NSA CAE | Guide to National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense

What is an NSA CAE-CD? 

When a college is designated as an NSA CAE CD, it means the school has a stamp of approval from The National Security Agency (NSA). This happens after a deep review of the school’s program. CAE is short for “National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense” and is a big way that cyber programs can stand out.

For you as a student, earning a degree that is part of an CAE program may be an asset. For one, such schools tend to get input from two of the main job sources in the cyber world. These two employers in the United States are NSA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As a result, they often give input for key cyber ideas, skills and practices to include in the program. These areas may be important to our own national information infrastructure. Second, a school must renew its status at defined intervals. So, you may rest assure it covers up to date tools and tech.

Western Governors University

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  • Earn certs with your degree, including CompTIA+, Security+, and A+. 100% online! Programs start monthly – Apply free this week! 

Southern New Hampshire University

  • Take advantage of some of the nation’s most affordable tuition rates, while earning a degree from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
  • Multiple term start dates throughout the year. 24/7 online classroom access.
  • Cyber Programs Include:
    BS in Cybersecurity – General Track, Data Analytics or Project Management Track
    MS Cybersecurity – General Track or IT Management

Cyber Security Schools By State

How Does a School Become NSA CAE Approved? 

Only schools with regional accreditation are able to apply to become CAEs. This is key as these schools may take part in federal financial aid programs like the Pell Grant (financial aid may be available to those who qualify). Once they’ve applied and to gain CAE status, the school must then line up its content with core NSA and DHS standards. Then they have to go through a deep dive review.

The review is in place to ensure the program meets guide lines around these areas:

  • The school has a devoted center for IA or CD studies
  • There is a focus on IA or CD research
  • The program uses science and other disciplines
  • Programs meet a core set of knowledge units (KUs)

KUs define the goal of the program. Things like key concepts, security functions and systems. While each kind of program uses them, KUs change by the type of program and degree level. Here are some types of CAE CDE KUs to give you an idea of the format.

Foundational: Cyber security principles, IT systems
Technical Core: Basic scripting, networks, defense, cryptography, operating systems (OS)
Non technical Core: Cyber threats, policy, legal, ethics, risk, planning 

Types of NSA CAEs  

Once a school is an CAE, it may elect a certain focus area. These area include:  

  • CAE CD Programs – cyber defense, policy and practices 
  • IA – information assurance (technical) 
  • CO – cyber operations 
  • CAE R  Designation– research in cyber defense (also, the school gets funding for this research). These are likely grad level institutions.  
  • CDE – cyber defense education 
  • CAE 2Y – associate degree (2 year) programs in cyber defense 
  • CDFAE – National Center of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence 


16 NSA CAE Schools

We compiled a list of 16 CAE schools. It is important to note that most CAE schools are four year colleges. There are a few community colleges that also make the grade and may help you build your cyber defense expertise.

  1. University of Maryland University College 
  2. Wilmington University 
  3. University of the Cumberlands 
  4. ECPI University 
  5. American Public University System 
  6. Pennsylvania State University (All) 
  7. Champlain College 
  8. Capella University  
  9. Bellevue University 
  10. Northern Virginia Community College 
  11. Colorado Technical University – Colorado Springs 
  12. The University of Texas – San Antonio 
  13. Carnegie Mellon University 
  14. Johns Hopkins University 
  15. Baker College 
  16. Robert Morris University  

Here is a closer look at these 16 CAE schools and the cyber programs they offer.


University of Maryland University College

3501 University Blvd East, Adelphi, MD

BS in Computer Networks and Cyber Security

UMGC’s online BS entails 120 credits and covers the technical design of secure IT systems. In it, you study ways to set up and oversee local area (LAN) and wide area networks (WAN). Grads may also be ready to sit for industry exams. Some topics may be:

  • Ethical hacking 
  • Cloud computing 
  • Cisco devices 
  • Linux system admin

More Cyber Programs 

UMGC offers online programs at the bachelors and masters levels.

  • BS in Cyber Management and Policy
  • BS in Software Development and Security 
  • MS in Cloud Computing Architecture 
  • MS in Cyber Operations 

School Features

  • CAE / CDE 
  • CDFAE 
  • Vertical pathway
  • Program development award 2013 
  • CDFAE certificates of completion 
  • Cyber Scholarship Program 

Wilmington University

320 Dupont Hwy, New Castle, DE

BS in Computer and Network Security  

Wilmington U’s online BS entails 120 credits and covers the basic ways to keep systems and networks secure. You could also tailor studies with a focal point in digital forensics. As a grad, you may be ready to sit for industry exams. Some topics may be:

  • Databases 
  • Cryptography 
  • Firewalls 
  • Intro to programming 

More Programs 

Wilmington U offers campus and online cyber degrees at the bachelors and masters levels. 

