Are you in need of financial assistance or looking for a scholarship in computer science to work in the InfoSec industry? Do you want to enter the cybersecurity world and be part of this fast-growing field? Then, you might want to consider all the opportunities that are currently made available to students by the federal or state government as well as private organizations. The information systems security field has many branches and can lead to a variety of positions for professionals that specialize in different tasks; however, for all, a career in the field starts typically with a formal degree in information systems or computer science. To advance, professionals need on-the-job experience as well as, frequently, advanced degrees and industry certifications that can prove their continuous commitment to improving knowledge and keeping it up-to-date.

If your interest is in InfoSec, then, this might be the best time to decide for a university degree in the field, as opportunities for funding are abundant. The strong demand for new professionals able to secure the networks of government agencies as well as of the companies that nowadays rely almost entirely on their information systems to support their business objectives has led to the creation of opportunities tailored to attract the brightest students towards this career. The demand, “has created ample scholarship opportunities for computer science majors — and these could cover most or even all of your tuition,” tells ComputerScience.org. There has been “growing numbers of dedicated scholarships for computer science students on offer, including funding to study computer science at some of the world’s most prestigious institutions.”

So, if interested in the IT security field, students should research all the possible funding opportunities well to attend even the most out-of-reach institutions and look for the extra services that many offer, including connecting students to career opportunities. Some scholarships not only can help pay for college but might also help ease into a nice-paying career in the profession.

Searching for the Right Scholarship

If a student has already chosen a university or has already narrowed down the pool of possible programs to attend to a few alternatives, then the obvious starting point is browsing the list of available opportunities at those institutions. Every university website has a comprehensive list of scholarships that students can review and qualify for. Most have requirements to be met, from G.P.A. restrictions to the number of credits already earned (they are merit-based) as well as they might target specific groups of students, such as minorities or students studying towards a specific major, or are income-based for learners who can demonstrate financial need. Lately, many scholarships have been devoted to women in STEM to increment the number of females entering scientific fields.

Applying for scholarships often requires filling out and submitting a FAFSA form, and the Federal Student Aid office of the U.S. Department of Education is a great source of information allowing access to a number of articles on FAFSA regulations, grants, and loans. The site also has an interesting career choice database that can help students find info on the profession to choose, with insight to its requirements, expected salary and universities with matching degrees.

Many websites online can help students navigate through the many options available to them and can aid them in locating the best funding opportunities for their situation and interest.

A good starting point is the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool at CareerOneStop, a source for career exploration, training & jobs. The site offers over 7,500 scholarships and other financial aid award opportunities to search for and apply.

Another reputable source is the College Board’s Scholarship Search site that presents a list of possibilities to choose from, or that may fit best the needs of the student. College Board is a not-for-profit organization that has connected students to colleges for over 100 years and offers renowned programs such as SAT and AP.

Those who have a clear idea of where they want their career paths to lead and are willing to commit their time to the scholarship process shall consider the significant benefits or advantages before they miss their opportunity, states Scholarships.com, a go-to place for finding college scholarships that list several opportunities in the InfoSec field. Another portal to the world of money for college is scholarshipsonline.org that poses as “the largest online directory of legit scholarships, education grants, and financial aid opportunities.” It lists several options for students majoring in cybersecurity topics. Another interesting site is IEFA.org that offers information on financial aid, college scholarships and grants for both US and international students wishing to study abroad. One more resource often used is CollegeScholarships.org. There one can filter by Gender, School level, Ethnicity, Award Amount, and State.

Career Specific “Area of Study” Scholarships

The mentioned portals above are databases where all students can be matched to opportunities regardless of their major or situation. There are, however, specialty sites that focus on specific groups of students. One of these is the Foundation for IT Education, an organization that promotes information technology research and education and has scholarship programs to support individuals entering and considering the IT profession.

As for scholarships available only to women, there’s a site dedicated to the gender at https://www.scholarshipsforwomen.net/. There, one can find a Women’s Scholarship Program in Computer Science. Not sure, if this is the field for you? Maybe this recent podcast (less than 24-min) on Women in Cybersecurity 2017: A CyberWire Special Edition will inspire those females who may want to know what it is like to enter this profession.

