Apr 25, 2024  
Graduate Catalog 2022-2023 
Graduate Catalog 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Cyber Defense, M.S.

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Program Description

According to the National Security Agency definition, information assurance involves protecting and defending information and information systems by “ensuring their availability, integrity, authentication, confidentiality, and non-repudiation.” As the world’s dependence upon computers and networks continues to grow, its vulnerability to cyber-attacks increases. Yet, there is an acute shortage of properly prepared security professionals who can meet the needs of organizations and governments to understand, prepare for, respond to, and recover from cyber-attacks at all levels. The federal government has reported that thousands of jobs in the computer/network security area go unfilled every year and the unmet demand continues to grow.

The Masters of Science in Cyber Defense (MSCD) degree is designed to prepare professionals who will have the skills to:

  • be able to prevent network attacks through risk management, vulnerability assessment, intrusion detection, and penetration testing
  • be knowledgeable about best practices to respond to external or internal cyber security incidents through incident response, forensic imaging, memory forensics and computer forensics
  • be able to protect data through cryptography and through offensive and defensive security practices.

Program Completion

The program can be completed on a full or part-time basis. Full-time students will complete the program in two years. On a part-time basis, the time to complete will depend upon the number of credit hours taken per semester. Students must complete the program within 5 years of the semester of their admission.

Admission Requirements Specific to the MS Cyber Defense

The Dakota State University Masters of Science in Cyber Defense program seeks highly motivated and ethical individuals with education and professional credentials that will enable them to be successful graduate students and security professionals. Admission to the program is based upon a combination of the following requirements:

  1. Bachelor’s degree in networking, network administration, computer engineering, computer science, software engineering, computer security, information technology, and information assurance from an institution of higher education with full regional accreditation for that degree. International students must have an undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree that is the equivalent to a four-year undergraduate degree in the U.S.
  2. Minimum undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  3. Essay in response to a security problem scenario. The scenario is on the additional information required of MSCD student’s sheet which is included in the application packet.

Program Faculty

Chris Olson, Program Chair
Tyler Flaagan, Meikang Qiu, Kevin Streff, Yong Wang, Cody Welu

Program Requirements


The program requires 30 hours beyond the baccalaureate. All students must take the following:

  • Four core courses (12 credit hours)
  • One Track (18 credit hours)

Certain courses will have mandated lab components and lab assignments. Lab assignments may require specialized hardware and/or software.

Students who do not have an undergraduate degree in networking, network administration, computer engineering, computer science, software engineering, computer security, information technology, and information assurance may be required to take an additional knowledge course. Actual coursework required will depend upon previous academic coursework.

Knowledge Courses

Students are expected to have a strong background in network security, information assurance or information technology. Students should have completed a two-course sequence rotation in a programming language. 

Required Core (30 Credits)

All students must take the required core courses and choose a track.  Students without the required undergraduate coursework may have to take a specific knowledge course before entering the program.

Technical Track

Security Management and Compliance Track

Assessment/Evaluation Activities

All candidates for graduation must participate in an assessment activity. Currently, the MSCD students complete a comprehensive examination during their final semester. The exam must be successfully passed prior to graduation.

Course Grades

Course Grades are used as an indirect measure of student attainment of specific program goals and objectives. DSU Program Guidelines require students to maintain a 3.0 GPA in the program, receive no grades below a C, and have no more than 2 grades of a C. If you do not maintain the required “B” average you will be placed on academic probation and given the opportunity to raise your GPA to 3.0 within the next nine credit hours. If you do not raise your GPA to 3.0 you will be suspended from the program. If you receive more than 6 credits of “C” or any grade lower than a “C” you will be suspended from the program. You may appeal the suspension. If you have questions regarding these goals or objectives or grading, you should review the Satisfactory Progression Guidelines or speak with your advisor.

MSCD Course Rotation

Course Rotation Schedule

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