While there are a variety of educational and scholarship opportunities for the cyber workforce, many are not well known nor are program requirements well understood. This article highlights the Department of Defense (DoD) Cyber Scholarship (CySP) retention program to facilitate individual and organizational planning for the 2021-2022 application cycle.
The DoD annually conducts an open solicitation for the DoD CySP retention scholarships, open to military and civilian employees, with applications typically due late in the second quarter for fall or winter when the academic year starts. The DoD CySP, authorized by Chapter 112, Title 10, United States Code, is designed to assist in recruiting and retaining highly qualified personnel in the field of cybersecurity to meet the DoD’s information technology requirements for national defense and the security of its information systems and networks.
The Cyber Scholarship Program provides professional development opportunities to current employees who support DoD critical cyber functions in exchange for continued service within the department. The DoD CySP is funded annually, so there is not a set number of scholarships open each year. All participation is contingent upon available funding.
In the current budgetary climate, agencies are dealing with limited training resources. This program provides a viable means to fund advanced education for personnel who are in a cybersecurity position or preparing for an assignment that requires advanced knowledge in an array of cyber disciplines, but also comes with command funding responsibilities, too. Figure 1 provides a breakdown of funding responsibilities.
The scholarships are available for an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. degrees. The DoD works with universities across the United States designated as National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) to develop and expand cyber-related curricula and offer programs of study for current and future cyber professionals.
For participation in the DoD CySP qualified applicants must pursue degrees in academic disciplines that have a concentration in cybersecurity. Relevant cyber-related academic disciplines with concentration in cybersecurity would include, but are not limited to the disciplines shown in Figure 2.
In this current scholarship cycle, the Navy’s goal is to increase the number of qualified applicants. The scholarship program’s criteria, responsibilities, and operation are highlighted for potential scholarship recipients.
In recent years, the master’s and Ph.D. programs were only offered at the Air Force Institute of Technology and Naval Post Graduate School as an in-resident and full-time program.
The Navy recommended changes to the program to increase applicants for master’s and Ph.D. scholarships by expanding offerings to additional schools and/or offering online or hybrid programs. However, it is unclear at this time if the program options will change for 2021 applicants.
Associate degrees provided the most flexibility and were offered at many community colleges. Depending on the participating school, available courses included part-time, full-time, and distance learning options.
Available Institutions and Degree Programs
The institutions and degree programs listed are for the calendar year 2020-2021. The program requirements and participating schools can and will change for each institution. Applicants are responsible for ensuring their chosen program is participating in the DoD CySP for the upcoming academic year before applying to the school and for the scholarship.
- Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) offer FULL-TIME ONLY, in-resident –leading to a master’s and doctoral cyber-related program.
- Open to officer, enlisted personnel, and DoD civilians
Joint Cyber Analysis Course (JCAC) Partner Program
- Utilizing pre-established National Security Agency (NSA) agreements, graduates of the JCAC program may transfer credits into an undergraduate or graduate program.
- JCAC is housed at the Information Warfare Training Command Corry Station Pensacola, Florida.
- Open to officers and enlisted personnel only.
Community College Program
- Community colleges designated as CAE in Cyber Defense Education.
- Full/part-time, in-resident, distance learning programs leading to an associate degree.
- Open to officers, enlisted personnel, and DoD civilians.
Please note, specific program restrictions vary for Navy civilians, military officers, and enlisted applicants. The Navy will solicit nominations from personnel for the 2021-2022 CySP, via naval message and information on the DON CIO website.
Navy personnel interested in applying for 2021-2022 retention scholarships are encouraged to start researching, planning, and communicating their interest with their chain of command now. This will facilitate command support, planning, and budgeting for potential scholarship recipients.
For more information about the DoD CySp Retention Scholarship Program, please visit: https://dodcio.defense.gov/Cyber-Workforce/CySP/Scholarship/
Dawn Cotterell is a Cyber Workforce Planner & Developer (Policy/Planning), OPNAV N2N6G1.