Federal Cyber Defense Skilling Academy


Header for the Federal Cyber Defense Skilling Academy

As of January 26th, 2023, 12:00 PM Eastern Time, the CISA Federal Cyber Defense Skilling Academy is not currently accepting applications. 

Students will have the opportunity to focus on professional growth through an intense, full-time, three-month accelerated training program. Those looking to make a career change, join the cybersecurity community, or learn cybersecurity skills are encouraged to apply for the Skilling Academy.  

What Students Learn

This Skilling Academy helps civilian DHS federal employees develop their cyber defense skills through training in the baseline knowledge, skills and abilities of a Cyber Defense Analyst (CDA).

The current coursework of the program is mapped to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Cybersecurity Workforce Framework and provides valuable hands-on experience to practice CDA skills in a lab environment. As an added incentive, students will receive CompTIA Security+ training during the last two weeks of the Skilling Academy with a voucher to take the certification exam.

The topics which will be reviewed during the three-month Skilling Academy are listed below:  

  • Basic Network & Protocol
  • Identifying Common Hacker Techniques, Methods, Vectors
  • CompTIA Security+
  • Incident Detection Response & Handling
  • Concepts of Intelligence-Based Computer Network Defense
  • Introduction to Python
  • Correlating Attacks, Advanced Data Analysis
  • Python for Security Analysis
  • Fundamentals of Linux
  • Windows Familiarization

Apply Today for the Federal Cyber Defense Skilling Academy

Who Can Apply?

Full-time, civilian DHS federal employees in any job series, grades GS-11 and below, or grade equivalent for non-GS employees, are eligible to apply to the Skilling Academy. Priority for partaking in this program will be given to those who are not in information technology, information security, or cybersecurity-related job series. 

The program has a limited capacity, therefore, those who apply are committing to attend, participate and complete the entire rigorous three-month program.
 

When:

Refer to the Current Program Dates section for specific dates for each program cycle. All students will be required to join virtually Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM ET, excluding federal holidays. Students will not be able to maintain their Alternative Work Schedule during the program. Students will return to their regular duty assignment during breaks unless the home agency has approved leave.
 

Participation Expectations:

Consistent attendance is vital to successfully completing the course. The Federal Cyber Defense Skilling Academy Committee recommends that students do not miss more than five consecutive days, and no more than a total of eight days throughout the class term. This is to ensure students do not fall behind. If you have scheduled, or plan to schedule leave outside of the breaks listed, please apply to a future program cycle. 

If a student misses eight or more classes or 20% of the labs in the Skilling Academy, the student will be marked as incomplete with the option of applying to a future program cycle. Due to the accelerated nature of the program, supervisor approvals are required to withdraw from the program after the program begins.

Sick leave and emergency personal leave are permitted; however, it is the responsibility of the student to make-up any missed class content as soon as possible. 

During the Skilling Academy

Example Skilling Academy Schedule:

Below is an example of the day-to-day activities that will occur during the Skilling Academy.

Time

                                  Event

8:00 AM – 8:10 AM ET

Review daily agenda, answer any questions

8:10 AM – 10:00 AM ET

Lectures

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM ET

Lab time

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM ET

Lunch break

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET

Lectures

2:30 PM – 4:50 PM ET

Lab time or self-study

4:50 PM – 5:00 PM ET

Wrap up for the day

     *10-minute breaks will be given approximately every hour.

Expectations During the Skilling Academy:

While in the Skilling Academy, students are required to abide by the following, as agreed to in the Supervisor and Applicant Agreement and Approval Form (.pdf, 211KB). There are very limited exceptions to these requirements.  

