MPS in Cybersecurity vs MS in CS degree FAQ

What is an MPS degree? What are the differences between MPS and MS degrees?

Masters of Professional Studies (MPS)

MPS programs are specifically designed for working and career professionals.  This means courses are offered at evenings and/or online, frequently taught by current practitioners, there is no formal thesis requirement, and the emphasis is on applying knowledge versus developing new knowledge. The MPS degree is geared towards professionals already in the IT/cyber field that require greater education in the field, or for people from disciplines not related to computing that wish to transition into cybersecurity positions.  However, the MPS is not a "training" program to teach applied, technician-level skills.

Master of Science (MS)

MS programs are traditional research-oriented graduate programs created for individuals who already have fundamentals in one area and want to enhance their knowledge in that particular area. At UMBC, writing a thesis is an option for MS students; courses are taught mainly by regular faculty members and are more challenging from theoretical and mathematical points of view. Our MS in CS degree is typically meant for jobs in the industry that are low-level technically focused or as something a student would take enroute toward pursuing a research-oriented career. Our MS CS degree does offer specialized tracks in data science and cybersecurity, but assume that the student has a prior degree in the discipline, or something very closely related.  Of course, MS CS students are able to take some MPS courses as part of their curriculum if desired.

MPS and MS programs are not same!

Although courses taught in each program cover similar themes, they are designed very differently for people with different backgrounds and needs.  For example, a graduate with a BA in Economics who is working as a system administrator and is looking to transition into cybersecurity would take the MPS degree, since their academic and/or career preparation would not be suited to the theoretical and mathematical elements required of students in the MS for CS -- i.e. they don't need to know deep information about algorithms, operating systems. Such students are ideally positioned for the applied nature of the MPS.  By contrast, a student with an undergraduate degree in CS or CE who is not looking for applied or operationally-oriented cybersecurity education -- perhaps they want to become a researcher or professor -- would be better suited to the more theoretical MS degree in CS, where deep-dives into things like operating systems algorithms, and network theory are required.

Following graduation, an MS CS grad might be hired by a tech company to build the next generation cybersecurity analytics platform, while an MPS Cybersecurity grad might be hired to lead cybersecurity teams in an organizational context to deal with operational cybersecurity issues for a large company.

To summarize, if your academic expectations include...

... then please consider MS in Computer Science program first.

An Important Note

Most cybersecurity jobs and internships in the area around UMBC require US citizenship for government clearances. If you plan to work in the DC/VA/MD region in a cybersecurity role, this may be a significant challenge for you.

Comparing Degrees At-A-Glance