Next is a list of some scholarship opportunities that are specific to the IT/IS or cyber-security field:

  • On the U.S. Office of Personnel Management site, pupils can find the CyberCorps (R): Scholarship For Service (SFS), a program funded through grants awarded by the National Science Foundation and pays for tuition and fees of undergraduate and graduate students who will in time “strengthen the cadre of federal information assurance professionals that protect the government’s critical information infrastructure.” Many universities are partners in this initiative. As mentioned on the Government Security News (GSN) website, “The SFS program is part of the Federal Cyber Service Training and Education Initiative that was described in President Barack Obama’s national plan for information systems protection.” A notice posted by OPM in the Federal Register adds that “participating students who receive scholarships from this program are required to serve a 10-week internship during their studies and complete a post-graduation employment commitment equivalent to the length of the scholarship or one year, whichever is longer.” If interested, check https://www.sfs.opm.gov/.
  • NSA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) jointly sponsor the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CD) Education (CAE-CDE) with the aim to reduce “vulnerability in our national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in cyber defense and producing professionals with cyber defense expertise for the Nation.” The CAE Application Website is now open for submissions for the 2018 cycle at https://www.iad.gov/NIETP/index.cfm.
  • Homeland Security also offers valuable programs for current cybersecurity students. The Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative (CSVI) for current undergraduate and graduate students provides the opportunity for Summer internships that give the chance to apply in the real world the concepts learned in academic courses in “areas such as identification and analysis of malicious code, forensics analysis, incident handling, intrusion detection and prevention, and software assurance.” Discover more details at https://www.dhs.gov/homeland-security-careers/cyber-student-volunteer-initiative.
  • The (ISC)² Foundation’s information security scholarship program provides undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students with the opportunity to receive funding that will cover study expenses to provide passionate, aspiring young wannabe InfoSec professionals the means to follow their career path. Applicants may be awarded up to US$5,000. What’s more, the organization makes efforts aimed at developing more female global cyber talent under the (ISC)² Women’s and Raytheon’s Women in Cybersecurity Scholarships that will reopen January 1, 2018. For additional information on (ISC)²’s scholarship program, visit https://iamcybersafe.org/scholarships/.
  • The Foundation for IT Education (FITE) supports university students following a degree program related to information technology. The scholarships, only available for student-members of an AITP chapter, are created and operated by the Association of Information Technology Professionals that comprises of IT professionals, academicians, and students in the IT industry throughout the U.S. More info can be found at https://www.edfoundation.org/scholarships.htm.
  • DigiCert Internet Security Scholarship. Here’s a merit award of $1,000 annually for college-bound graduating high school seniors with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5. Applicants will need to write a 400-600-word essay about where they see Internet security in the next five years to be considered. More info can be attained at https://www.digicert.com/internet-security-scholarship.htm.
  • ICMCP Cybersecurity Scholarship Program – Bridging the Great Minority Cyber Divide – is concerned about the lack of diversity in the field and has a grant dedicated to recognizing the nation’s highest achieving minority students at https://icmcp.org/.
  • AFCEA STEM Major Scholarships. Those who major in Computer Science can apply, only if their current overall GPA is 3.0 or higher in their current program at an accredited U.S. college or university. Applications are being accepted from current eligible undergraduate level students. To apply, go to https://www.afcea.org/site/?q=foundation/scholarships/stem-majors.
  • Ralph W. Shrader Graduate Diversity Scholarship, Women and Minority students who major in Computer Science can apply if their current overall GPA is 3.5 or higher at the time of application. Some scholarships of $3,000 will be awarded to full-time students that enroll in an eligible major that supports the mission of AFCEA Educational Foundation. Get more details at https://www.afcea.org/site/?q=foundation/scholarships/HBCU-scholarship.
  • Rebecca Gurley Bace SWSIS Scholarship, in memory of her work in a number of InfoSec and CyberSec activities, offers a $10,000 scholarship to a woman for use in her junior or senior year of undergraduate studies, or the first year of a graduate program. The ACSA SWSIS scholarship is administered by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Any women interested in studying InfoSec and seeking a scholarship ought to read more about this opportunity at https://cra.org/cra-w/scholarships-and-awards/scholarships/swsis/#overview.
  • The HORIZONS Scholarship through ‘Women in Defense’ has student aid for these preferred fields of study: computer science and cybersecurity as it relates to national security or defense. For details, see http://wid.ndia.org/horizon/Pages/default.aspx.
  • Scholarships are also available to women seeking technology careers under the Association for Women in Computing. Further info can be read on the official website at http://www.awc-hq.org/president-message.html.
  • Morphisec’s Women in Cybersecurity Scholarships program in the US is open to female students currently taking degree courses in cybersecurity, information assurance, information security, information systems security and other sub-disciplines of computer science. For specifics, see https://www.morphisec.com/about-us/cybersecurity-scholarships/.
  • Cisco scholarship program is also geared towards closing the information security skills gap. Its Global Cybersecurity Scholarship program involves investing $10 million in increasing the pool of talents with critical cybersecurity skills. Though the program, Cisco offers free training, mentoring, and testing to help students earn the new CCNA Cyber Ops certification “and hone the skills needed for the job role of security operations center analyst.”

