Want to be a cyber pro? DOD might have a scholarship for you.

The Defense Department has published final rules for its Information Assurance Scholarship Program, which provides cybersecurity students with full rides for cybersecurity degree programs in exchange for commitments of military or civilian service in DOD.

The program is part of an effort to build a professional cybersecurity workforce needed to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure and “will be used to recruit and retain the nation’s top information assurance and information technology talent, which is critical as DOD progresses into the cybersecurity arena,” according to the Federal Register notice.

Scholarships are available to active-duty service members and civilian DOD employees, and to current students at schools that have been designated Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and Research. Grants for Centers of Academic Excellence also are available.

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The growing demand for cybersecurity professionals and the shortage of trained personnel have led to a number of public-private initiatives to identify students with the proper interests and abilities in high school or even earlier, and to provide them with educational opportunities and career paths.

Colleges and universities have offered computer science programs since the days of punch cards, but the integration of computer science with security, law, law enforcement, public policy and all things cyber began getting under way in just the last few years.

At the university level, the National Security Agency and the Homeland Security Department have established the National Centers of Excellence program to identify and support schools with information assurance education and research programs. Students attending designated schools are eligible for DOD IASP support.

There currently are 145 schools in the country designated as Centers of Academic Excellence under the program.

The scholarship program is administered by the NSA. Academic degree programs and concentrations eligible for IASP support include, but are not limited to:

  • Biometrics.
  • Business management or administration.
  • Computer crime investigations.
  • Computer engineering.
  • Computer programming.
  • Computer science.
  • Computer systems analysis.
  • Cyber operations.
  • Cybersecurity.
  • Database administration.
  • Data management.
  • Digital and multimedia forensics.
  • Electrical and electronics engineering.
  • Information security and assurance.
  • Information systems.
  • Mathematics.
  • Network management and operations.
  • Software engineering.

Active-duty officers and permanent civilian employees now working for DOD can apply for full scholarships for master’s or doctoral degree programs at participating DOD institutions. Enlisted personnel can apply for master’s programs. Participating DOD institutions are the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio; Information Resources Management College of the National Defense University and Fort McNair in Washington; and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. Service members will remain on active duty while fulfilling their scholarship obligations. Civilian employees must agree to continue DOD employment for at least three times the length of their education.

Juniors, seniors and graduate students at Centers of Academic Excellence can apply for full scholarships for bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree programs or a graduate certificate program.

Students must work as civilian employees or in military service upon getting a degree. One year of civilian service is required for each year of scholarship. In military service, a minimum four-year enlistment is required. Undergraduates who get a scholarship in their junior year will have to serve an internship as well.


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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