It’s hard to turn on the television or glance at the internet without hearing about yet another cyber-debacle in which the Chinese, Iranians, North Koreans, or Russians have crashed through our cyber-defenses and trampled roughshod throughout our precious data, making off like bandits with our intellectual property.

Even though I’m more interested in the technology side of things, I seem to be increasingly exposed to, and writing about, cyber-security these days. As a recent example, may I point you to my recent column on — Yay! Finally! A Way to Secure the Supply Chain!

The problem is that I know only enough about cyber-security to be dangerous. Given a choice, I’d prefer to know more than enough to be cyber-secure.

So, you can only imagine my surprise and delight when Pat Esposito, the enrollment officer for Online Programs at the University of North Dakota (UND) contacted me to tell me that UND’s College of Engineering & Mines (CEM) is offering a Master of Science (MS) degree in Cyber-Security as a part-time, 100% online (no campus visits required), 5 semester, 10 course, 30 credit hour, 20 month completion program. Pat tells me that this course is available in four tracks as follows:

  • Autonomous Systems Cyber-Security: Focuses on the basics of autonomous systems and their security challenges.
  • Cyber-Security and Behavior: Focuses on the psychological behavioral aspect of cybercrime that helps students understand and stop people interfering with our connections.
  • Data Security: Focuses on the protection of data and keeping confidential information secure.
  • General Cyber-Security: Students can strengthen their knowledge of cyber security by picking the classes they feel will make the biggest impact in their careers.

The way this works is that there is 1 foundation course and 5 core courses common to all four tracks, along with 3 track-specific courses and 1 elective course per track.

I think the General Cyber-Security track would be the one for me. According to the course blurb for this track: “Students are equipped to defend computer operating systems, networks, and data from cyber-attacks. Studies are focused on reliability engineering systems and advanced embedded systems design, intrusion detection systems, techniques and algorithms, and the science of human attention, perception, learning, and cognition.”

A little research revealed that anyone who graduates from UND’s CEM will stand proud in the crowd and can hold their head high, because it’s one of the most respected engineering schools in the upper Midwest (their program is ranked among the Top 25 most innovative schools alongside Stanford, Harvard, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by U.S. News & World Report).

I vaguely wondered about the possibility of receiving credit for my Bachelor’s degree and my 41 years as a practicing engineer, but I see that those who don the undergarments of authority and stride the corridors of power at UND “Only consider transfer credit from regionally accredited institutions,” and I fear my alma mater in England falls outside the region.

The total cost of the program, including all university fees (but excluding books) would be $26,650 (and 50 cents), which really isn’t bad when you think about it. I’m tempted to do this myself — the only thing holding me back is that I don’t have $26,650 to hand (although I could fund the 50 cents out of the jar of loose change in my bedroom closet).

Still and all, as they say, I must admit that I’m interested. Quite apart from anything else, being the first person in our family to hold a Master’s degree would make my dear old mom jolly proud and give her something to talk about during her visits to the hair salon when she’s eventually allowed out of pandemic lockdown.

Hey, you never know, maybe I could land a scholarship if there’s one tailored for an “Older engineer-turned-technical-writer who sports Hawaiian shirts.” In the meantime, for anyone younger than I with their career still open ahead of them, a “word to the wise” would be that cyber-attacks aren’t going to go away anytime soon, and that anyone with a Master’s degree in cyber-security is going to be an increasingly sought-after commodity by just about every company, industry, and institution on the planet. What say you? Do you have any thoughts you’d care to share?