Master’s degree to certify Canadian IT security expertise

Believing Canadian business needs more people with expertise in protecting computers and networks from intruders, viruses and other threats, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology has launched Canada’s first graduate degree program

in information technology security.

The university in Oshawa, Ont., will accept the first students this September in its two-year Master of Information Technology Security (MITS) program. The Faculty of Business and Information Technology has laboratory facilities sufficient for a maximum of 48 students in the program, said Dr. Clemens Martin, director of IT programs.

To enter the program, students will need a four-year bachelor’s degree with at least a B average over all, and a minimum of two full years’ work, or part-time equivalent, in information technology. Students with undergraduate degrees in information technology, engineering, science or a related field will be preferred, and course work in discrete mathematics, advanced programming and one of computer architecture or machine organization is specifically required. 

A handful of graduate degree programs in IT security exist in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere.

The program mixes academic and practical approaches. The university has forged a partnership with the U.S.-based SANS (SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security) Institute, and its curriculum includes areas covered in the SANS Security Essentials Course and in the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam, preparing students for the SANS and CISSP certifications in information technology security.

At the same time, Dr. Martin said, courses will combine practical laboratory work with theory. “It’s a master’s level program,” he said. He noted that many employees in the work force are held back by not having higher-level university degrees, so the program’s academic credentials are important, but the certifications will make graduates more immediately employable.

The second year of the program will also include a “Security Capstone Research Project,” which Dr. Martin said will likely involve students working with industry. 

The curriculum includes such areas as the law and ethics of IT security, secure software systems, cryptography, e-commerce infrastructure security, biometrics and advanced communications networks.

Paul Swinwood, president of the Ottawa-based Software Human Resource Council, said IT security skills are in demand. “For the next several years, security is going to be a hot area,” he said. “No question about it.”

James Moutsos, president of Dynamix Solutions Inc., a Toronto-based managed service provider whose business is heavily security-oriented, said employers need people with in-depth security knowledge – “people who are very familiar with security, as opposed to somebody who knows how to configure a firewall.”

He said a graduate degree in IT security should produce graduates who meet those needs. “It sounds like where they’re going with the program is that whole mindset around security as opposed to how to use products.”

Swinwood said the IT employment opportunities in North America will increasingly be in areas such as security as opposed to basic coding, which is moving offshore.

“Having more than just IT is where the jobs are,” he said.

Dr. Martin said UOIT has not been flooded with applications for the new program, a fact he attributed to marketing for the program not having started as soon as it might have, but it will have enough students to form a freshman class this fall. The deadline for applications has been extended from May 1 to May 31. 

Officially created in June 2002 as the first new university in Ontario in 40 years, UOIT welcomed its first freshman class of 947 students in the fall of 2003 on a campus shared with Durham College. It describes itself as a “market-oriented” institution offering “career-oriented undergraduate and graduate university programs.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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