  1. The Skilling Academy is the student’s focus for the 40-hour, full-time work week. 
  2. Students will refrain from conducting activities associated with their regular duty assignment, including, but not limited to, meetings, calls and work deliverables.
  3. Depending on agency requirements, accepted students may be required to complete an SF-182 to receive approval from their organization to attend the program. 
    • Applicants should discuss the requirements of this program with their supervisor to ensure program requirements can be fulfilled. 
    • Applicants are responsible for working with their supervisor to confirm compliance with their home agency’s policies, to include any necessary timekeeping to ensure salary payments from their home agency are not interrupted.
  4. During the Skilling Academy’s instruction periods, the student is required to be on camera and in business casual attire for every class.
  5. By applying for this course, the student confirms that they do not have scheduled annual leave during the course dates outside of the two previously identified one-week breaks.
  6. To ensure the student does not fall behind, missed instruction days and lab work must be made up by accessing class recordings and self-study materials. Class recordings are available for two weeks after each session.
  7. If the student fails to complete the required work assigned in the allotted class time, the student agrees to complete the required work as soon as possible.
  8. If a student misses eight or more classes or 20% of the labs in the Skilling Academy, the student will be marked as incomplete and will not graduate from the program. The student may, however, apply to future program cycles.
  9. Due to the accelerated nature of the program, students will need their supervisor’s approval to withdraw from the program after the program cycle begins.
  10. Students must have access to the following to participate in the Skilling Academy:

Minimum configuration requirements:

  • Personal or government furnished equipment (GFE) laptop or desktop computer with an up-to-date operating system 
  • Speakers or headset 
  • Camera 
  • Microphone 
  • Internet bandwidth: 10 Mbps 
  • CPU: 1.1 GHz, Dual Core 
  • RAM: 4.0 GB 
  • Browser: IE, Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Safari
  • Apps: MS Teams
  • Email: Access to federal government email account
  • Note: If you do not have a GFE laptop, you may be able to use Workplace as a Service (WPaaS) to access your federal government email account and MS Teams account. Contact your agency’s IT Service Desk for more information on WPaaS. 

Recommended configuration requirements:

  • Internet bandwidth: 50+ Mbps 
  • CPU:  2.0 GHz, Quad Core or better 
  • RAM: 8.0+ GB 
  • Secondary monitor

Current Program Dates

Below are the schedules for each current program. 

Program Starting October 2022:

  • Orientation

October 24, 2022

  • Class Begins

October 31, 2022

  • Break 1

November 21, 2022

  • Class Resumes

November 28, 2022

  • Break 2

December 26, 2022

  • Class Resumes

January 3, 2023

  • Graduation 

February 10, 2023

Program Starting January 2023:

  • Orientation

January 3, 2023

  • Class Begins

January 9, 2023

  • Break 1

January 23, 2023

  • Class Resumes

January 30, 2023

  • Break 2

February 20, 2023

  • Class Resumes

February 27, 2023

  • Graduation 

April 20, 2023

Program Starting February 2023:

  • Orientation

January 30, 2023

  • Class Begins

February 6, 2023

  • Break 1

February 20, 2023

  • Class Resumes

February 27, 2023

  • Break 2

April 17, 2023

  • Class Resumes

April 24, 2023

  • Graduation 

May 17, 2023

Program Starting March 2023:

  • Acceptance or Denial Email

February 13, 2023

  • Orientation
March 6, 2023
  • Class Begins
March 13, 2023
  • Break 1
April 17, 2023
  • Class Resumes
April 25, 2023
  • Break 2
May 29, 2023
  • Class Resumes
June 6, 2023
  • Graduation
June 22, 2023

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Application:

  1. What type of resume should be submitted?
    Please submit a federal resume. You’re welcome to use the sample resume provided in the How to Apply section above, as a template. Please do not exceed 5 pages. See USAJOBS Help Center for more information on resumes.

  2. When will I hear about my application status?
    The Skilling Academy will notify all March program cycle applicants of the status of their application by 5:00 PM ET Monday, February 13, 2023. The Skilling Academy Committee may contact some applicants with additional questions in advance of the notifications.
  3. How soon after I send an email to the Skilling Academy will I get a response?
    The Skilling Academy will generally respond to all emails within three business days.
     
  4. Will my supervisor’s permission be required to join the Skilling Academy?
    Yes, students require the appropriate supervisor’s approval to apply and attend the Skilling Academy. Both the student and the supervisor must sign the Supervisor and Applicant Agreement and Approval Form (.pdf, 211KB). Please ensure the appropriate supervisor signs the form.
     
