SANS Technology Institute blazes accreditation trail

There's good news for information security professionals who are looking to attain a Master of Science degree from the SANS Technology Institute (STI). The graduate institution that focuses solely on cybersecurity is now fully accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

SANS Technology Institute was established in 2005 as an independent subsidiary of the more venerable SANS Institute (established in 1989). STI's mission is to offer Master of Science degree programs in Information Security Engineering and Information Security Management.

"Accreditation is an important achievement as we continue our mission to educate cybersecurity engineers and managers with the deep technical skills required to be effective in their organizations," said Alan Paller, President of SANS Technology Institute.

"Being accredited means that the SANS Technology Institute meets all of the Standards of Excellence used by Middle States in their peer-review of members, and expresses their confidence in our mission and goals, performance, and resources," Paller explained. "Importantly, such accreditation may qualify SANS Technology Institute students to receive tuition reimbursement if their employers offer that benefit."

The SANS Master of Science degree programs are tailored to develop the technically proficient cybersecurity leaders desperately needed to defend government and commercial organizations. SANS master's students gain a deep technical understanding of how such institutions' underlying technology is exploited, in order to determine how and where skills and resources should be allocated to defend against attacks.

Two degree paths are available

STI offers two degree programs, each of which requires the completion of 36 hours of course work that spans a variety of cybersecurity topics. The courses are taken in a mix of live and online instruction, which provides students with the flexibility to choose how to engage and progress through their course of studies. Completion of a degree program typically takes about 3 years.

The Master of Science in Information Security Engineering (MSISE) degree program prepares student to be the architects, designers and lead builders of information security for an enterprise. Graduates typically take on enterprise security technical leadership roles with titles such as Technical Director for Information Security, Senior Security Analyst, Information Systems Security Officer, and Chief Information Security Officer.

Graduates may also work as consultants who carry out the responsibilities of those positions, or who advise organizations on information security engineering issues. The MSISE program is designed to provide a sound theoretical framework delivered through a practitioner lens, but also to ensure that the graduate is capable of establishing adaptive security paradigms.

The Master of Science in Information Security Management (MSISM) program is designed to help a candidate prepare for responsibilities at the highest-ranking management level with IT security responsibilities in an organization. In the government, this is often called the Designated Approving Authority, Information Assurance Manager, or Chief Information Security Officer. In the private sector, titles such as Chief Security Officer or Chief Information Security Officer are often used.

Graduates of this program will be able to assess the effectiveness of information security programs, see their strengths and weaknesses, and analyze the design of specific security enhancements. They will also have strong oral presentation and writing skills, knowledge of legal issues in security, and project management skills. Graduates will be able to develop and manage an enterprise-level information security program, including the ability to sponsor adaptive security paradigms that foster rapid detection and mitigation of new and existing attacks, and to measure response strategies to threats as they emerge.

A rigorous admissions process

Like any college-level masters degree program, the admission requirements and process are rigorous. At present, only about 100 students are accepted into the program annually, although that number may grow as the institution's capacity grows.

Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree with at least a 2.8 GPA, and must have a minimum of 12 months of work experience related to information technology, information security, or audit. Although not required, the preferred candidate has taken a course or two through the SANS Institute and understands the nature the technical work involved in such courses. Recent and relevant SANS Institute and GIAC certifications may be accepted as waivers for related course elements. Written and oral communication skills are highly important as well.

Students who are accepted into the program may find that their employee benefits program covers the cost of tuition and the technical certifications that are attained through this program.

More information about SANS Technology Institute's Master of Science programs and admission requirements can be found at the STI website.

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