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What Are the Components of the NICE Workforce Framework?

[fa icon="calendar"] Oct 18, 2022 2:57:34 PM / by Paul Ricketts

The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) is a partnership between academia, the government, and the private sector. The framework focuses on cybersecurity education and workforce development. It is designed to denote and encourage successes in cybersecurity learning as well as to promote change and improvement where it is needed. The NICE Framework is part of the Applied Cybersecurity Division within the Information Technology Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

One of the main objectives of the NICE Framework is to help organizations improve hiring practices, training, and retention of qualified cybersecurity professionals. Therefore, understanding the Framework and its components is essential for organizations that want to utilize it.

How is the NICE Framework Structured?

The NICE Framework organizes cybersecurity work and related activities into categories, specialty areas, and work roles. It also includes designations of knowledge, skills, and abilities for work roles. The following details what each component is:


The NICE categories are the overall structure of the framework. The structure is based on comprehensive job analyses, which put together workers and work with major functions in common, no matter their job titles. The NICE Framework has seven categories: Analyze, Collect and Operate, Investigate, Operate and Maintain, Oversee and Govern, Protect and Defend, and Securely Provision. The categories are broken down further into specialty areas.

Specialty Areas

The specialty areas of the NICE Framework are groupings of cybersecurity work activities. Each of the specialty areas defines a portion of focused work within cybersecurity. Some examples of specialty areas include Customer Service and Technical Support, Digital Forensics, Systems Administration, and Cybersecurity Management. There are currently 32 specialty areas that are further broken down into work roles.

Work Roles

The most detailed component of the NICE Framework is the work role groupings. They detail work being performed in a position or job. The work roles contain a list of attributes that are needed to perform the specific role. The attributes are described using the work role's knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) are the qualities that are required to perform work roles. They are typically shown through relevant education, training, or experience. Knowledge is defined as the information that is directly applied to the performance of specific functions. The skill attribute is explained as the learned ability to perform an action with observable competence and determined results. In cybersecurity, that means applying tools, controls, and processes that impact a company's security posture. Ability is proficiency to execute an observable behavior or a behavior that creates an observable product.

How Do the NICE Framework Components Work Together?

Altogether, the components of the NICE Framework work to describe cybersecurity work. Each of the framework’s categories is broken into specialty areas, and each area consists of one or more work roles. Every work role includes KSAs. By grouping components in this manner, communication about the cybersecurity workforce and alignment with other frameworks is simplified.

The framework aims to drive a consistent language that is focused on workforce development. Many organizations have diverse workforces that are made up of professionals with a wide range of backgrounds, degrees, certifications, work experiences, education, and levels of expertise. As a result, it’s necessary to continually and consistently develop cybersecurity knowledge and skills of their workforces to remain competitive, improve performance, and support the mission of the organization.

Learn NICE Framework KSAs with TrainACE

The NICE Framework was developed to help accommodate the many rapid changes in cybersecurity technologies. One of the major goals of the framework is to help the American market fill the demand for cybersecurity professionals and to provide a common lexicon with which educational and training institutions, organizations, and employment recruiters can communicate.

As more and more organizations, companies, and governmental agencies adopt the NICE Framework, the importance of aligned cybersecurity training courses and programs is growing. At TrainACE, we offer many courses that are aligned with the framework. In addition, we can help bring your cybersecurity team up to speed with classes and certification preparation. Let us know what your team needs by contacting TrainACE today.


Paul Ricketts

Written by Paul Ricketts

Originally from the UK, Paul Ricketts is the Director of Marketing at TrainACE in Greenbelt, MD. Having started out in the field of Geographic Information Systems, Paul has a wealth of experience in a wide variety of industries, focused on tech., graphics and data analysis. Having finally settled in the field of marketing, he has spent the last 8 years fine tuning his skills in the art of communication and persuasion.

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