Tobi West

Date of Award

Fall 10-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Cyber Defense (PhDCD)


Computer Science

First Advisor

Ashley Podhradsky

Second Advisor

Pam Rowland

Third Advisor

Kevin Streff

Fourth Advisor

Omar El-Gayar


The cybersecurity workforce suffers from an ongoing talent shortage and a lack of information correlating cybersecurity education programs to alumni employment outcomes. This cross-sectional study evaluated the post-graduation employment outcomes of alumni who attended two-year colleges designated by the National Security Agency (NSA) as Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD). Stakeholders of this project were identified as government agencies, the NSA, employers, faculty, students, and organizations that rely on cybersecurity talent to keep their systems secure from cyberattacks. This study used the explanatory sequential mixed methods approach to compare perceptions of the intended Program of Study work roles to alumni employment outcomes using the NICE Framework work roles.

This multi-phased, nested sample study included CAE-CD designated Points of Contact (POCs) at two-year colleges and their alumni. The first phase included a call for participation requesting POCs to provide academic program information via online survey and to contact their cybersecurity program alumni with a link to an online survey. The second phase of the study included an online survey requesting that the alumni provide data about their work experience, academic program information, industry-recognized certification achieved, and any co/extra-curricular participation.

Overall, the demographics of the alumni sample were more diverse than those of the U.S. cybersecurity workforce and the alumni noted that their two-year academic programs were important to the preparation for their current job. Of the alumni who reported they were currently employed, approximately 80% held technology-related positions. Recommendations are made for the use of the resulting knowledge by cybersecurity stakeholders to better understand the employment outcomes of two-year college alumni from CAE-CD cybersecurity programs.