Cybersecurity FAQ


What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity has emerged as a critical domain of global competition that reaches across the social, economic, political and military realms of influence.

National Security Presidential Directive 54/Homeland Security Directive 23 (NSPD-54/HSPD-23) defines cyberspace as the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, and includes the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers in critical industries. Common usage of the term also refers to the virtual environment of information and interactions between people.

This infusion of the Internet and its related networked technologies into nearly every aspect of society, business, and government presents a target of opportunity for adversaries. As a result, it is not surprising to see nations and assorted international organizations developing new operational doctrines, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and the necessary domain-focused human capital needed to achieve or maintain their interests in cyberspace.

Meeting these challenges successfully requires developing qualified professionals who understand this environment and the risks (or opportunities) therein. UMBC stands ready to help build this next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

Why study cybersecurity at UMBC?

UMBC is uniquely positioned to provide education and training that respond to the state’s need for qualified technical professionals in the cybersecurity field:

Reputation and Affordability: UMBC continues to lead the U.S. News national university rankings for strong commitment to undergraduate teaching, tied with Yale at #6 on the list and ranked ahead of Stanford and Duke. In a new ranking of “Most Innovative Schools,” UMBC is #4 in the nation, joining MIT and Stanford in the top five. UMBC has again been honored as one of the world’s top higher education institutions by both the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) and Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), which focus on such qualities as faculty research output and major awards.

In 2015, Princeton Review featured UMBC in its 2015 Best Colleges Guide, highlighting UMBC’s standout academic reputation as a place where “students take education seriously.” As one student shared: “UMBC wants to see every student succeed—they provide you with the tools, people, and resources to make sure you get where you want to go in life.” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and the selective Fiske Guide to Colleges have named UMBC a “Best Value” and a “Best Buy,” respectively. We’re a place where it’s cool to be smart, and where students can be confident investing in their education.

Academic Excellence: UMBC is dual-designated as an NSA/DHS Center of Academic Excellence for Cyber Defense Education (CDE) and Information Assurance Research. We are one of only a select few institutions holding multiple NSA/DHS designations for excellence in the cybersecurity discipline.

The CAE educational designation includes (among other elements) a certification that our curriculum satisfies focus areas and knowledge units (KUs) as outlined in the NICE Framework. This framework aims to establish a common lexicon for students, universities, and employers for describing knowledge and skills needed for various cybersecurity jobs. The CAE research designation signifies UMBC’s demonstrated excellence in conducting quality interdisciplinary research activities pertaining to cybersecurity.

Convenient Location: UMBC is located off of I-95 near the BWI Airport, approximately ten miles from Fort Meade (future home of DISA and the U.S. Cyber Command). UMBC is convenient to a host of federal agencies and government contractors that need cyber-related research, education, and training.

What programs does UMBC offer in cybersecurity?

UMBC’s Graduate Cybersecurity program offers a Master of Science in Cybersecurity and graduate certificates in Cybersecurity Strategy and Policy and Cybersecurity Operations.

UMBC offers graduate cybersecurity programs at its UMBC Campus (Catonsville) and at the Universities at Shady Grove (Rockville).

Current UMBC undergraduate and graduate students have the option of completing a track in cybersecurity as part of their degree programs. Contact Dr. Alan Sherman ( for information.

Current UMBC undergraduate students have the option of applying to the B.S./M.S. program in their junior or senior year and may take up to nine graduate credits that can be applied to both their undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students benefit by shortening the time to degree completion, experience the cost savings of taking graduate courses at undergraduate tuition rates, experience flexible learning options (some courses taught in evening or in hybrid format) and gain practical knowledge and skills.

Learn more about UMBC’s Cybersecurity B.S./M.S. program.

How are UMBC’s cybersecurity programs courses delivered?

UMBC’s cybersecurity program courses are offered in lecture, hybrid, and/or online formats depending on the topic, program needs, and/or student interest. Classroom courses provide opportunities for rich interaction between instructors and students, and hybrid courses add the benefit of schedule flexibility by reducing the number of in-person class sessions. Hybrid courses replace up to 50% or more of class sessions with online activities that occur asynchronously (class does not convene online at a fixed time). In the online portions of a hybrid class, students work on self-paced activities and assignments (e.g., asynchronous discussion boards) or interact as part of small groups (e.g., discussions, chats/forums, project/assignments).

Where are courses held?

The UMBC Graduate Cybersecurity Program is not an online or distance-based program. Courses are held at UMBC’s Main Campus in Catonsville, the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) in Rockville, and online. Consult the Schedule of Classes for information on times and locations for classes during a given semester.

Opportunities in the Industry

How can these programs help with my career development in a cyber-related field?

UMBC’s cybersecurity programs are designed for students and working professionals who aspire to make a difference in the security, stability, and functional agility of the national and global information infrastructure. Our graduate programs prepare students to create and lead processes, or serve as managers or team members in cyber-related fields within government, military and industry such as: Network and Information Security, Intelligence, Information Operations, Law Enforcement and Counterintelligence, System and Operational Requirements Analysis, Cybersecurity Procurement, Cybersecurity Exercise, Test and Evaluation

What’s the demand like for cybersecurity professionals?

