Cyber Operations MS

College of Sciences
Graduate degree / Master of Science

faculty and students in computer lab with virtual reality headsets

About this program

Program accredited by

Na National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Logos

The Masters of Science in Cyber Operations (MSCyOps) is a 36-credit program that provides advanced study in the theory and practice of the cybersecurity computing-based discipline with a hardcore focus on both cyber offense and defense strategies. Discovering and investigating sophisticated breaches and providing adequate responses, going beyond the minds of hackers and analyzing their techniques, tactics, and procedures, intelligence gathering, malware analysis, and reversing are some critical aspects of the cyber operations program. The program provides an interdisciplinary course of study, including aspects of information technology, law, policy, human factors and risk management, often in the context of adversaries.

The MSCyOps graduate degree is unique in the state of Minnesota. Key features of the program include: 

  • A highly technical accelerated degree designed mainly for working professionals.
  • Hybrid and fully-online classes offered on weekday evenings and Saturday mornings.  
  • A cohort-based lock-step program; each cohort progresses as a group and develops a professional and supportive network that helps them improve their ability to work in teams.
  • Industry vetted competency-based curriculum and performance-based assessment, conforming to the requirements of the US Government’s National Security Agency Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations knowledge units.
  • A value-added program with access to necessary hardware and software resources and a cloud environment for completing hands-on activities.
  • A program with a forward-looking emphasis on current and future challenges resulting from emerging technological paradigms (e.g., cloud computing, mobile devices, embedded computing, and Internet of Things), societal trends (e.g., privacy awareness), and the opportunity to leverage the human element in computing (social factors in cybersecurity).
  • Top-quality faculty who are industry experts.
  • Priority access to available internships and job opportunities through our robust network of industry partners and recruiters. 
  • Exposure to state-of-the-art technology through field trips; discounted access to local conferences, and guest lectures from industry professionals.
  • Various community engagement opportunities. For example, the students will be asked to conduct cybersecurity awareness sessions as well as cyber hygiene sessions for K-12 schools in their respective communities.

Metropolitan State University is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). CAE-CDE institutions receive formal recognition from the U.S. Government as well as opportunities for prestige and publicity for their role in securing our Nation's information systems. The Cybersecurity program curriculum also conforms to the NSA requirements for maintaining the CAE-CDE designation.

Program Oversight

Positioned under the College of Sciences, MN Cyber Institute (https://mncyber.org) is a statewide initiative to position Minnesota as a national leader in cybersecurity through education, innovative public/private partnerships, interdisciplinary research, and community engagement. MN Cyber advisory board (https://mncyber.org/advisory-board/) comprises of representatives from public/private sectors who provide advice and guidance on the Institute’s strategic plans and performance as well as ensure that Metro's cyber-related program offerings are relevant, valuable, and targeted to meet workforce needs.

Job Prospects

With a graduate degree in cyber operations, there is no limit to what a student can accomplish. The MS in Cyber Operations program will enable graduates to seek employment opportunities in the military, government, and private sectors including the National Security Agency (NSA), Department of Defense (DoD), Navy Space and Naval Warfare System Command, and National Labs (Sandia National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory).

Student outcomes

  • Analyze adversaries’ tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), and understand their attack strategies to identify potential attack vectors to strategically improve defenses against advanced persistent threats.
  • Recommend security plans, strategies, and appropriate countermeasures to upper management based on observed attack patterns.
  • Apply advanced techniques such as malware analysis and reverse engineering to obtain threat intelligence; correlate relevant data to confirm breaches; and identify attack vectors, targets, and the scope of the attacks.
  • Identify, analyze, and synthesize scholarly and professional literature on cyber operations and related areas.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in communicating technical information in formal reports, documentation, and oral presentations to various stakeholders regardless of their technical backgrounds.
  • Understand the importance of team dynamics to provide an adequate response to sophisticated breaches.
  • Demonstrate sensitivity to and sound judgment on ethical issues and dilemmas as they arise in cybersecurity and operations and will adhere to accepted norms of professional responsibility.

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Enrolling in this program

Program eligibility requirements

The Masters of Science in Cyber Operations (MSCyOps) program bases admission decisions on the applicant's prior academic work and professional background/experience in computing and/or cybersecurity, along with recommendation letters. The following items are the minimum criteria for potential admission. Meeting these requirements is not a guarantee of admission.   

