Cybersecurity Master’s Programs in Maryland


After *finally* graduating from UMBC with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Information Systems, I really did not want to go back. I still feel more closely associated with UMD, feel that UMD has a better name (for what it matters), and overall felt the caliber of students at UMD was higher. UMBC students seem to lack drive and creativity as compared to UMD students, in my opinion. Virtually everyone I knew, and continue to meet, at UMD had a side project they believed in and tried to bring to fruition. From bands to companies to protests, they showcase their ambitious spirit in their spare time. While UMD students are working on meaningful products, UMBC students are shut in their dorms, gaming. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is a clear difference between the two campuses. And this doesn’t even mention my single largest beef with UMBC – the administration!

I talked with many, many industry professionals prior to deciding to pursue a Master’s in Cybersecurity. My concern is that it will/would be considered a “trendy” degree that will fall out of favor in the future and stain my resume, an indication that I was caught in the moment. However, I have been unanimously assured that Cybersecurity is a good way to go. With the degree set, I evaluated several Universities – Utica College in New York, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, UMBC, and UMD (UMCP).

Utica offers an online program. I merely requested information, I believe from, and was immediately called at work not five minutes later. Unfortunately, I was not able to pick up the phone at that time and ignored the call. Little did I know, I’d be called on a daily basis! This could be a good sign in terms of the University being responsive to students, but all I wanted was a brochure. Shortly after, I decided I did not want to pursue an online Master’s degree and I did not intend to move to NY, so Utica was out. They trail behind the other’s on my list in terms of industry recognition as well.

Johns Hopkins was my third choice due to cost alone. If you have the money, they appear to be a great choice. Given that they are more than twice as expensive as UMBC or UMD, I did not feel their name could make up the difference in cost. JHU’s program is technical in nature and lacks any management courses. If you attend in person, the program falls under their “Engineering for Professionals” college and is taught in the evenings with some weekend courses offered.

umd-2UMD, like JHU, emphasizes the technical aspects of Cybersecurity with the program belonging to their Engineering College. For those less technically oriented, the Robert Smith business school also offers a Cybersecurity certificate (15 credits) that is more policy based. Afterwards, the business school recommends moving on to an Information Systems Master’s for Policy/Management or a Master’s of Engineering in Cybersecurity for technical staff. UMD is the flagship school in the University of Maryland system, and having attended UMD in the past, I am biased towards them. However, their website for the Cybersecurity program is poor – to the point I was unable to even figure out the cost for an in-state student. Because of their technical emphasis, distance, and cost, I once again turned to UMBC.

umbc_library-2UMBC stands alone with their Cybersecurity offering. Rather than an engineering degree, UMBC offers a “Master’s of Professional Studies” (MPS) degree in Cybersecurity. It is a 30 credit program with a split personality – several management courses are mandatory and several technical courses are mandatory, but a total of four courses are electives that can go either way. UMBC’s program was assembled under the close guidance of industry professionals and all the professors for their Cybersecurity program are adjuncts. I really like UMBC’s Cybersecurity program because it is a higher level program that should stand the test of time better than the competing schools. I also like that it is taught by adjunct professors who are not teaching for the money, but for their love of teaching & to further the industry. In fact, of all the programs I evaluated, UMBC’s professors appear to be the most qualified and the most accomplished in the industry; the director even served as the CSO for InterNIC! Furthermore, many of UMBC’s professors also teach at nearby JHU – effectively offering the same education at a lower cost.

UMBC’s emphasis on policy and management should stand the test of time. One of my largest concerns with the Cybersecurity degree is that it is a “trendy” degree, but UMBC’s goals transcend that of other (lesser) Universities. Even with technical electives, the UMBC degree is still more general, oriented towards people and government, and therefore timeless. Why would I want my Master’s to be technically oriented in a field that reinvents itself so often? And this is the exact reason I steered away from UMD, despite my personal bias. My technical proficiency will be proven through industry experience and certifications – such as the GIAC GSEC that I am currently earning – while my management skills and industry wide understanding will be developed through the industry leading professionals teaching at UMBC’s Cybersecurity Master’s program. There is money to be made where management intersects technology!

Another point worth mentioning with all these programs is their standing with the NSA. JHU and UMBC are both NSA “Center[s] of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research” AND NSA “Center[s] of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education” (CAE/R & CAE/IAE) while UMD is only recognized for research (CAE/R). Utica? I can’t find them on the NSA site at all.

Aftermarket Lenovo Z570 Laptop Battery

As I just enrolled in Grad School at UMBC, I wanted a second battery for my Lenovo Z570 laptop. I purchased the Z570 (the Z580 is the newer version) this time last year and so far I’m happy with it. The build quality is great for the price, the speakers sound decent, and it’s reasonably fast. However, the battery is nothing to write home about – 4 hours being typical with the screen dimmed.

My solution came in the form of a third party battery from Amazon. This one to be exact.
I was worried on several fronts about this particular battery: First, I have read that Lenovo laptops, particularly newer models, refuse to charge any battery that is not a genuine Lenovo battery. Apparently there is a chip inside the battery the laptop reads to confirm it is genuine. Second, fitment is rumored to be an issue with third party batteries; some are too loose while others are too tight. Third, the price point on this particular battery was so low, I don’t see how it could be a quality battery – I can’t even buy the individual cells for the price I paid for the entire battery! Finally, this battery’s part number was not an exact match for the battery that came with my Z570 and even worse, the voltage did not even match. The factory battery is rated at 11.1 volts nominal while this battery is 10.8 volts nominal – not a big difference, but concerning in conjunction with the differing part numbers. I knew from my background in engineering that Li-Ion batteries are typically rated as either 3.6v or 3.7v nominal per cell (further research indicates there are multiple Li-Ion cell chemistries on the market with differing nominal voltages, but they are functionally interchangeable), making 3 cells connected in series rate at 10.8 OR 11.1 volts nominal depending on the number chosen by the manufacturer. On the surface, this battery passes the “common sense” test.

Well never fear, the battery seems to work fine. The system actually recognizes it as a Sanyo battery, a quality manufacturer of laptop batteries (whether the chip is clone or not is another question). Fitment, while not exactly spot on, is close enough. It’s a snug fit compared to the factory Lenovo battery but it’s not hard to insert or remove. My initial impression on battery life is that it is every bit as good as the factory battery was when it was new, but only time will tell the true story as it ages. Overall, I’m extremely happy and might purchase an additional battery or two! Time for the Cybersecurity studies to commence.

*August 30th Update*

I finally put the battery through its paces starting yesterday in my management course. There is slightly north of 3 hours runtime on the battery so far, with some of that being heavy use, and Windows is reporting 24% battery life remaining after it sat in standby overnight. I’d call that a success. I think the battery life is every bit as good as the factory battery. I’ll post another update in the future as the battery wears in.