The demand for professionals with cybersecurity expertise is strong and growing. Cybersecurity is critical to maintaining our national infrastructure—including the banking system, the stock market, the power grid, and military operations. The need for cyber-literate professionals is complex and crosses many fields in our region and around the world. From engineers and computer scientists to information technology professionals, policymakers, lawyers, and managers, qualified professionals are needed to manage cybersecurity operations in both the technical and policy domains.

Maryland alone is home to a large concentration of cyber-related employment opportunities. From the federal government and national security community to private companies, as well as state and local government, at any given time there are thousands of unfilled cyber-related positions in our region for both entry-level and experienced professionals.

Can UMBC help me obtain a cybersecurity job?

While at UMBC, you may take advantage of UMBC’s Career Services Center and other special professional networking opportunities, job fairs, training programs, and related events related to the cybersecurity industry. We provide these tools and opportunities for students to explore and research the cybersecurity profession and enhance your ‘marketability’ and/or value as a cybersecurity practitioner. However it is up to you to take advantage of them as well as continue to learn about the field on your own outside of the classroom – a graduate degree alone will not automatically lead to employment in this field.

Our Programs

As a current UMBC undergraduate student, can I take cybersecurity courses as electives?

Yes. However, you should check first with your academic advisor and/or the cybersecurity graduate program director to determine course availability, your suitability for these courses and how they fit into your academic program.

I have a CISSP or other industry cybersecurity certificate. Can it transfer into the program for credit?

Unfortunately, we do not accept industry certifications for transfer credit into our cybersecurity graduate programs. However, if you have earned a CISSP within the last 5 years, you may ‘skip’ CYBR 620 (Introduction to Cybersecurity) in your first semester and take another course in its place – just include documented evidence of the certification status with your application. (Note that you will still need 30 credits to graduate.)

Does UMBC offer a cybersecurity Ph.D. program?

Not at this time. However, UMBC does offer doctoral programs in computer science and/or information systems where you can pursue cybersecurity research at the doctoral level. Contact these departments for additional information. Depending on program policies, some courses from the cybersecurity M.S. may be applied towards doctoral programs.

Can I transfer graduate credits from another institution into the UMBC Cybersecurity Program?

You may be able to transfer up to six graduate credit hours earned from another institution into a UMBC cybersecurity program. Contact the Graduate Program Director,, to discuss your situation and be sure to include a complete course description. A 3.0 GPA is required for each course transferred. Once you are admitted and an enrolled student in UMBC’s program, you must complete and submit a Transfer of Credit Request Form.

Is there a thesis requirement?

No, there is no formal thesis defense. However, the M.S. in Cybersecurity includes a semester-length research project which involves significant research and writing.

How many courses can (or should) I take?

Typically, students who are working full-time enroll in 1 or 2 courses per semester. Enrolling in more than 3 courses during a semester while also working full-time is strongly discouraged.

How long do I have to complete my degree?

According to University policy, students have five years to complete their degree requirements.

What financial aid opportunities exist for me?

Because this program is designed primarily for working professionals, graduate or teaching assistantships are not available. In many cases, students receive financial support from their employers. However, for Cybersecurity M.S. students, the Federal CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) program is the primary scholarship opportunity for our students. The highly selective, merit-based SFS program covers full-time tuition, annual stipends, and other educational costs in exchange for working in a cybersecurity capability for the US government upon graduation. US Citizenship, full-time enrollment, and ability to obtain a US Government security clearance are required. Visit the UMBC Center for Cybersecurity CyberCorps: Scholarships for Service webpage for more information and application information.

Do you admit students for summer sessions?

No. We only admit students for Fall and Spring semesters.

Are summer courses offered?

Yes, we generally offer one or more courses (either 6, 8, or 12 weeks) over the summer session. Consult the Schedule of Classes for information on times and locations. Summer courses may meet more frequently due to the shortened summer schedule.

I am a recent college graduate. Can I apply?

The UMBC Cybersecurity M.S. degree is designed for professionals with several years of experience in the IT or cyber operations industry. Recent graduates may be admitted based on the relevance of the applicant’s undergraduate degree field, academic performance, extracurricular activities, and stated career goals.

Can I take courses both at UMBC’s Main Campus and the Universities at Shady Grove?

No. Students must take courses offered at their enrolled campus unless the Graduate Program Director approves an exception.

I don’t have any IT or cybersecurity experience. Can I apply?

The UMBC Cybersecurity M.S. degree is designed for professionals with several years of experience in the IT or cyber operations industry. Applicants without that prior knowledge are welcome to apply — in addition to academic performance, admission decisions will be based on the applicant’s career activities, stated goals, and their overall suitability for the program.

Prospective students without any IT or cyber background may consider beginning with the graduate certificate in Cybersecurity Operations to explore the field. Successful completion of the certificate will lead to admission to the master’s degree upon application.

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