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Information / Cyber Security Master's Degree: FAQs

Find answers to popular questions for the 100% online Professional Masters degree asked by many of our new online students.

What is the difference between a professional degree and a regular Master of Science (MS) degree?

A professional master's degree in computer science is designed for someone seeking a more applied knowledge in the field. The more traditional, academic master's program is aimed at students wanting more research-based, theoretical education, which also positions the student for seeking the PhD degree. For more information, see the description of a professional degree.

The programs differ in two primary ways. First, a traditional computer science MS program prepares students to perform research and move on to a doctoral program, if desired. The Professional Master's Degree in Information Security program is a terminal MS program and confers a non-thesis MS degree in Computer Science. The Professional Master's Degree admission process evaluates an applicant on their ability to complete the rigorous MS curriculum, not their potential to do research.

Second, the Professional Master's Degree program requires students enrolled in the program to complete two (2) foundational courses (Foundational Principles of Information Security and Introduction to Systems for Information Security) in order to prepare them for the rigorous core and focus coursework that follows.

The Professional Master's Degree in Information Security program is designed for IT professionals in industry or government who want to advance in technical cybersecurity and privacy positions.  Our program prepares students to grow into the role of an information security specialist, while learning foundational principles, relevant systems, and acquiring proficiency in using the cutting-edge software tools.

All applicants who apply for the program will only be considered for admission to Professional Master's Degree program and not the regular master's program (both thesis and non-thesis options). If you wish to complete thesis research, you should apply directly to the regular master's or PhD program.

I do not have a degree in Computer Science. Can I still apply for this program?

Yes. The program is intended to serve professionals with programming and computer science experience acquired either during their professional career or by having at least an undergraduate computer science minor. 

What kind of degree do Professional Master's Degree in Information Security graduates receive?

The degree is awarded as a Professional Master of Science in Computer Science with a concentration in Information Security for Computing Professionals.  This concentration will be marked in the student’s transcript.

May I apply for financial aid?

Direct financial support from the online Professional Master's Degree program is not available. However, students can contact the Division of Financial Aid (DFA) to discuss federal loan programs and other lending opportunities. Students interested in financial assistance should call the DFA at (765) 494-5050, or submit a question online through the DFA’s contact form.

Am I eligible for a graduate assistantship?

Students enrolled in the online Professional Master's Degree program in the Department of Computer Science may be self-funded, supported by corporate tuition support or external funding sources; however, they are not permitted to accept research assistantships, teaching assistantships, project assistantships, or other University appointments that grant waivers of tuition and/or academic fees anywhere on campus.

Will I have to complete a thesis?

No. This is a non-thesis program.

Are courses developed for the online Professional Master's Degree only for students in the program?

Computer Science faculty members have developed several courses specifically for the Professional Master's Degree program. These courses tend to be more applied in their approach, and less dependent on theoretical foundations of other courses in the computer science graduate curriculum.  In cases where Professional Master's Degree students take courses from among the traditional, academic core of computer science graduate courses, projects in those courses may be tailored to align with the outcomes of the online Professional Master's Degree program.

What are the expected plan of study requirements of online Professional Master's Degree students?

The online Professional Master's Degree plan of study includes 30 credits of graduate courses. For courses listed on the plan, grades in the A range (A+, A, A-) or B range are expected, but one or two grades in the C range may be accepted if they are compensated by grades in the A range (regardless of + and -). Other grades are unacceptable. The GPA of the courses on the plan must be at least 3.0.

Is it possible to switch to the Regular Master’s Program from the online Professional Master's Degree program once I am admitted?

A direct transfer from the online Professional Master's Degree to regular MS or direct PhD is not possible, but students may apply to those programs just like any other outside applicant.  If students have already applied for regular MS or direct PhD and received admission to the terminal Professional Master's Degree program instead, it is unlikely that they would be admitted to those programs in the future.

How does the online Professional Master's Degree program differ from the existing Interdisciplinary Master's program in Information Security?

The Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) has been the home of an interdisciplinary graduate program since 2000.  Their program offers both Masters and PhD degrees. The Graduate School identifier code for the CERIAS program is INSC. The Computer Science Professional Master's Degree program is ISCP.

CERIAS interdisciplinary students take a number of computer science courses, but all graduate in a department other than Computer Science. INSC degrees are awarded from the INSC interdisciplinary program via an associated department of record. Those departments currently affiliated with the CERIAS interdisciplinary degree include the departments in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute (formerly the College of Technology), the Brian Lamb School of Communication, and the departments of Philosophy, and Linguistics.

The online Professional Master's Degree in Information Security program is hosted only by the Computer Science Department, and affiliated faculty are all in Computer Science. The program does, however, allow two elective courses from an approved list, which allows students to take courses outside of Computer Science.

Does the program offer a certificate in information security (eg. CISSP)?

While the online Professional Master's Degree in Information Security program does not aim specifically to prepare students for industry certifications, it has been commonly found that masters degree students in Computer Science with an emphasis in information security coursework have been very successful in testing for such certifications.  

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