  5. Can I apply if I am an Active-Duty service member?
    No, the Skilling Academy is only open to full-time, civilian DHS federal employees who meet the criteria listed in the “Who Can Apply?” section.
     
  6. Do I need to submit an SF-182 to apply to the Skilling Academy?
    No, an SF-182 is not required in order to apply to the Skilling Academy, however your agency may require an SF-182 to be completed by students who have been accepted into the program. 

    Depending on agency requirements, accepted students will be required to complete an SF-182 in order to receive approval from their organization to attend. Please check with your supervisor to see if this is required to be completed prior to attending the program.

     
  7. When will I be able to apply for future cohorts?
    At this time there are no program cycles scheduled for the remainder of fiscal year 2023. 

     
  8. Can I attend any program cycle after submitting my application?
    No, students are only eligible to attend the program cycle that they applied for specifically. Applicants must submit an application to each program cycle that they wish to attend. Please note, the Supervisor and Applicant Agreement and Approval Form (.pdf, 211KB) is updated for each program cycle. 
     
  9. Can I attend more than one program cycle?
    No. You can only participate in one program cycle.
     
  10. Can I apply if I’m a GS-12 or above?
    Priority for partaking in this program will be given to full-time, civilian DHS federal employees in any job series, grades GS-11 and below, or grade equivalent for non-GS employees, and to employees who are not in information technology, information security, or cybersecurity-related job series. However, GS-12 – GS-15 employees, or grade equivalent for non-GS employees, may apply before the application deadline. Exceptions may be made for GS-12 – GS-15 employees, or grade equivalent for non-GS employees, if there are available spots in the program.

Resources and Materials Needed for the Skilling Academy:

  1. Do I need a laptop or desktop?
    Yes, a laptop or desktop with an up-to-date browser and Windows 10 or newer is required for participation in the program. 
     
  2. Do I need to download any applications?
    If you have an up-to-date web browser, you are not required to download any additional applications for the program. All the resources you need for the program can be accessed through an up-to-date web browser. We recommend Google Chrome as your web browser. While it is not required, we also recommend downloading the Microsoft Teams application for a better experience. The virtual instruction will take place on Microsoft Teams, and the labs will occur in Skillable. Students can use their personal or government furnished equipment (GFE) computer if it has the minimum configuration requirements. 
     
  3. What are the configuration requirements to participate in the Skilling Academy?
    Students will need access to the following to participate in the Skilling Academy

    Minimum configuration requirements:
    •    Personal or government furnished equipment (GFE) laptop or desktop computer with an up-to-date operating system 
    •    Speakers or headset 
    •    Camera 
    •    Microphone 
    •    Internet bandwidth: 10 Mbps 
    •    CPU: 1.1 GHz, Dual Core 
    •    RAM: 4.0 GB 
    •    Browser: IE, Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Safari
    •    Apps: MS Teams 
    •    Email: Access to federal government email account
    •    Note: If you do not have a GFE laptop, you may be able to use Workplace as a Service (WPaaS) to access your federal government email account and MS Teams account. Contact your agency’s IT Service Desk for more information on WPaaS. 

    Recommended configuration requirements:
    •    Internet bandwidth: 50+ Mbps 
    •    CPU:  2.0 GHz, Quad Core or better 
    •    RAM: 8.0+ GB 
    •    Secondary monitor
     
  4. Is a VPN required? Can I use a VPN?
    Connecting through a VPN will not be an issue if the ISP/VPN provider offers sufficient bandwidth. If a connection issue occurs during the class or while doing the labs, try disconnecting from the VPN and reloading the content.
     
  5. Are there any recommended books or reading materials that we are encouraged to read outside of the program?
    Students will be given access to a comprehensive online library (Cengage) used in the curriculum which will also contain supplemental learning material.


During the Skilling Academy:

  1. How much of my time will the Skilling Academy take up? 
    The Skilling Academy is an intense, full-time, three-month program.
    •    Refer to the Current Program Dates section above for specific dates for each program cycle.
    •    Students will be required to attend Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM ET, excluding federal holidays.
    •    Students will not be able to maintain their Alternative Work Schedule during the program.
    •    Participants perform self-study between online classes, working through on-demand material, completing labs and study assessments.
    •    Please speak with your supervisor before applying to ensure that you can fulfill the Skilling Academy’s attendance requirements. 
     