  • Completed a bachelor’s degree, preferably in Computer Science, Cybersecurity, Computer Forensics, or Information Technology with a cumulative GPA of 3.00 or higher (may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis for those who demonstrate a potential for academic success in other ways).
  • A competency statement (two pages maximum) outlining your:
    1. Knowledge and interest in cybersecurity discipline and human factors that impact personal use policies, and monitoring.
    2. Ability to identify and analyze problems, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information to make logical decisions, an provide solutions to individual and organization problems;
    3. Ability to make clear and convincing oral presentations to individuals or groups; listens effectively and clarifies information as needed; facilitates an open exchange of ideas and fosters an atmosphere of open communication
  • Two positive recommendations from people qualified to judge the applicant's ability for graduate study in cybersecurity.
  • English language proficiency or permanent resident status, documented/demonstrated in one of the following ways: 
    • Is a US citizen or permanent resident
    • Has a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from an English-speaking institution in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand
    • Has a minimum TOEFL score of 80 (Internet-based), or 550 (paper-based) achieved within 24 months of intended matriculation.
    • Has an IELTS score of 6.5 or higher achieved within 24 months of intended matriculation.

Applicants who have a Bachelor’s degree in a non-computing field may be admitted to the program if they have:

  • Completed undergraduate courses in Discrete Mathematics and Statistics with the minimum grade of B or better.
  • At least one year of proven IT or cybersecurity industry experience;
  • Undergraduate courses with the minimum grade of B or Better or demonstrated competency in: Computer Science Fundamentals (Python programming, program design and data structures); Basic Algorithm; Programming with C; and Systems Administration, Networking and Security.

Application instructions

Deadlines: Fall semester

June 15 - United States applicants

May 1 - Overseas international applicants

There are no spring or summer admissions. The MSCyOps program director will inform applicants of the admission decision for fall semester by July 1.

Application file

A complete application file consists of two parts (three for international students.) Begin the application process by first applying online using the online graduate application. All application materials become the property of Metropolitan State University and are not returned. All application materials must be received in the Graduate Studies Office by the application deadline, and will be made available to the MSCyOps Graduate Admissions Committee for review.

Part one - apply online

  • Complete the Online Graduate Programs Application. You will use your Minnesota State StarID to complete the application. If you don't have a Minnesota State StarID, you will create one at the beginning of the application. If you encounter difficulty with the online application please email graduate.studies@metrostate.edu.
  • Pay the non-refundable application fee online using the online application. The current fee of $20 is waived for graduates of Metropolitan State University.
  • Submit official transcripts or transcript evaluation showing a baccalaureate degree or equivalent earned from an accredited institution with grade-point average or narrative description describing courses completed.
    • Transcripts from ALL schools attended after high school and from any graduate or professional programs are required.
    • All transcripts from non-U.S. schools must be evaluated (course-by-course) by:
    • Educational Credential Evaluators (third-party website) (preferred)
    • World Education Services (third-party website)
    • Electronic transcripts (preferred) sent to graduate.studies@metrostate.edu
    • Paper transcripts sent directly from the sending institution (preferred) to:
      Metropolitan State University
      Attn: Graduate Admissions
      700 East Seventh Street
      Saint Paul MN 55106

Part Two - Upload Remaining Documents

Once you've applied online you can login to the Applicant Portal using your StarID and password and upload remaining documents and check on the status of your application. To be considered for admission you must provide:

  • Current Resume
  • A competency statement essay (two pages max) outlining your:
    • Knowledge and interest in cybersecurity discipline and human factors that impact personal use policies, and monitoring. For applicants without a computer science or related major, address why you feel you have the necessary background to succeed in the graduate program
    • Ability to identify and analyze problems, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information to make logical decisions, an provide solutions to individual and organization problems;
    • Ability to make clear and convincing oral presentations to individuals or groups; listens effectively and clarifies information as needed; facilitates an open exchange of ideas and fosters an atmosphere of open communication
  • Two letters of recommendation from people qualified to judge the applicant's ability for graduate studies, one from a current or former college instructor and at least one from a current or former work supervisor.
    • From professional sources, at least one of which is a current or former college instructor, and at least one of which is a current or former work supervisor.
  • Official minimum recommended GRE scores are 150 on verbal and 155 on quantitative or a total of 305.

