The After-Hours College Program at the National Security Agency (NSA) provides an opportunity for civilian employees to pursue college coursework to enhance their professional development and careers. Specifically, permanent civilian employees are able to utilize this amazing program to pursue a myriad of degrees at a variety of colleges and universities. Courses do require approval and are expected to be job related and/or mission related; they are available at the undergraduate or graduate level through an accredited college or university. Through this program, NSA pays for all tuition associated with the coursework and students are responsible for any lab fees and books. This program is eligible for employees who wish to work during the day and perhaps pursue their degree “after-hours.” Employees are not eligible for time off to attend the coursework as they are expected to take the coursework during the evenings and/or weekends.
A fantastic opportunity to attend college courses without the burden of a bill and/or student loans, NSA’s program is a great option to those pursuing a degree at a college or university. Many students take advantage of this, currently, and are extremely grateful for the program. There are a few rules in conjunction with the program; grade requirements are strict (B or better is needed for payment or the student will need to pay the course fee back to the Agency) and courses must be taken “after” the student’s working hours. Many find these rules amenable and are able to successfully meet the minimum guidelines for the program.
Given the increasing expenses for college, the After Hours College Program is a great option for NSA employees to obtain funding for coursework in conjunction with a degree and/or professional development. Coursework is usually taken in the areas of: cybersecurity, information assurance, business, language, engineering, math and computer security, just to name a few. The employee/student will need to fill out an internal form and course justification for each class they would like to take as part of the program; a supervisor signature is required as well. Students can apply at any time, but usually for the Fall and Spring semesters. The After Hours College Program can be an integral part of a federal employee’s Individual Development Plan (IDP)  and can help them achieve their short and long term career goals.
As a long-time participant in the After Hours College Program, I was able to achieve an AA, BS, MBA, MS and Doctorate from the University of Baltimore and University of Maryland through this endeavor. Grateful for this opportunity, the knowledge obtained through a vast amount of coursework and instruction has enhanced my personal and professional development as well as opened a myriad of doors at the agency for my career. With my knowledge, skills and abilities sharpened throughout my tenure at NSA, I was able to move to/from a variety of organizations, learn a tremendous amount of information in a variety of disciplines, travel the world and gain valuable hands-on experience.
Although many other companies offer tuition support, NSA has one of the most generous and flexible programs in the After Hours College Program. The minimal requirements needed to participate as well as the opportunity to take coursework at any time, gives this program an extremely high rating from its students and employees.
Those interested in this After Hours Program, or other tuition supported programs should expand their searches to additional agencies within the federal, state, local governments as there are a myriad of opportunities in addition to those in the intelligence community. The Department of Energy, Federal Aviation Administration, and Defense Intelligence Agency, for example, have similar tuition-paid programs, and there are a host of others. Contact your appropriate training office and/or HR representative, as appropriate, to check on the availability of these student programs within your organization.
References & Career Planning Tools
- NSA After Hours College Program 
- Career Planning Guide 
- Explore Federal Careers  (Occupations, qualifications, and job listings)
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