in other invaluable ways.

LaFountain says all schools in the program receive a liaison that will work to provide unclassified research problems for students to work on, among other interactions. In addition, universities with the designation are eligible for grants from the National Science Foundation.

“We created this to support cyber professionals for the intelligence community, the military and law enforcement,” LaFountain says. “I think we need to do some things even prior to college. We’re running a prototype program this summer that focuses on middle and high school students.


About National Centers of Academic Excellence - Cyber Operations

List of Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations

About National Centers of Academic Excellence - Information Assurance

List of Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance 

MA Institutions Designated Centers of Academic Excellence:
Northeastern designated by the NSA as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations

Northeastern University Recognized by NSA and DHS as National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research

WPI designated as Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity Research

BU Center for Reliable Information Systems and Cyber Security

UMass Amherst designated Center of Academic Excellence