  2. Can I work my regular duty assignment during the two weeklong breaks during the program?
    During the two weeklong breaks, mentioned above, students will return to their regular duty assignment unless the home agency has approved leave. 
     
  3. Can I work on my regular duty assignment tasks during the short breaks during the day?
    No. The Skilling Academy is the student’s focus for the 40-hour, full-time work week during the three-month program. Therefore, students should only focus on the Skilling Academy while in the program. Participants perform self-study between online classes, working through on-demand material, completing labs and study assessments. Please speak with your supervisor before applying to ensure that you can fulfill the Skilling Academy’s attendance requirements.
     
  4. Where will the program take place?
    The Skilling Academy is 100% online. The courses are live and instructor-led via Microsoft Teams.
     
  5. Is there a cost for the Skilling Academy?
    The Skilling Academy is offered at no cost to students. Individuals are responsible for obtaining the appropriate supervisor’s approval for participation and must comply with their agency’s specific policies related to training. 
     
  6. How will the Skilling Academy instructors teach the content?
    Skilling Academy instructors will interactively deliver training via PowerPoint. The instructors will also use real-time demonstrations, examples, and assignments to reinforce learning through both an instructor-led guided lab environment and an unguided lab environment, where students can practice and hone their newly acquired cybersecurity knowledge.
     
  7. Are there any certifications associated with this program?
    The last two weeks of the program will be dedicated to delivering training that aligns directly with the CompTIA Security+ exam SY0-601. Students will have time at the end of the program to test for the CompTIA Security+ certification. Please note, the Security+ training is not the main focus of the Skilling Academy program.
     
  8. What will the Skilling Academy and CompTIA Security+ certification prepare me for?
    This Skilling Academy helps civilian federal employees develop their cyber defense skills through training in the baseline knowledge, skills, and abilities of a Cyber Defense Analyst (CDA). The CompTIA Security+ certification will assist in validating the skills you learn during this program. For more information on the certification, visit the CompTIA Security+ website.
     
  9. How much study time is required outside of class?  
    Students are not required to study outside of class; however, we strongly encourage you to study as much as necessary to master the material. The class is fast-paced and additional studying will help in completing assignments by their due dates. 
     
  10. Will we have breaks during class? If yes, how often?
    There will be a 10-minute break approximately every hour of class and an hour break for lunch.
     
  11. Does this course guarantee a cybersecurity position or affect my pay grade upon completion of the program?
    No, completing the training will not guarantee employment placement, nor will it automatically affect pay grades. While CISA cannot guarantee that individuals who complete the Skilling Academy will receive job offers or increased pay grades at the end of the training, you will have foundational technical skills in the Cyber Defense Analyst role. Students will receive a voucher to take the CompTIA Security+ certification exam in class, near the end of the three-month program.
     
  12. If I am a CISA employee, does graduating from the Skilling Academy automatically qualify me to participate in the Cyber Pay Enhancements Program?
    No, graduating from the Skilling Academy does not automatically qualify CISA employees to participate in the CISA Cyber Pay Enhancements Program. CISA employees should discuss with their supervisor for additional information.  
     
  13. Must I share my screen or activate my webcam during class or assignments?
    Students may be required to share their screens during class. The Skilling Academy requires students to be on camera and participate in class during class hours to ensure a more collaborative feel. Only select job series with specific security and safety precautions may be exempted from this requirement. Please speak with the Skilling Academy in advance to seek an exemption.


Compensation and Leave:

  1. Are we allowed to take leave during the program?
    The Skilling Academy Committee recommends students do not miss more than five consecutive days, and no more than a total of eight days throughout the class term. Consistent attendance is vital to successfully completing the course.
     
  2. What if I need to miss a class or lab activity?
    Participants will need to make up any missed class time by accessing class recordings and self-study materials as soon as possible, but prior to the scheduled program end date. Class recordings are available for two weeks after each session.
     