Part three - international students only

In addition to parts one and two, international applicants in the U.S. or abroad, on any type of visa, are required to provide this information for admission to the university.

  • Proof of English proficiency (official TOEFL or IELTS score)
    • Minimum scores: TOEFL 80 IBT, 213 CBT, 550 PBT or IELTS 6.5
    • IBT=internet based; CBT=computer based; PBT=paper based
  • Financial statement (F1 visa only)
  • Immunization records
  • Copies of passport, visa, I-94, and international home address and phone numbers

Visit International Student Services graduate admissions for part three details.

Mailing Address:
International Student Services
Metropolitan State University
700 East Seventh Street
Saint Paul, MN 55106-5000

Questions about applying to the Cyber Operations program? Please contact graduate.studies@metrostate.edu (preferred) or call 651.793.1302.

Questions about the program, please contact mscyops@metrostate.edu.

Program requirements

Guidelines for completing the Masters of Science in Cyber Operations (MSCyOps) program:

Admission into the masters program and transfer coursework equivalency is determined by the MSCyOps program director. Once admitted into the program, the student must complete 36 credits of approved work, which include:

  • 12 credits in cyber operations;
  • 13 credits in secure systems programming, malware analysis, vulnerability detection, and cryptography;
  • 4 credits in risk assessment, law, policy and ethics;
  • 3 credits in cellular and mobile security; and
  • 4 credits capstone experience, one-credit each semester of cohort sequence.

The capstone requirement involves completion of a practical research project (project option) or theoretical problem (thesis option) under the guidance of a faculty member in the Computer Science and Cybersecurity Department. Students are required to submit a written report of their work to a graduate committee and later make an oral defense of their respective projects.

Because of the cohort-based program, all students must complete the same coursework. There are no elective coursework and hence all courses in the program are considered core and required for degree completion.

Course requirements

Course Requirements: 36 credits

Fall Semester (Cohort Inauguration): 11 credits

CYBR 621 Secure System Programming and OS Theory

4 credits

Understanding the Operating Systems (OS) theory and the OS security concepts is required to perform critical roles in the cybersecurity and cyber operations fields. This course exposes the students to topics of the OS theory with an emphasis on security applications. The course begins with an introduction of low-level programming, including Assembly and C. It continues with the basic Unix-like operating system Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) along with the fundamentals of OS concepts.

Full course description for Secure System Programming and OS Theory

CYBR 641 Cyber Operations Fundamentals

2 credits

Cyber Operations, a more specific area of cybersecurity, is a highly technical field with a hardcore focus on both cyber offense and defense strategies. This course will provide an introduction to cyber operations fundamentals. Topics include Security fundamental principles, network architecture and security technologies, network traffic and protocol analysis, and offensive and defensive cyber operations and user experience.

Full course description for Cyber Operations Fundamentals

CYBR 645 Cyber Threat Hunting and Intelligence

2 credits

The course will provide students with knowledge and practical skills in the field of cyber threat hunting and intelligence that can be leveraged to defend against sophisticated network intrusions and loss of proprietary information. The course will discuss various phases of the intelligence lifecycle including developing intelligence requirements, collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information; and using cyber threat intelligence to improve security at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

Full course description for Cyber Threat Hunting and Intelligence

CYBR 671 Digital Forensics I

2 credits

This course covers advanced topics of digital forensics procedures, legal issues, and scientific principles. The course addresses the current and new issues in digital forensics by offering various topics such as windows, smart phones, memory, network forensics, Macintosh forensics, and updated and expanded coverage on legal issues. Moreover, the students will learn how to report their findings to present them to the court using the state-of-the-art tools in digital forensics.

