National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE)

A student in front of a computer

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA) jointly sponsor the National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) program. Specific 2 and 4-year colleges and universities are designated based on their robust degree programs and close alignment to specific cybersecurity-related knowledge units (KUs), validated by top subject matter experts in the field.

Apply to become a CAE


About The Program

Over 200 top colleges and universities across 47 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are designated as CAEs in Cybersecurity.  Click here to see a regional map of where CAEs are located across the country. Academic institutions are designated as either CAEs in Cyber Defense or Cyber Operations and they have undergone an in-depth assessment and met rigorous requirements in order to garner this designation. Sponsored by NSA and DHS, the CAE in Cyber Defense program aims to reduce vulnerabilities in our national information infrastructure, while the CAE in Cyber Operations program, sponsored by NSA, focuses on technologies and techniques related to specialized cyber operations to enhance the national security posture of the Nation.

Once they have graduated, these students help protect national security information systems, commercial networks, and critical information infrastructure in the private and public sectors. But, our nation still needs more cybersecurity professionals to help it against cyber attacks. In fact, nearly one in five Americans has been the victim of a cybercrime and the economic impact of these attacks is devastating. Cyberattacks cost the average U.S. company more than $15.4 million per year.

As a greater priority is placed on strengthening cybersecurity and safeguarding citizens, our nation is increasingly looking to higher education to produce skilled and capable cybersecurity professionals able to defend our networks and infrastructure.


Cybersecurity professionals report an average salary of $116,000—nearly three times the national average. As the demand for highly trained cybersecurity professionals grows, CAEs will continue to equip students with the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities needed to protect and defend our nation’s infrastructures.

CAEs are recognized for their close alignment to KUs mapped to cybersecurity skills vital to securing our nation's information systems. By attending a CAE institution, students have the opportunity to learn by doing and to contribute their efforts to the protection of our nation. A degree from a CAE school gives potential employers confidence in hiring a graduate. Students can feel confident that their academic program will prepare them to enter this important and lucrative field.

For a list of designated National Centers of Academic Excellence, click here.

Academic Institutions

In order to fill the growing number of cybersecurity positions, we need top cybersecurity-related degree programs that meet high cybersecurity academic standards.

Colleges and universities designated as a CAE-CD receive formal recognition from the United States Government, along with the prestige associated with recognition. Schools are designated based on their robust degree programs and close alignment to KUs.

In addition to the designation, CAEs have the option to apply for one or more cyber defense  Focus Area (FA) designations.

All regionally accredited two-year, four-year, and graduate-level institutions in the United States can apply for designation as a NSA/DHS CAE-CD. CAE designation is valid for five academic years, after which the school must successfully reapply in order to retain its CAE designation. For additional information on CAE requirements, criteria and resources, click here.

For more information on the CAE application process, access the  National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) Program Guidance or email the CAE program office with questions.

The CAE-CD application can be completed through the CAE application website.

Last Published Date: 
October 4, 2018