  • MS in Info Systems Technology / Information Assurance 
  • MS in Cyber Security

School Features  

  • CAE / IA 

University of the Cumberlands

6191 College Station Drive, Williamsburg, KY

BS in Information Technology 

UC’s online BS in IT entails 120 credits and covers app software, data bases and web design. Built into core classes, you also study network, app and host security. To tailor studies, you could also focus on cyber  in your electives. Some topics may be:

  • Business intel 
  • Networking 
  • Hardware 
  • Programming

More Cyber Programs 

UC offers online cyber security degrees from associate to PhD levels.  

  • AS in IT Sciences
  • AAS in IT 
  • BS in IT Sciences 
  • MS in Digital Forensics 
  • MS in Info Systems Security
  • PhD in IT 

School Features  

  • CAE CD institution

ECPI University

5555 Greenwich Road Virginia Beach, VA

BS in Computer and Information Science – Cyber Track

ECPI’s online BS entails 120 credits and some students finish in 2.5 years as it goes all year round. The program covers pen testing and many ways to safe guard data. You also study how to create basic security policies and actions. Some topics may be: 

  • Routing and switching 
  • Ethical hacking 
  • Advanced defense 
  • Intro to cloud solutions 

More Programs 

ECPI offers a range of online cyber degrees at the AS through masters levels.  

  • AS in Cyber and Information Security
  • BS in Criminal Justice / Digital Forensics 
  • MS in Cyber Security

School Features  

  • STEM Jobs Approved College 2016 – 17 
  • CAE / CDE 
  • Cyber Center for Innovation

American Public University

111 W. Congress St., Charles Town, WV

BS in Cyber Security

APU’s online BS entails 120 credits and runs through all kinds of cyber attacks and threats that a business may face. You study these areas while you also learn how to assess, plan and design defense policy and systems. And, tailor course work with a general or wireless and mobile security focus. Some topics may be: 

  • Cyber warfare 
  • Biometrics 
  • Cyber law 
  • IT security

More Programs of Study

APU offers more online cyber degree programs at the BS and masters levels.  

  • BS in Cyber Intel
  • MS in Cyber Intel
  • MS in Homeland Security

School Features  

  • CAE / CDE

Pennsylvania State University All

E397 Westgate Building, University Park, PA

BS in Security and Risk Analysis – Cyber Option

Penn State’s online BS entails 120 credits and looks at malware, data breaches, phishing and more. You also study ways to design secure systems, measure risk and ensure data privacy. Some topics may be:

  • Threat of terrorism and crime
  • Info to security and risk analysis 
  • Decision theory 
  • Internship 

More Programs 

Penn State offers campus and online programs at the AS to masters levels. 

  • AS in Information Systems Technology 
  • BS in Security and Risk Analysis 
  • MPS in Cyber Analytics

School Features  

  • IST professor received a Fulbright
    Cyber Security Award 2020
  • Institute for Networking Security and



Champlain College

163 Willard St., Burlington, VT

BS in Cyber Security 

Champlain College online BS entails 120 credits and classes start every 7 weeks. You could study a range of software, technical platforms and programming languages. And with them, soft skills like how to communicate in a business setting, trouble shoot and more. Some topics may be:

  • Google hacking 
  • Networking basics 
  • Digital forensics 
  • Cloud computing security 

More Cyber Programs 

  • MS in Cyber 

School Features  

  • CAE / CDE 
  • truEd Alliance preferred pricing  

Capella University

225 South 6th Street, 9th floor, Minneapolis, MN

BS in Information Technology / Information Assurance and Cyber Security 

Capella’s online BS entails 180 quarter credits and is available in FlexPath which may allow you to finish in 13 months. The program’s main focus is on infrastructure. So, you study ways to design tactics that reduce risk to a business’s digital assets. And, in other classes, learn about ethics, policies, laws and rules related to cyber security. Some topics may be: 

  • Computer forensics 
  • Operating systems and app security 
  • Ethical hacking 
  • Cyber defense 

More Programs 

Capella offers only online cyber degrees 

  • MS in Analytics  
  • MS in IT  
  • PhD in IT

School Features  

  • CAE IA / CD  
  • Potential to save on tuition if you
    have CISSP
     ® certification 
  • ABET accredited (BS in IT) 
  • Earn an NSA digital badge 

Bellevue University

1000 Galvin Rd. S., Bellevue, NE

BS in Cyber Security

Bellevue online BS entails 127 credits and looks at the skills one needs to protect a company from cyber threats. Program courses cover a range of elements in computer science, forensics and more. So, as a student, you should expect to study tools, techniques and tech. Some topics may be:

  • Network security
  • Mobile device security 
  • Penetration testing 
  • Web, commerce and application security

More Programs 

Bellevue offers online programs at two levels.  