Full course description for Digital Forensics I

CYBR 698 Cyber Operations Capstone Project

1-4 credits

The cyber operation capstone project is aimed at building a connection between cyber concepts and the application of these concepts into a real-world context. Students identify and develop their capstone projects throughout the graduate program and produce a serious, in-depth, scholarly and professional level written component that is reflective of their knowledge and skills that they have gained during the program. This capstone project uses a phased approach where students solidify their project ideas by the end of the first semester and complete the project with an oral defense by the end of the MS program. The final project will demonstrate students' summative expression of what they have learned in the graduate program and hence the project should be a culmination of theory, principles, best industry practices, methodologies, tools, and technologies associated with cyber operations.

Full course description for Cyber Operations Capstone Project

Spring Semester: 11 credits

CYBR 635 Applied Cryptography

2 credits

This course covers cryptography from both theoretical and practical perspective. The course provides details about advanced cryptography and its applications in the cybersecurity world. Students will learn various cryptographic algorithms and protocols and their relationships from both attack and defense perspectives. Various cryptographic tools to secure contemporary networks will be discussed as well. Students should be able to use advanced cryptographic algorithms based on elliptic curve cryptography.

Full course description for Applied Cryptography

CYBR 672 Digital Forensics II

2 credits

This course covers how to conduct successful digital forensic examinations in Windows, Linux, and Mac OS, the methodologies used, key technical concepts, and the tools needed to perform examinations. The required technical details of how each operating system works and how to find artifacts is also covered. Topics like File systems, data recovery, memory forensics, executable layouts are discussed in details. Moreover, Hands-On Network Forensics that starts with the core concepts within network forensics, including coding, networking, forensics tools, and methodologies for forensic investigations are covered.

Full course description for Digital Forensics II

CYBR 681 Malware Analysis and Reverse Engineering

4 credits

The ubiquitous nature of Internet of Everything (IoE) and the prevalence of computing technologies in critical infrastructure sectors have brought an unprecedented digital transformation to individuals, businesses, and industries. On the other hand, the IoE has also enabled the increased spread of malicious software (malware). Malware attacks are increasing exponentially over time with total number of known malware surpassed one billion. As a result, the ability to detect, analyze, understand, control, and eradicate malware derive threat intelligence, helps provide timely response to security incidents, fortify defenses, and is essential to nation¿s economic vitality and security. This course introduces malware analysis and reverse engineering techniques which will allow students to recognize, analyze and remediate infections. Using modern tools and procedures the student will understand how to dissect and reverse engineered a malware to understand its behavior, propagation,…

Full course description for Malware Analysis and Reverse Engineering

MIS 675 Risk Analysis in Information Technology

2 credits

Any IT development project contains significant risks. However, keeping the status quo is also risky in rapidly changing technological and competitive environments. This course is designed to familiarize the student with risk analysis concepts derived from many sources including financial, actuarial and statistical studies, insurance and risk analysis, software quality assurance methodologies, management and audit trails and many others. Student will learn to assess the risk in an information systems portfolio and develop strategies for managing the many risk types discussed: Prerequisites: MIS 600.

Full course description for Risk Analysis in Information Technology

CYBR 698 Cyber Operations Capstone Project

1-4 credits

The cyber operation capstone project is aimed at building a connection between cyber concepts and the application of these concepts into a real-world context. Students identify and develop their capstone projects throughout the graduate program and produce a serious, in-depth, scholarly and professional level written component that is reflective of their knowledge and skills that they have gained during the program. This capstone project uses a phased approach where students solidify their project ideas by the end of the first semester and complete the project with an oral defense by the end of the MS program. The final project will demonstrate students' summative expression of what they have learned in the graduate program and hence the project should be a culmination of theory, principles, best industry practices, methodologies, tools, and technologies associated with cyber operations.

Full course description for Cyber Operations Capstone Project

Summer Semester: 9 credits

CYBR 611 Vulnerability Discovery and Exploitation

3 credits

Vulnerability analysis and its connection to exploit development are core skills for one involved in cyber operations. This course covers vulnerability discovery and exploitation. The focus is to understand the pattern of vulnerabilities and attacks to allow students to experience protection, risk mitigation, and identify vulnerabilities in new contexts. Topics will include buffer overflows, privilege escalation attacks, input validation issues, vulnerability discovery (fuzzing and crash dump analysis), exploit development, and mitigations (e.g., DEP, ASLR, ¿).

