The successful implementation of the nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center in diamond as a qubit has spawned a great deal of interest in this defect. In principle, similar defects suitable for quantum computing should exist in other material systems; however, very little work has been done on identifying NV-like centers in other materials. We discuss the key properties of the NV center in diamond in the context of uncovering similar defects in other materials, with the specific example of SiC. Using first-principles calculations, we compare the properties of the NV center in diamond to the analogous defect in 4H-SiC. We also compare the properties of the bare vacancies. We calculate defect formation energies and charge-state transition levels to determine which defects are likely to form. Then, by analyzing the defect-induced electronic states, we determine whether stable defects in 4H-SiC may have properties similar to those of the NV center in diamond.