Drafting this article from Washington D.C., I am currently immersed in the vibrant atmosphere of the Scholarships for Service (SFS) Job Fair. The SFS is a scholarship program sponsored by the National Science Foundation  (NSF) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The program connects with college students, having them pledge to work in a government (local, state or federal) cyber position as an intern and also post-graduation (either Bachelors or Graduate Degrees) for a minimum of two years. In exchange, the student gets their education paid for and a very healthy yearly stipend to live on.

Scholarships for Service (SFS)

There are only roughly 100 universities participating in the program nationwide, as the colleges selected must first have to go through a rigorous application process. In order to get selected, universities go through a vetting of faculty, facilities, community outreach, curriculum and university support for the institution’s cybersecurity program.

Wichita State is one of the schools that meet the NSF and DHS requirements (as well as being an NSA Center of Academic Excellence, which is a prerequisite to even applying) and is a proud member school of the program. Our first class of scholars has three students, all with diverse backgrounds, skills, and interests.

The job fair is full of 90 federal government agencies – all out there vying for cyber talent. I have been in the game for a long time, but I’m still amazed at some of the recruiting organizations. We obviously expect the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, but is the U.S. Mint on your list? Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) representation is no surprise, but is the Bureau of Reclamation? The FBI and the CIA are locks to attend searching for cyber talent; however, would you guess the Architect of the Capitol? The federal agencies in attendance are minute in comparison to the thousands of local and state offices that demand cyber expertise.

Get Your Foot in the Door

If you are a person just starting out in cyber, an adult learner, or someone with a current security clearance that wants to do something different, rest assured that government cyber jobs are plentiful and opportunities grow every day. Even if the scholarship is not something that interests you or you feel unqualified, but you’d still like to serve your country, state, or city, do not despair. Research prospective employers, make connections, and prepare yourself through formal and self-learning instruments of education. Build your resume through extracurricular activities such as Capture the Flag competitions, research projects, and participation in professional organizations. I understand prior industry work experience is often critical to prospective agencies, but often the above experiences can mitigate that.

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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.