Sabbaticals FAQs


Just what is the NSA?

The National Security Agency makes a vital contribution to an informed and secure environment for our nation's policy makers. Established by presidential directive in 1952, it is the Department of Defense agency responsible for producing foreign intelligence information. It also safeguards our government's vital communications and sets standards for computer security throughout the federal government. These missions require the use of the most advanced technologies and techniques, often years before their commercial use. The NSA is located halfway between Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C., an area rich in scenery, history, and culture.

What is the NSA math environment like?

Mathematicians at the NSA enjoy the type of dynamic environment that only the largest employer of mathematicians in the country can offer. In addition to our own in-house publications, we offer summer workshop programs, continuing colloquia, cooperative education programs, and occasional meetings that provide opportunities to interact with mathematicians both within and outside the agency. The NSA also awards grants for research in the mathematical sciences. Sabbatical employees enjoy the same in-house support services as our full time NSA mathematicians, such as computer support services, and technical courses only offered at NSA.

What kinds of technical skills should I have to be a successful candidate?

The successful candidate should have a strong record of publication in his or her field of expertise. Candidates should also demonstrate a familiarity with a computer programming language (preferably C, although this is not absolutely required) and other software packages such as MATLAB, Maple, Mathematica, Magma, or Sage.

Will I still be able to publish my work?

Publishing is important to all serious mathematicians. The NSA provides ample opportunity to inform your NSA colleagues about your work. However, because of the nature of the work, publications outside the NSA community must be cleared through our Public Affairs Office. For work directly related to your research at NSA, this is also true after you leave our employ. And of course, any classified techniques you are involved with cannot be disseminated in the outside literature or discussed externally.

How long do NSA sabbatical tours last?

Typical Sabbatical tours run for 12 months, but they can range from 9 to 24 months. We are flexible with these arrangements.

What kind of compensation can I expect?

During academic months, the NSA pays half the cost of the Sabbatical employee's salary and benefits. NSA pays 100% of salary and benefits during any summer months the Sabbatical employee works at NSA. 

How are sabbatical applicants screened?

The applicant must participate in a thorough and extensive screening process involving mathematical screening and security screening. During the mathematical portion of the screening, the applicant will be invited to give a research talk on a topic of his or her choice. Following the talk, the applicant will have a chance to meet with the Director of the Mathematical Sciences Program and other NSA mathematicians to learn more about the sabbatical program and to discuss where the applicant might fit in best at the NSA. The Security screening that takes place at NSA involves a polygraph exam and personnel interviews. A complete background investigation is also conducted. For this reason it is necessary for sabbatical applicants to begin the process at least one year prior to the time they want their sabbatical tour to commence.

Who may apply?

U.S. citizenship is required for the applicant and his or her immediate family members.

How do I apply?

A complete application includes the following items:

  1. Cover Letter: The applicant should describe his or her intent to apply for the sabbatical program in mathematics and include the dates of the intended sabbatical detail. The letter should also contain:

    1. a brief description of the applicant's principal area of research.

    2. a brief description of the applicant's computer and technical skills.

    3. a description of how the proposed sabbatical assignment will affect the applicant's teaching and research upon return to academia.

  2. Curriculum Vita: The CV must include all degrees awarded and the dates awarded, along with a complete list of publications and any other relevant information. Email the completed application packet to