Full course description for Vulnerability Discovery and Exploitation

CYBR 665 Securing Wireless and Mobile Technologies

3 credits

Wireless Communication and Mobile technologies have become an essential part of our daily lives. Modern cellular technologies have enabled smartphones to access fast Internet and app based services besides traditional voice communication and sending text messages. Additionally, today¿s network typically include a wide range of wireless devices, from computers and phones, to IP Cameras, smart TVs and connected appliances. As more and more communications are conducted via cellular and mobile technologies, these technologies have become critical (and continue to become more critical) to cyber operations. This course provides and in depth introduction to various wireless technologies (with a focus on cellular technology) and how data is processed and securely transmitted using these technologies and ubiquitous devices. An overview of smart phone technologies, their embedded operating systems, and mobile protocols will also be provided.

Full course description for Securing Wireless and Mobile Technologies

CYBR 675 Virtualization and Cloud Security

2 credits

Virtualization technology has rapidly expanded to become a core feature of various components of enterprise environments. It allows efficient use of physical IT infrastructure by sharing its capabilities among many users or environments. Virtualization is also an integral element to cloud computing and key technology in cybersecurity. Cloud computing provides organizations the ability to create and use IT services efficiently and rapidly without spending capital resources upfront. This course will discuss the capabilities and limitations of modern approaches to virtualization and the variety, complexity, and capabilities of modern cloud platforms and cloud security. The course will include hands-on lab exercises using leading Cloud infrastructure providers (ex. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure). The course will review the applied concepts and techniques with end-to-end Cloud security architecture with real-world case studies using Web/Mobile based applications, and Internet…

Full course description for Virtualization and Cloud Security

CYBR 698 Cyber Operations Capstone Project

1-4 credits

The cyber operation capstone project is aimed at building a connection between cyber concepts and the application of these concepts into a real-world context. Students identify and develop their capstone projects throughout the graduate program and produce a serious, in-depth, scholarly and professional level written component that is reflective of their knowledge and skills that they have gained during the program. This capstone project uses a phased approach where students solidify their project ideas by the end of the first semester and complete the project with an oral defense by the end of the MS program. The final project will demonstrate students' summative expression of what they have learned in the graduate program and hence the project should be a culmination of theory, principles, best industry practices, methodologies, tools, and technologies associated with cyber operations.

Full course description for Cyber Operations Capstone Project

Fall Semester (Cohort Adjournment): 5 credits

MIS 694 Cyber Ethics

2 credits

With Information Technology playing an ever greater role in organizations, and the widespread availability of technology with the ability to collect and create information on everyone, many new ethical issues have been created. This course will frame many current ethic issues in IT and help the student develop methods of analyzing and dealing with these issues in real world situations. Topics may include issues such as privacy, copyright and intellectual property, employee monitoring approaches, multinational information flows, corporate intelligence and others. Hacking, computer security, viruses and other acts of destruction will be reviewed from an ethical perspective.

Full course description for Cyber Ethics

CYBR 690 Special Topics in Cyber Operations

1-4 credits

Cyber Operations, a more specific area of cybersecurity, is a highly technical field with a hardcore focus on both cyber offense and defense strategies. This course will cover special cyber operations topics that are not covered elsewhere in the MS Cyber Operations program. This course will provide the opportunity to keep the program current by introducing new and in-demand topics in cyber operations including but not limited to SCADA, IoT/IIoT, embedded systems, hardware reverse engineering, secure software development, programmable logic and microcontroller design, RF Analysis, Software defined Networking, etc.

Full course description for Special Topics in Cyber Operations

CYBR 698 Cyber Operations Capstone Project

1-4 credits

The cyber operation capstone project is aimed at building a connection between cyber concepts and the application of these concepts into a real-world context. Students identify and develop their capstone projects throughout the graduate program and produce a serious, in-depth, scholarly and professional level written component that is reflective of their knowledge and skills that they have gained during the program. This capstone project uses a phased approach where students solidify their project ideas by the end of the first semester and complete the project with an oral defense by the end of the MS program. The final project will demonstrate students' summative expression of what they have learned in the graduate program and hence the project should be a culmination of theory, principles, best industry practices, methodologies, tools, and technologies associated with cyber operations.

Full course description for Cyber Operations Capstone Project