University of Guelph adds master’s degree in cyber security

Canadian universities and colleges are churning out an increasing number of computer science undergraduates to meet the demand for IT staff. However, CISOs looking for people with expertise in cyber security, a student with a general background in computing may not be enough.

To help meet the demand for more focused training the University of Guelph’s computer science department is now accepting applications for a new Master in Cyber Security and Threat Intelligence course.

Students in the program, which begins in September, will work in a state-of-the-art, $2-million isolated lab that will allow them to dissect and run real-world attacks, as well as how to build defence and detection systems. Course material will include threat hunting, digital forensics, intrusion prevention, privacy and crypto-analysis.

The program is getting advisory and/or financial support from the RCMP, McAfee Canada, CISCO Systems, Information Systems Architects (ISA), eSentire, Georgian Partners, Blackberry, IBM as well as several others organizations.

As part of the program, students will complete a final project with one of the industry partners to build on their new skills.

“This is unique in terms of providing real-world, hands-on experience,” Ali Dehghantanha, director of the master’s program, said in an interview Thursday as the program was being announced. “Most of our courses are delivered in an industry-scale cyber security lab that is supported by like big companies like McAfee, Cisco and IBM, to provide real-world experience. Plus this is the first program to the best of our knowledge that offers threat intelligence at the masters level.”

headshot of Prof. Ali Dehghantanha
Ali Dehghantanha. University of Guelph photo

“What makes this program unique is first, you are preparing students to get a medium to senior level position right after this program. … Second, the program offers unique opportunity to spend four months on the industry partner side, so provides the opportunity to smoothly move from study to industry right away.”

Initially only 20 students will be accepted. Ultimately the university hopes it will expand to 35.

Tuition for Canadian or landed immigrants will be $20,000, while foreign students will pay $40,000. However, there are a number of scholarships available.

Dehghantanha also noted the average salary for a master’s graduate in this field would be around $70,000 a year.

Bryan Rutledge, manager of McAfee Canada and a member of the master’s program advisory board, said his firm is participating in part because the university is a McAfee customer and in part to help fill the cyber security skills shortage. By some estimates the world will need some 1.5 million infosec pros by 2020.

Asked why it’s necessary to have cyber security graduates with a master’s degree, he said in general it’s important to have graduates with practical experience in the field. The master’s program emphasizes real-world scenarios and includes projects to be done either with vendors or the private sector.

Applicants require a four-year honours degree in computer science or computer engineering or another discipline with a minor in computer science or computer engineering. They must have had a minimum average of 75 per cent during the last four semesters of full-time study. Experience or background knowledge of data communications, network and computer programming will help, as will proven skills and working experience in cyber security.

Work on creating the master’s program began two years ago by Dave Whittle, U of G’s associate vice-president and chief information officer,

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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