  • MS in Cyber 
  • MS in Security Management

School Features  

  • Center for Cyber Security Education (hub) 
  • CAE / IAE  
  • C&A Industries Intelligence Systems Lab

Northern Virginia Community College

4001 Wakefield Chapel Rd., Annandale, VA

AAS in Cyber Security  

NOVA’s online AAS entails 90 credits and is a two year program. While transfer is not the main goal, the school does have agreements in place if this ends up as your goal. If not, the course plan maps out the skills and knowledge you may need for an information security career. Some topics may be: 

  • Intro to network concepts 
  • Software design 
  • Linux system 
  • Computer forensics

School Features  

  • Earle C. Williams Veteran Technology
    Scholarship, STEM Scholarship
  • CAE / IA  

Colorado Technical University Colorado Springs

4435 N. Chestnut Street, Colorado Springs, CO

BS in Computer Science / Cyber Security Engineering 

CTU’s online BS entails 183 quarter credits and is also on campus. The program does not lead to a cert or a license. But, does cover a broad range of ideas, tools and skills around software design. How it works, and ways to build computer software solutions through programming with algorithms. Some topics may be: 

  • Network security  
  • Ethical hacking 
  • Basics of big data analytics 
  • Programming  

More Programs 

CTU offers campus and online cyber programs at many levels. 

  • BS in IT Security
  • MS in Cyber Management 
  • Doctor of Cyber Security

School Features  

  • Fast Track (earn credit for prior learning) 
  • CAE / IA CD

The University of Texas at San Antonio

One UTSA Circle, San Antonio, TX

BBA in Cyber Security 

UTSA’s online BBA entails 120 credits and is also on campus. The program looks at the links between business goals and security. So, it look at how to build defense systems that protect digital assets. And, may help you grow as a critical thinker. Some topics may be: 

  • Digital forensics 
  • Malware analysis 
  • Cyber operations 
  • Info systems for management 

More Cyber Programs 

  • MS in IT / Cyber Security
  • PhD in IT 

School Features  

  • CAE / CDE 
  • Nationally Ranked #1 Cyber Security
    Programs 2014
  • Cyber Center for Security and Analytics 

Carnegie Mellon University

5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA

BS in Information Systems 

Carnegie’s BS entails 120 credits and stacks comp sci, IT and business management with humanities. As such, you learn about AI, machine learning, neural networks and how to solve problems with them.   

More Cyber Programs 

CMU offers cyber degrees mainly at the grad level and some are both on campus and online.

  • MS in Info Security and Assurance

School Features  

  • Cy Lab
  • CAE / CO

Johns Hopkins University

3400 N. Charles St, Baltimore, MD

MS in Cyber Security 

Johns Hopkins’ online MS entails 36 credits and there are three tracks to tailor your studies. Analysis, networks, and systems. That said, the core program aims to nurture key risk management skills. You also study cryptology in depth and explore data structures and advanced math. Some topics may be: 

  • Algorithms 
  • Java 
  • Info assurance 
  • Computer systems 

More Programs 

Johns Hopkins offer online degrees at the bachelors and masters levels, many of which are online.  

  • BS in Computer Science 
  • BS / MS in Security Informatics 
  • MS in Information Security

School Features  

  • Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute 
  • CAE / CDR / CDE 

Baker College

1050 West Bristol Road, Flint, MI

BS in IT and Security 

Bakers’s BS in entails 120 credits and allows you to choose an anchor point. Info assurance and cyber is one. In it, you study security methods for a wide range of systems and platforms. Like networks, OS, and more. Along the way, the courses may hone the skills you need to spot risks and prep for cyber threats. Some topics may be: 

  • Linux 
  • Internet and web security 
  • Computer forensics 
  • Fraud risk 

More Programs 

Baker offers cyber degrees at the bachelors and masters levels, both on campus and online. 

  • BS in IT and Security  
  • MBA in Cloud Security Risk Management  

School Features  

  • CAE / CDE 
  • Baker College Cyber Defense Club 
  • Center for Cyber Sec 

Robert Morris University

6001 University Blvd., Moon Township, PA

BS in Cyber Security / Digital Forensics 

RMU’s online BS entails 120 credits and is available on campus as well. The program stacks a few areas like business, tech, organizational behavior and law. In it, you study ways to detect, respond to and prevent intrusions. So, expect to learn about firewalls, risk and more. Some topics may be: 

  • IT governance 
  • Digital evidence 
  • Network forensics  
  • Control and assurance

More Programs 

Robert Morris U offers programs at many levels and some come in the online format.  

  • BS in Computer Info Systems 
  • MS in Cyber and Information Assurance 
  • PhD in Info Systems and Communication  

School Features  

  • CAE / CDE 
  • RMU Center for Cyber Research
    and Training