Skip to main content
OMB # 3206-0246
Expires: 9/19/2021

Agency Official: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • It is the Federal Government's response to deal with the threat to our information technology infrastructure by strengthening the cadre of cybersecurity / information assurance professionals who protect it. Through this program, the National Science Foundation partnered with Department of Homeland Security issues selected 4-year colleges and universities scholarship grants to attract students to the cybersecurtiy /information assurance fields. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management administers the operational aspects of the program. Questions about the program may be addressed to the SFS Program Office at sfs@opm.gov OR Kathy Roberson, SFS Program Manager (405-259-8277). Both are available by e-mail at sfs@opm.gov.

  • The Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC) oversees the program. The ICC is composed of representatives from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), National Security Agency (NSA), Department of Treasury, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). NSF administers the issuance of grants process and the capacity building component. The scholarship component (including the placement and tracking of participants) of the SFS program is administered by OPM's Mid - Atlantic Services Branch. Questions about the program may be addressed to Kathy Roberson, SFS Program Manager, at sfs@opm.gov or (202) 369-1011.

  • The SFS program is important to the Federal agencies because it helps them obtain the talent they need to protect their information systems. Upon graduation, participants must serve at a Federal agency for a period equivalent to the length of the scholarship or one year, whichever is longer. This service must be in a position concerned with information assurance. During their period of Federal service, participants join the agency's cadre of professionals that protect its critical information systems infrastructure.

  • The SFS program is modeled after other successful programs and borrows some of their best features. For example, much like the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program, top-level students are nominated by their institutions. The internship offers the student-agency bonding opportunity of the co-op work experiences. The scholarships and stipends serve a similar purpose as that of the recruiting bonuses and retention allowances government agencies may use to attract top talent.

  • No. Colleges and universities must vie for participation. Only those selected through a competitive process may participate. You may access a list of contacts and institutions currently participating by selecting Principal Investigators on our website's Contacts page.

  • Typically, the scholarships provide academic year stipends of up to $22,500 per year for undergraduate students and up to $34,000 for graduate students. In addition, SFS scholarships may cover expenses normally incurred by full-time students in the institution, including tuition, and education-related fees (does not include items such as meal plans, housing or parking), a health insurance reimbursement allowance up to $3,000 per year; a professional development allowance of $4,000 for the SFS Job Fair and other travel, professional certification, etc., and a book allowance of $2,000 per academic year. Each participating institution manages their SFS grant. The actual amounts of the scholarship and what is covered will vary by institution. For specific information at a particular institution you must contact the Principal Investigator (PI) at that institution.

  • The scholarship is conferred for three years for a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a coherent formal program that is focused on cybersecurity at an awardee institution, or research-based doctoral student.

  • The shortest period for which a scholarship may be granted is one semester. However, upon completion of degree requirements, students funded for less than two years must have an information assurance academic background equivalent to that of the typical graduate funded for two years. For example, in order to enroll in the SFS at the beginning of his or her senior year, a student must have been pursuing information assurance studies during his or her junior year.

  • No. The student is entitled to a prorated amount. For example, if he or she receives a scholarship for only one semester, the student is entitled to only half the stipend. If the student receives a scholarship for only three semesters (one-and-a-half academic years), he or she is entitled to only half the stipend during the year the student receives funds for only one semester.

  • A student must serve for a period equivalent to the length of the scholarship or one year, whichever is longer. An academic year (i.e., the fall and spring semesters) is equivalent to a calendar year of employment. If the student is funded for two academic years, he or she must serve at a Federal agency in a covered position for two calendar years. If the student is funded for one academic year or less (e.g., only one semester), he or she must serve for one calendar year.

  • The National Science Foundation awards the grants for the scholarships to the selected colleges and universities. The Federal agencies that choose to participate by hiring program participants bear none of the cost for the scholarships.

  • Students must apply to a participating university. Students who apply will be selected for the program in accordance with the process and screening criteria set forth by the participating university.

  • The student must meet all of the following:

    -- be pursuing a bachelor's, master's, or doctorate degree at an institution that has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant under the SFS program;

    -- be attending school on a full-time basis while receiving a scholarship under the SFS program;

    -- be willing to pursue studies with an emphasis in cybersecurity /information assurance;

    --be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United State;

    -- meet criteria for Federal employment; and

    -- be able to obtain a security clearance, if required.

  • Thirty-two students joined the program in the 2001 fall semester. Approximately half are graduate students. Virtually all of those students received scholarships for the full two years. They began serving their post-graduation Federal employment commitments in May 2003.

  • Agency Officials from Federal agencies can register on this website and conduct student and resume searches. Agencies can contact directly those students they are interested in for the purpose of recruitment and/or interviewing.

  • It is very important that matches be made early to ensure all students who receive scholarship funds for more than one academic year have the opportunity to serve an internship performing information assurance-related work. The internship, which is a program requirement, is intended to enhance the students' information assurance knowledge by exposing them to worthwhile, field-related work experiences. Additionally, the student must have an academic term remaining after the internship is served. Therefore, an early match allows time for planning an optimal internship.

  • In December, 2014, POTUS signed into law the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-274), https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/1353/text. Section 302 addresses SFS specifically and states that agencies appoint CyberCorps(R):SFS participants into the excepted service and then once they complete their obligation they can be noncompetitively converted to career conditional. Because this is law and it does not state that OPM will regulate this, there will be no additional guidance/policy set by OPM so the agency can determine how to apply this. When making appointments (for both internships and post-graduation employment) agencies should cite the statute as the legal authority, and use the general Nature of Action (NOA) code for excepted appointments based on a law (these are described in the guide to processing personnel actions, GPPA). When converting them, agencies would again cite the statute as the legal authority and consult the GPPA for the appropriate NOA for conversions. It would be left to the agency to track the appointments to know when you can convert them. It would also be left to agencies to set any internal policy on making appointments under this law. For additional information please email sfs@opm.gov.

  • No. The student may serve the internship at another government agency.

  • There is no legal or regulatory basis to prevent an agency from making an offer of employment to a student who served the internship at another government agency even if the student is currently on the latter's rolls.

  • The student must repay a prorated amount equivalent to the length of the period not served. For example, if the student received funds for two years and serves for one-and-a-half years, he or she must repay 25% of the funds received. Federal agencies must notify the SFS Program Office immediately when this occurs. That office is responsible for initiating the repayment process.

  • Yes! Federal agencies must pay the students' salary (and benefits, if applicable) during the internship and other periods of employment. Additionally, it is expected that in virtually all cases, a security clearance may be required. The Federal agency will bear the cost of the background investigation (if needed), case adjudication, and other expenses associated with obtaining the required level of security clearance.

  • In general, students with a bachelor’s degree and superior academic achievement may be appointed at the GS-7 level. Master’s degree recipients may be appointed at the GS-9 level and recipients of a doctorate degree may be appointed at the GS-11 level. However, agencies can hire students at whatever grade level they find them qualified for based on the position and agency guidelines.

  • Portions of the SFS scholarship may be taxable. Which portions will depend on how the University disbursed them funds. For guidance on what is or is not taxable students should contact thier University and seek the advice of a tax professional.