About the Program

Develop cyber security knowledge and skill base that will allow mitigation of advanced persistent threats

Effectively operating in contested cyber environments takes a range of diverse, multi-disciplinary capabilities.

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Master of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership

The Master of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership program (and elements of cyber security as a whole) presents the learner with tremendous ability to mitigate threats, but also with knowledge that could be utilized to cause damage to a system. Therefore, in every course there is continuous teaching and application of generally accepted ethical conduct in the field, the University, and society. There are nuances in the cyber security domain that could be reasoned, and for this purpose, it is essential that each course provides a constant thread of ethical logic that develops student judgment, conduct, and decision making consistent with the best practices in the field and the highest moral standing. Every course developed has this learning outcome: Gain an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.

The program course design includes 37.5 hours of core instructional time for each three-unit course. Additional homework, research, and study time will be required. Students are advised to spend 15-18 hours per week in each course in order to be successful.

Program Goals

Develop Cyber Security Knowledge and Skill Base that will Allow Mitigation of Advanced Persistent Threats

Effectively operating in contested cyber environments takes a range of diverse, multi-disciplinary capabilities. One must understand the theory and then apply specific knowledge and skills in the areas of technology, law, policy, compliance, governance, intelligence, incident response, and management. Additionally, a successful cyber security practitioner must have experience within the environments that they will defend. Therefore, the design of the program includes extensive immersive experiences in the various topic domains. A student emerging from USD’s program will be well prepared to take on modern cyber security threats and contribute positively to their organization and community.

Because the world of cyber security changes constantly, the program also teaches students the skill of continuous learning. The role of the professors is not to teach skills; it is to educate and provide students with tools to be lifelong learners in the field. Cyber security is one of the most perishable skill sets in the world, as adversarial tactics change daily. Students will learn to defeat adversaries from theoretical as well as tactical perspectives, thus providing the capability to evaluate tools that can accomplish the goal of defeating threats. When dynamic change occurs, the students will be able to find the correct resources and perform effective due diligence and evaluation to select the best solution. While the program will demonstrate to the student the state-of-the-art techniques and technologies, it will also involve students in the publications, conferences, and activities necessary to keep the student abreast of changes in threat and mitigation.

Develop Individuals Capable of Leading Organizations that are in Contested Cyber Environments

Organizations rely on cyber security for nearly all internal and external facing functions. Disruption, degradation, or denial of any of these functions or services can be disastrous not only to the bottom line, but to the safety of citizens. Therefore, individuals in leadership roles must understand cyber security and have diverse capabilities that allow for effective leadership to ensure the maximum level of defense and survivability.

The MS in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership (MS-CSOL) focuses on three key aspects of this:

  1. Cyber security strategy, and how to organize and set strategic direction for an organization to best prepare itself for operations in a contested environment
  2. Cyber security business services, including but not limited to acquisition, procurement, policy, human resources, and budgeting
  3. Cyber security management, that focuses on decision making, trade-offs, requirements building, team building, leading, and other human factors not often taught in traditional programs.

When comparing master’s programs, this leadership element is one of the key differentiators in the USD program that makes it unique in the nation – the notion and subsequent education that leadership plays a vital role in successful cyber security. Far too often cyber operations or engineering specialists do not understand the “big picture” and lack the skills necessary to communicate the threat, solution, or business need at multiple levels of an organizational hierarchy. Throughout the MS-CSOL program, communication and leadership skill are practiced and reinforced. This program will produce a graduate who understands the full spectrum of the organizational mission and the role cyber security plays in completing this mission. These skills will also help graduates to fulfill cyber security responsibilities in alignment with an organization’s mission. The ability to effectively communicate cyber security tasking (and associated needs and integration points) to the rest of the organization is essential if cyber security functions will meet mission requirements and if cyber security leaders will be able to articulate requirements to technical staff, and resource needs to senior management.

Engage in a Strategy of Integration with the Local and National Stakeholders, and Contributing Positively toward the City of San Diego’s Missions Regarding Cyber Security

USD’s MS-CSOL program strives to integrate with local and national stakeholders in cyber security to provide excellent graduates, and to have these organizations look introspectively at how they might improve education, operations, outreach, and research. Cyber security is a national priority and requires a team approach regarding education – meaning that close collaboration with the cyber security community is necessary for an effective program. This collaboration will keep curriculum relevant and assist in the placement of USD graduates. The goal is to build a national reputation and presence and to be a thought leader in the domain. Fulfillment of this objective will also contribute in positive ways to the mission of the City of San Diego to become a hub for cyber security industry, innovation, education, and leadership.

Advance the Science and Practice of Cyber Security Education for the Nation

The United States is at a crucial juncture – cyber threats and successful attacks increase every day, yet academic institutions struggle to produce students who can be effective in the fight. The USD MS-CSOL has been designed with a diverse advisor group to specifically address the gaps in current cyber security education and to present knowledge and skill that can lead to a prepared and effective workforce. Many of the program’s courses will be the first cyber security courses in the field that are taught with this perspective. The goal of the program is to change the way cyber security education is taught and invigorate and inspire more institutions to engage in this type of immersive program.