By Dr. Kenneth Williams  |  10/27/2022

cybersecurity designation

In April 2018, American Public University System (APUS) achieved the designation as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (CAE-C). The six-month-long process to earn this distinguished designation involved the cooperative effort of multiple faculty members, university staff, and leaders such as the Provost and the President.

The National Cryptologic School at the National Security Agency (NSA) manages the Center of Academic Excellence designation program along with several federal partners, such as:

  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • The National Initiative on Cybersecurity Education (NICE)
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • The Department of Defense Office of the Chief Information Officer (DoD-CIO)
  • The U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM)

According to the NSA’s website, the purpose of the Centers of Academic Excellence designation program is “to create and manage a collaborative cybersecurity educational program with community colleges, colleges, and universities that:

  • Establishes standards for cybersecurity curriculum and academic excellence
  • Includes competency development among students and faculty
  • Values community outreach and leadership in professional development
  • Integrates cybersecurity practice within the institution across academic disciplines
  • Actively engages in solutions to challenges facing cybersecurity education”

The CAE-C Designation Involves Different Categories

Academic institutions who want to achieve this designation from the National Security Agency (NSA) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) commonly choose from three categories – Cyber Defense, Cyber Research or Cyber Operations. The designation process involves several institutional elements focused on the outputs for determining academic achievement.

The CAE-C designation also ensures that a school such as APUS meets the requirements to be a Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity institution. It also helps to ensure that students’ coursework will provide them with the education to help fill the cybersecurity knowledge gap in today’s workplace.

Additionally, institutions seeking the designation must complete a validation of a Program of Study (PoS). A PoS is a series of courses that a student can reasonably accomplish while working toward attaining a degree or completing a certificate.

Why Does This Designation Matter?

The CAE-C designation has had a long-lasting impact on the programs, our courses, our institution and students of our University. Our cybersecurity program saw changes to its core courses, which allowed our students to have a more robust cybersecurity education. Classes covered different topics, including software, database security and statistics.

All students selecting the cybersecurity program are required to follow this CAE-C path. The NSA and DHS examiners also checked courses to ensure they followed CAE-C criteria.

Courses from other schools within the University were also assessed and selected for submission of the CAE-C application. These other courses resulted in a greater appreciation for the importance of cybersecurity across the University community and initiated a call for additional cross-discipline courses that further increase public awareness of cybersecurity threats.

The CAE-C designation is also useful for cybersecurity students seeking federal scholarships, such as the Department of Defense (DoD) Cyber Scholarship Program. This  scholarship program allows students to increase their cybersecurity knowledge and skills of students in order to aid DoD partners in cyber areas. The goals of this scholarship program include providing students with hands-on, real-world opportunities, while improving existing DoD programs and projects.

Ultimately, the CAE-C designation offers major benefits to students enrolled in cybersecurity courses. In addition to providing a robust cybersecurity education, students will be eligible to apply for federal scholarships and will graduate with well-developed cybersecurity knowledge and skills.  


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About the Author
Dr. Kenneth Williams

Dr. Kenneth Williams is the Executive Director for the University’s Center for Cyber Defense. He holds a master’s degree in information security and assurance and a Ph.D. in cybersecurity from Capella University. Kenneth is also a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). CISSP is a registered trademark of International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Inc. 


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