Penn State and the College of IST were designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security in 2008 and recertified in 2014. The CAE program was established to meet the growing need for knowledgeable and skilled cybersecurity professionals within the federal government—and ultimately, within state and local governments and industry.
IST was recognized with the CAE designation for its robust cybersecurity-related programs, indicating that they are a top choice for students who want to learn the knowledge and skills to succeed in the cybersecurity workforce. This designation also allows the College of IST to grant a certificate of achievement and letter of recognition to graduating students who meet certain requirements.
Certificate of Achievement
A certificate of achievement from the NSA can be earned by any student enrolled in one of the following programs:
- B.S. in Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations
- From any of the following campuses: Altoona, Beaver, Berks, Brandywine, Greater Allegheny, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley, Shenango, Schuylkill, University Park, World Campus, or York
- B.S. in Information Sciences and Technology
- From any of the following campuses: Abington, Beaver, Berks, Brandywine, Greater Allegheny, Harrisburg, Hazleton, Lehigh Valley, Mont Alto, New Kensington, Scranton, University Park, Wilkes-Barre, World Campus, or York
- B.S. in Security and Risk Analysis
- From any of the following campuses: Altoona, Berks, Harrisburg, University Park, or World Campus
To receive the NSA certificate, note the following criteria:
- All courses must be taken at Penn State. Course substitutions are not permitted.
- Students must earn a grade of C or better in each of the courses required as Knowledge Units for the CAE certification.
- Transfer courses, AP/IB credits, credits by exam, and CLEP/DSST credits will not be accepted.
Students can view additional details and required courses on the University Bulletin.
Once a student is admitted to an eligible program and before they file their intent to graduate, they must add the NSA certificate to their record using Update Academics in LionPATH. If the student meets all requirements for the certificate, the certificate will automatically be noted on their transcript and they will receive a physical copy of the certificate with their diploma after graduating.
Letter of Recognition
A letter of recognition from the NSA is earned by any student who graduates with a major or minor in Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations or Security and Risk Analysis, or from the MPS in Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations program. The letter states that the recipient of the certificate earned their degree from an institution and program recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the NSA and DHS.
Value of the Credentials
The certificate of achievement and letter of recognition certify that the student graduated from an institution and program whose security-related faculty, resources, curricula, and commitment were evaluated and found to be of high quality.
Both also certify that certain courses in the student’s program have been examined and determined to meet or exceed the quality and content as defined by the NSA and DHS for cybersecurity professionals. The certificate further certifies that the student has taken all of the courses that satisfy the Knowledge Unit requirement.
Students should not rely on a prospective employer being familiar with these credentials. Employers who are part of or do work with the U.S. federal government will likely know about them. It is important that the student be able to explain what each certifies and how it is valuable to the employer.
To earn and maintain the designation, the college underwent an in-depth assessment of its security-related programs, faculty, research, and student engagement. Similarly, CAE procedures defined 17 required and five optional curricular areas referred to as Knowledge Units. A set of required topics, skills, and outcomes were defined for each Knowledge Unit, which were mapped to College of IST courses that can be found on the University Bulletin.
Knowledge units include:
- Basic data analysis
- Basic scripting
- Cybersecurity planning and management
- Database management systems
- Digital forensics
- Fundamental security design principles
- Information assurance fundamentals
- Information assurance standards
- Introduction to cryptography
- IT system components
- Network defense
- Network technology and protocols
- Networking concepts
- Operating systems concepts
- Policy, legal, ethics, and compliance
- Probability and statistics
- Security risk analysis
- Systems administration