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CAE-CDE Program Designation

What is CAE-CDE?


“CAE” stands for Centers of Academic Excellence, while “CDE” is a cyber defense designation. As issues surrounding cybersecurity become more prevalent and cyberattacks against both personal and professional targets continue to rise, there is a greater demand for cybersecurity professionals to act as the first line of defense.

This is where The National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) program comes in. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) teamed up to co-sponsor this program with the goal to elevate and advance skilled cybersecurity professionals across a variety of government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels.

Colleges and universities who receive CAE designation essentially get a stamp of approval for their cybersecurity programs from the U.S. Government. Schools with CAE designation go through intensive assessments to determine their capabilities, ensuring that students are receiving top-notch training designed to make them leaders in a variety of cybersecurity fields and provide extensive knowledge on how to address the threats we’re facing today.

WGU has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense through the Academic Year 2026.

What Do Schools Need To Do To Become CAE-CDE Designated?


Because the CAE is deeply dedicated to supporting the best of the best cybersecurity specialists in the field, designations can be hard to come by. Colleges and universities obtain their CAE-CDE designation by meeting the following criteria:

  • Helping to develop both faculty and research leaders in the field
  • Gaining recognition from the U.S. Government for their curricula and cyber defense programs
  • Networking with other researchers, advocates, teachers, and cybersecurity professionals to make advancements in the field
  • Offering degree programs designed to support future cybersecurity professionals with top-level knowledge and skills
  • Offering curricula featuring specific Knowledge Units that correspond with the cybersecurity language NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, which is used nationwide and includes Data Analysis, Cyber Defense, IT Systems and more
  • Participating in research exchanges with the government, acting as a facilitator or source
  • Maintaining a center for information assurance and cyber defense education and research
  • Working with federal agencies such as DHS, NSA, and others by offering academic insights into cybersecurity issues and programs
  • Maintaining knowledge of grants and scholarships offered by the Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service Program and the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program

Why Does CAE-CDE Designation Matter?


Students who wish to pursue a degree in cybersecurity should seek out colleges or universities with CAE-CDE designation. Not only does it ensure they’re getting a top-notch education in their field of choice, but students can also rest easy knowing they’re getting an education endorsed by two of the most prominent cybersecurity employers in the nation. Students can also enrich their cybersecurity degree program by participating in studies and academic collaborations with government entities as part of their school’s CAE-CDE designation.

Additionally, by studying concepts deemed essential by the Department of Defense and the NSA, students make themselves desirable hires to any potential employer in the cybersecurity field. It may also make an impression on hiring managers looking for students who have deep knowledge of cybersecurity and how to combat the variety of threats facing the industry today.

As cybersecurity threats continue to grow, the demand for cybersecurity specialists is in overdrive—which means there are countless opportunities for graduates of this educational field. However, not all schools have this designation, nor do all schools teach the same cybersecurity curriculum. It’s best to research a school’s accreditation before enrolling to ensure they’ve obtained their CAE-CDE designation. 

How Does CAE-CDE Designation Impact Graduates?


While an accredited program is important for graduates, programs with additional designations and awards are invaluable. A CAE-CDE designation can impact graduates by:

  • Helping them catch the attention of employers and hiring managers, as the CAE-CDE designation carries weight within the industry and signals that the applicant has next-level knowledge and skills. 
  • Telling employers that their education has been endorsed by the NSA and other high-level cybersecurity departments of government, which can help candidates stand out in a crowded marketplace. 
  • Starting a new cybersecurity career off on the right foot, as graduating from a cybersecurity degree program at a school with CAE-CDE designation is very attractive to employers.

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