Student: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
There is no policy against current employees applying for the scholarship. However, there are some things to consider before applying for the scholarship when you are currently employed fulltime.
1. Participants awarded the scholarship must be enrolled fulltime and very few, if any, universities allow SFS students to take online courses. The majority of the programs require you to be on campus.
2. Most SFS participating institutions don't allow SFS students to work while in school and if they do it's limited to less than 10 hours per week. Anything more than 20 hours per week will make you ineligible for the stipend.
3. If applicable (i.e. if you are a current government employee), there's no guarantee you would go back to the same agency you are currently at.
4. There's no guarantee you would be able to stay in the same location.
Each university manages their program individually so policy concerning the above could vary by university. The best suggestion would be to contact the university you are interested in and explain your specific situation to see if you would be eligible to apply and if so how your current employment would be affected.
While many of the participating universities may offer an online cybersecurity degree program they do not offer the scholarship for online programs. There may be a few that will allow some courses to be online but you have to be on campus. This is unlike most scholarships. If awarded the scholarship you become part of a cohort that works closely together on projects, attends regular meetings, etc. that require you to be on campus.
While most agencies try to hire SFS graduates at the highest level possible that level depends on the type of experience they are looking for verses what you actually have. It’s based on actual duties that need to be performed. Because this is a scholarship program the only guarantee that can be made is that as someone graduating with a Master’s degree you would not be required to accept anything less than a GS-9. You could certainly search for higher graded jobs and would most likely have success. However, we would not allow you to turn down offers that were at the GS-9 or above. If all that’s offered to you is a GS-9 then you would be required to accept it. You could then continue to search for a position that better meets the salary you are searching for but in the beginning if all you are offered is a GS-9 and you turn that down looking for that higher salary you could be required to repay the scholarship in full. Employment must be with a Government agency. Work as an Independent Contractor will not meet that requirement.
Yes, you are eligible to apply. However, while there may be some agencies in the Federal government that can hire permanent residents for their positions, the majority of positions that students go into at the Federal level require a level of security clearance that requires US Citizenship. Students can also meet their commitment by working for state and local government where hiring of permanent residents are a little more common. Once you graduate you have 18 months to secure a position to meet your commitment.
The program covers, not only occupational series 2210, but also the array of series in which the duties require unique cyber security skills and knowledge to perform cyber risk and strategic analysis, incident handling and malware/vulnerability analysis, program management, distributed control systems security, cyber incident response, cyber exercise facilitation and management, cyber vulnerability detection and assessment, network and systems engineering, enterprise architecture, investigation, investigative analysis and cyber-related infrastructure inter-dependency analysis. For example, 0080 Security, 0391 Telecommunications, 0854 Computer Engineer, 0855 Electronic Engineer, 1515 Operations Research, 1550 Computer Scientist, and 1811 Criminal Investigator. As well as, Miscellaneous Administrative and Program (0301) series when those positions require unique cyber security skills and knowledge.
We (OPM SFS Program Office) don’t have any kind of outreach to high school students mainly because (1) applicants are typically not eligible for the scholarship until their sophomore year and (2) most recruitment for the scholarships is done by the university at this time. However, both NSF and the SFS participating universities do have outreach programs geared towards high schools.
The following are the approved places to work per the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of FY 18:
1. Federal Executive Agency
2. Congress, including any agency, entity, office, or commission established in the legislative branch (i.e. GAO)
3. An interstate agency
4. State, local, or Tribal government
5. State, local, or Tribal government-affiliated non-profit that is considered to be critical infrastructure as defined in section 1016(e) of the USA Patriot Act Students can apply for any Full-Time position that includes duties in Cybersecurity / Information Assurance at one of the locations above.
Yes, but you will need to be willing to transfer to one of the SFS participating institutions. Also, feel free to forward the following information to your university if they would like to apply to become an SFS participating institution: To be eligible to become a participating university, the university must first be certified as a Center of Academic Excellence for Information Assurance Education (CAE/IAE) or have a “comparable” information assurance program (i.e., one that would earn the institution certification if it were to apply for it). Additional information about the CAE/IAE program and a list of certified schools is available at Center for Academic Excellency and Cyber Defence.
In addition to the above requirement the process for a university to participate in the Federal Cyber Service: Scholarship for Service (SFS) program is a competitive one. They must be selected for participation after submitting a proposal in response to the SFS Program Solicitation the National Science Foundation publishes in October/November. While several institutions apply each year, only a few are selected. Information on how to apply and contact information for additional questions to become a participating university can be found at the National Science Foundation.
You can also visit the National Science Foundation website for additional information regarding grants that may be available NSF.
Currently, work as a government contractor does not meet program requirements. Students can work as a contractor while they are processing their security clearance with government agency but time worked as a contractor will not count towards their obligation.
You do not receive a stipend during the summer months. Generally speaking, your 10 week summer internship will be paid employment. There are a few agencies that offer unpaid internships but we do not require the students to accept them, but you can if you choose to.