  3. Are there any penalties for missing more than eight days? 
    If a student misses more than eight days or 20% of the labs in the Skilling Academy, the student will be marked as incomplete with the option of applying to a future program cycle. If you have scheduled, or plan to schedule, leave outside of the breaks listed, please apply to a future program cycle.
     
  4. What if I have an emergency?
    Participants are allowed to take sick leave or emergency personal leave only. Missing class without notifying the Skilling Academy before taking sick leave or emergency personal leave is considered taking unplanned leave. Participants will need to make up any missed class time by accessing class recordings and self-study materials as soon as possible prior to the end of the Skilling Academy. Class recordings are available for two weeks after each session.
     
  5. What if I can no longer attend after starting the program?
    This program has a limited capacity, therefore, those who apply are committed to attend, participate, and complete the entire rigorous three-month program. Due to the accelerated nature of the program, supervisor approvals will be needed to withdraw after the Skilling Academy begins
     
  6. Will I be paid for my time required to take the course, and will this cover any overtime? 
    The Skilling Academy is considered training, so students will be paid by their home agency and there is no additional compensation available through the Skilling Academy. Overtime is not authorized. Applicants are responsible for working with their supervisor to confirm compliance with their home agency’s policies, to include any necessary timekeeping to ensure salary payments from their home agency are not interrupted
     
  7. If I am not selected for the Skilling Academy, what can I do to improve my cybersecurity knowledge and skills?
    There are a variety of free resources available online to help build cybersecurity knowledge. 
    •    The Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE) offers free training to government personnel, veterans, and civilians. 
    •    Employees also can check out the CISA Cybersecurity Workforce Training Guide that can help you develop a training plan based on your current skill level and desired career path.

    If you were not selected for the Skilling Academy, you may also apply for a future program cycle. Information about future program cycles will be available on the Skilling Academy website towards the end of 2022.
     
  8. If I am nearing retirement, may I enroll?
    While applicants may apply for the Skilling Academy, participants should discuss with their supervisor whether their home agency requires a Continuing Service Agreement upon completion of the training.
     
  9. Does the Skilling Academy require a Continuing Service Agreement (CSA)?Applicants are responsible for working with their supervisor to confirm compliance with their home agency’s policies, to include any Continuing Service Agreements. 


Supervisors:

  1.  Is a supervisor’s permission required to apply to the Skilling Academy
    Yes, students require the appropriate supervisor’s approval to apply and attend the Skilling Academy. Both the student and the supervisor must sign the Supervisor and Applicant Agreement and Approval Form. Please ensure the appropriate supervisor signs the form.

    For TSA applicants who work for individual airports, you will need approval from the supervisor who approves your schedule changes. In most cases, this will be your Federal Security Director (FSD) or Assistant Federal Security Director (AFSD). Please have this individual sign the Supervisor and Applicant Agreement and Approval Form. It is your responsibility to notify any additional supervisors that you report to when applying to the program so that you can set supervisor expectations during the program. 

     
  2. Who qualifies as a supervisor? 
    A supervisor is defined as any person who can approve leave for the applicant. For TSA applicants who work for individual airports, you will need approval from the supervisor who approves your schedule changes. In most cases, this will be your Federal Security Director (FSD) or Assistant Federal Security Director (AFSD). Please have this individual sign the Supervisor and Applicant Agreement and Approval Form. It is your responsibility to notify any additional supervisors that you report to when applying to the program so that you can set supervisor expectations during the program. 
     
  3. Can supervisors ask students to conduct tasks related to their regular duty assignment?
    No, the Skilling Academy is the student’s focus for their entire 40-hour work week. Supervisors will refrain from contacting the student for work-related tasking, including, but not limited to, meetings, calls and work deliverables.
     
  4. Do supervisors still approve leave for those participating in the program?
    Supervisors are still in charge of approving the leave requests for their direct and indirect reports who are part of the program, as applicable. 
     
  5. Who may I contact for more information?
    For questions, email SkillingAcademy@cisa.dhs.gov

 

 

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