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Development of Graduate Level Cybersecurity Programs at North Dakota State University

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Aligning Graduate Programs with Industrial Needs

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

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Paper Authors


Jeremy Straub North Dakota State University

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Jeremy Straub is the Associate Director of the NDSU Institute for Cyber Security Education and Research and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the North Dakota State University. He holds a Ph.D. in Scientific Computing, an M.S. and an M.B.A. and has published over 40 journal articles and over 120 full conference papers, in addition to making numerous other conference presentations. Straub’s research spans the gauntlet between technology, commercialization and technology policy. In particular, his research has recently focused on cybersecurity topics including intrusion detection and forensics, robotic command and control, aerospace command and 3D printing quality assurance. Straub is a member of Sigma Xi, the AAAS, the AIAA and several other technical societies, he has also served as a track or session chair for numerous conferences.

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There is significant focus on the need for cybersecurity professionals. However, many focus on the products of primarily undergraduate programs. In the longer term, the current cybersecurity problems will likely be solved by fundamental and applied research, rather than just preparing skilled technicians and developers to serve on the front lines of a war with those that choose to attack and compromise systems.

Because of this long term need, the development of quality graduate programs with cybersecurity content is critical. This paper discusses the creation of graduate programs with embedded cybersecurity content at the [blinded]. While a cybersecurity graduate certificate was developed, a choice was made, for other offerings, to integrate the new cybersecurity curriculum into existing degree programs instead of developing a new cybersecurity degree program.

The created and augmented degree programs support and benefit from an effort in [blinded] to incorporate cybersecurity and computing content in the curriculum from kindergarten through to the end of all Ph.D. programs. They were also developed with the idea of satisfying the requirements for the National Security Agency’s Center of Academic Excellence in research in mind.

Four degree programs were augmented. These included M.S. programs in Computer Science and Software Engineering and Ph.D. programs in both these areas, as well. Fundamentally, there was a key choice between extending and developing a new program or programs. The choice to extend allowed the heritage of the existing programs to be leveraged. This approach also exposes learners to core topics that they attain skills in as part of the required Computer Science and Software Engineering curriculums. In addition to producing students that have multiple career path options, it also prepares students with an additional skillset, should demand for cybersecurity professional decline in the future or graduate production increase so much such as to have an overabundance of qualified individuals.

In particular, this approach acknowledges that while graduates may wish to start out their career in cybersecurity, over time they may be promoted or seek out other jobs aligned to more general information technology or software development activities. It also recognizes the long-term role of improving software engineering practices to prevent defects and other issues in software that drive the need for cybersecurity professionals to secure this software and systems.

It is also notable that for secure code development, it is highly beneficial to have computer scientists and software engineers with backgrounds in safe coding practices. Thus these extended programs prepare students for careers outside the core cybersecurity area.

The graduate certificate, alternately, is a four course sequence that is well suited to be taken in conjunction with another graduate degree, by on campus students. It is also designed to serve individuals who perhaps have graduated from a computer science, information technology or similar degree program some time ago and who want to gain new skills to seek a job in cybersecurity.

The degree programs and their requirements and course progressions are presented. Qualitative analysis comparing the types of benefits offered by each is also included.

Straub, J. (2019, June), Development of Graduate Level Cybersecurity Programs at North Dakota State University Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32656

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