Four schools have been selected for the National Security Agency’s National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations Program, which was designed to cultivate more U.S. cyber professionals.

The schools are the Air Force Institute of Technology in Ohio, Auburn University, Alabama, Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi State University.

The program, which now has a total of eight schools, complements more than 100 existing centers of academic excellence (CAEs) in research and information assurance education – jointly overseen by NSA and the Department of Homeland Security.   

Steven LaFountain, an NSA technical leader, said legal and ethical issues in cybersecurity are a required and critical part of the effort. Topics covered are routinely taught in colleges and universities, but this initiative seamlessly integrates the material to help students better understand how they could someday help to defend the nation, according to the NSA. Summer seminar participants must undergo background checks and obtain temporary, top-secret security clearances.

The schools chosen in 2012, the program’s first year, were Dakota State University, South Dakota; the Naval Postgraduate School, California; Northeastern University, Massachusetts; and the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Like the agency’s other CAEs, those in the cyber operations program are evaluated annually. Designations are for five years and schools across the country can compete to join each year.