Ethical Hacking Training – Resources (InfoSec)

Of course, the list here is not complete. However, it gives some direction. Students should be creative in searching through the many opportunities, even the least publicized ones (and for which there might be less competition); scholarships might come from many places like state government and private organizations like churches or local clubs. Some American states, for example, also offer scholarship opportunities for cybersecurity students looking for ways to pay their studies and make advances in the field. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, for instance, offers the Cybersecurity Public Service Scholarship Program to support students in cybersecurity which can be granted up to $20,000 a year for two years but pupils must commit to working for the Commonwealth of Virginia for one year for each year they receive a scholarship, upon graduation.

Conclusion

With employers currently struggling to find the people they need to fill IT/IS and cybersecurity positions, this is the perfect time to be in any of the fields. So, “If you are interested in pursuing the study of information systems security as a potential career, you will find many programs offering plenty of opportunities for funding to compose a very secure package for your financial education future,” mentions CollegeScholarships.org.

All told, scholarships are an effective way to pay for higher education without getting too deeply in debt with student loans. Many sites online are available to students and make it easy to look for even the most niche-based opportunities. Scholarships do not just help to fund college programs; they can also help graduates or senior students gain valuable job experience (via internships) and even land a great position in the field following their studies.

Consequently, it is important to start looking for the right option very early on as some scholarships have long processing times and deadlines, as well as to account for unsuccessful applications or may be considered ineligible. Also, beware of potential scholarship and financial aid scams and end up like other victims. Bear in mind that no one should pay to receive a scholarship or information. As noted on finaid.org, “every year, several hundred thousand students and parents are defrauded by scholarship scams.” Just take extra care to research your options and distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent organizations. If you suspect that a scholarship program might be a scam, report it to scams@finaid.org.

References

Best Value Schools. (n.d.). Information Security and Assurance Scholarships. Retrieved from https://www.bestvalueschools.com/information-security-and-assurance-scholarships/

Best Value Schools. (n.d.). Internet Security Scholarships. Retrieved from https://www.bestvalueschools.com/internet-security-scholarships/

Borowski, C. (n.d.). Top Scholarships for Aspiring IT Security Professionals. Retrieved from https://www.softwareadvice.com/resources/top-scholarships-aspiring-security-professionals/

Brecht, D. (2016, November 29). Resolving the Shortage of Women and Minorities in Cyber, IT, and InfoSec Careers. Retrieved from http://resources.infosecinstitute.com/resolving-the-shortage-of-women-and-minorities-in-cyber-it-and-infosec-careers/

Center for Cyber Safety and Education. (n.d.). Scholarships – Educating Future Information Security Professionals. Retrieved from https://iamcybersafe.org/scholarships/

CollegeScholarships.org. (n.d.). Information Systems Security Scholarships. Retrieved from http://www.collegescholarships.org/scholarships/technology/systems-security.htm

Computer Science Zone. (n.d.). 50 Amazing Computer Science Scholarships. Retrieved from https://www.computersciencezone.org/best-computer-science-scholarships/

Crawley, K. (2017, July 7). Information Security, Cybersecurity, IT Security, Computer Security… What’s the Difference? Retrieved from https://hackernoon.com/information-security-cybersecurity-it-security-computer-security-whats-the-difference-53d2aada285e

Cyber Security Degrees. (n.d.). Cybersecurity Degree Program Guide. Retrieved from https://cybersecuritydegrees.org/

CyberSeek. (n.d.). Cybersecurity Supply/Demand Heat Map. Retrieved from http://cyberseek.org/heatmap.html

CyberWire Podcast. (2017, April 12). Women in Cybersecurity 2017: A CyberWire Special Edition. Retrieved from https://thecyberwire.com/podcasts/cw-podcasts-special-2017-women-in-cybersecurity.html

Federal Student Aid. (n.d.). Avoid scams while searching for scholarships, […]. Retrieved from https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/scams

Foundation for IT Education. (n.d.). Scholarships. Retrieved from https://www.edfoundation.org/scholarships.htm

Government Security News. (2010, April 19). Feds provide scholarships to students of information assurance and computer security. Retrieved from http://www.gsnmagazine.com/article/20542/feds_provide_scholarships_students_information_ass

ImFirst.org. (2013, January 3). What are Loans, Grants, and Scholarships? Retrieved from http://www.imfirst.org/2013/01/what-are-loans-grants-and-scholarships/

Meta, A. (2015, March 19). Plug in to Scholarships for Aspiring IT Professionals. Retrieved from
https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-scholarship-coach/2015/03/19/plug-in-to-scholarships-for-aspiring-it-professionals

Murray, A. (2017, July 27). Lock Up Scholarship Funds to Study Cybersecurity. Retrieved from
https://www.usnews.com/education/scholarship-search-insider/articles/2017-07-27/lock-up-scholarship-funds-to-study-cybersecurity

The College Board. (n.d.). Where to Find College Scholarships. Retrieved from https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/grants-and-scholarships/where-to-find-college-scholarships

Tucker, L. (2016, February 9). Computer Science Scholarships. Retrieved from https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/scholarship-advice/computer-science-scholarships