National Security Agency, Certificate

Program Code: NSA_UCT

Program Description

The NSA certificate indicates students have completed the courses representing the required knowledge units as specified by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as part of Penn State’s designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

What is National Security Agency?

Penn State and the College of Information Sciences and Technology are designated as a national Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. As such, the College of IST is authorized to grant security certificates of recognition and achievement to graduating students who meet certain academic criteria. The certificates certify that the student graduated from an institution and program whose faculty, resources, curricula, and commitment were evaluated and found to be of high quality, as defined by NSA/DHS for cyber security professionals.


You Might Like This Program If...

  • You want to protect digital information, data stores, and computer networks from threats.
  • You want to learn the cyberdefense strategies used to anticipate, recognize, and defend against computer attacks.
  • You're passionate about how we can keep sensitive information out of the hands of hackers, cybercriminals, and terrorist organizations.


Entrance to Certificate

Must be enrolled in ISTBS, SRA, SRAAL, SRABK or SRACA major.

Program Requirements

To earn an undergraduate certificate in National Security Agency, a minimum of 28 credits is required.

A grade of "C" or higher is required in all courses for the certificate; no course substitutions are permitted. Courses taken more than 10 years ago will not apply automatically towards completion of the certificate but instead will require review by the academic unit.

Prescribed Courses
Prescribed Courses: Require a grade of C or better
IST 140Introduction to Application Development3
or CMPSC 101 Introduction to Programming Keystone/General Education Course
IST 210Organization of Data3
IST 220Networking and Telecommunications3
IST 451Network Security3
IST 454Computer and Cyber Forensics3
IST 456Information Security Management3
SRA 111Introduction to Security and Risk Analysis Keystone/General Education Course3
SRA 221Overview of Information Security3
STAT 200Elementary Statistics Keystone/General Education Course4

Certificate Learning Objectives

  • Knowledge/Application: Explain and apply the interdisciplinary knowledge of information sciences in a security context to recognize, analyze, defend against, and manage cyber risks.
    • Students will be able to describe which cryptographic protocols, tools and techniques are appropriate for a given situation.
  • Problem-Solving: Understand, apply and adapt various problem solving strategies, using appropriate technology and methods.
    • Students will be able to demonstrate proficiency in the use of a programming language to solve complex problems in a secure and robust manner.
    • Students will be able to demonstrate the ability to design and develop basic programs for modern computing platforms (e.g., PC, cloud, mobile, web).
    • Students will be able to write simple linear and looping scripts.
    • Students will be able to write simple and compound conditions within a programming language or similar environment (e.g., scripts, macros, SQL).
    • Students will be able to describe how basic statistics and statistical methods can be applied in a given situation.
    • Students will be able to evaluate probabilities to solve applied problems.
    • Students will be able to apply standard statistical inference procedures to draw conclusions from data.
    • Students shall be able to use one or more common DF tools, such as EnCase, FTK, ProDiscover, Xways, SleuthKit.
    • Students will be able to identify the bad actors in cyberspace and compare and contrast their resources, capabilities/techniques, motivations, aversion to risk.
    • Students will be able to examine the placement of security functions in a system and describe the strengths and weaknesses.
  • Communication (Individual and Team): Communicate and work effectively (both individually and in teams) with a range of perspectives and audiences through a variety of media.
    • Students will be able to develop system specific plans for (IST 456):
      • The protection of intellectual property; - The implementation of access controls; and
      • Patch and change management.
    • Students will be able to develop contingency plans for various size organizations to include: business continuity, disaster recovery and incident response.
  • Professional Responsibilities: Describe professional responsibilities in terms of the ethical, legal and security policy aspects of information assurance and security.
    • Students shall be able to discuss the rules, laws, policies, and procedures that affect digital forensics.
    • Students will be able to describe the steps in performing digital forensics from the initial recognition of an incident through the steps of evidence gathering, preservation and analysis, through the completion of legal proceedings.
    • Students will be able to describe how the type of legal dispute (civil, criminal, private) affects the evidence used to resolve it.
    • Students will be able to list the applicable laws and policies related to cyber defense and describe the major components of each pertaining to the storage and transmission of data.
    • Students will be able to describe how standards, such as the Orange Book, may be applied to the requirements for a sub-contractor or customer.

Academic Advising

The objectives of the university's academic advising program are to help advisees identify and achieve their academic goals, to promote their intellectual discovery, and to encourage students to take advantage of both in-and out-of class educational opportunities in order that they become self-directed learners and decision makers.

Both advisers and advisees share responsibility for making the advising relationship succeed. By encouraging their advisees to become engaged in their education, to meet their educational goals, and to develop the habit of learning, advisers assume a significant educational role. The advisee's unit of enrollment will provide each advisee with a primary academic adviser, the information needed to plan the chosen program of study, and referrals to other specialized resources.


University Park

Undergraduate Academic Advising Center
E103 Westgate Building
University Park, PA 16802

Career Paths

Students who earn the Security certificate are prepared to pursue careers in intelligence, risk analysis, defense, and emergency management. Earning the certificate demonstrates that the student completed a program whose curriculum and resources were designated as high quality by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.


Because our courses blend technical knowledge with skills in communication and business, a Security certificate allows students to pursue opportunities in intelligence, counterterrorism, computer forensics, and a number of other growing careers.



University Park

411 Eric J. Barron Innovation Hub Building
State College, PA 16801