FAQ

FAQ

General Questions

What is the SANS Technology Institute?

The SANS Technology Institute is a master's level graduate school focused exclusively on cybersecurity degree programs and research. It was founded in 2005 as an independent subsidiary of the SANS Institute, with its own Board of Directors, Faculty, staff, and programs. The SANS Technology Institute aspires to be the preeminent graduate institution translating contemporary information security practice and scholarship into effective educational experiences.

What degrees are offered by the SANS Technology Institute?

The SANS Technology Institute is authorized to grant Master of Science degrees in Information Security Engineering (MSISE) and Information Security Management (MSISM). These are described in greater detail below.

What is the SANS Institute?

The SANS Institute (www.sans.org) is the oldest and by far the largest and most trusted research and cybersecurity training organization in the world. Since 1989, the SANS Institute has trained over 100,000 information security professionals, including the leaders of cybersecurity for the biggest and most important government agencies, defense institutions, and commercial entities – from the world's largest banks and technology companies to healthcare organizations and power companies.

Is the SANS Technology Institute accredited?

Yes, the SANS Technology Institute is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, 267-284-5000), which is the institutional agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education to conduct accreditation activities for Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including distance education and correspondence education programs offered at those institutions. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is also recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

What is the importance of regional accreditation?

Accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education is an expression of confidence in an institution's mission and goals, its performance, and its resources. Accreditation is typically a prerequisite condition for corporate tuition reimbursement plans or other funding sources. Because of the strength of the peer review process and the quality standards required of members, many employers and consultants consider it a best practice to offer reimbursement only when the educational institution is regionally accredited, rather than just nationally accredited, and many institutions will only accept credit for transfer when the credits were earned at an institution that is also regionally accredited.

What are the key qualities of the master's degree programs?

The SANS Technology Institute degree programs are comprised of world-class, cutting-edge technical courses, updated as often as three times per year, that establish and specialize your skills. Our programs offer personal interaction with teaching faculty that have an unparalleled reputation for industry leadership and who bring the material to life. Simulations and group projects teach students to write, present, and persuade effectively, and are often focused on employer-sponsored topics to align your work with your studies. The programs are designed for full-time, working information technology or information security professionals, with the flexibility to attend courses when and where you need them, either in live classrooms with faculty or online from home. Lastly, SANS is broadly known throughout the industry for the quality of our educational programs, and a SANS degree augments a graduate's own reputation.

Who are the faculty of the SANS Technology Institute?

The approximately fifty members of the teaching faculty of the SANS Technology Institute are some of the most important practitioner-scholars in the cybersecurity field today. Most faculty spend the majority of their time active in their roles as trusted advisors to the White House, government agencies, and major corporations, or working at senior-level information security jobs. They are the authors of authoritative books, they engage in information security research, speak at conferences to share their work, and they are called in for many of the most high-profile incidents - in short, they have the front-line, in-the-trenches experience doing the types of jobs that you will seek or be required to do or oversee as a graduate. As importantly, new faculty are not appointed until they have proven themselves as highly rated teachers in a multi-year competition to become a SANS Certified Instructor. Many experts cannot teach, but the SANS faculty development process ensure that the faculty are gifted teachers as well as being exceptional security technologists.

What is the program leading to the M.S. degree in Information Security Engineering?

The MSISE degree requires 36 credit hours of course work that spans core topics in information security engineering, advanced technical electives, and the management capabilities required for effective implementation. The curriculum is built in part on SANS classes, but the program also includes courses that were independently developed by SANS Technology Institute faculty and tailored to the goals of the master's program. Many courses in the program use GIAC certifications as assessments of learning outcomes, and graduates of this degree program acquire more than seven GIAC certifications even before you graduate, including the GIAC Security Expert (GSE) certification, used as a capstone assessment. Applied research is emphasized, and master's students must produce several peer-reviewed research papers, present their research to faculty and peers at live events, and complete labs and simulations that ensure they possess mastery of the technical material and its use in the real world. You can learn more about the required and elective courses in the MSISE program at our website or by downloading the latest set of MSISE Course Descriptions.

What is the program leading to the M.S. degree in Information Security Management?

Similar to the MSISE degree, the MSISM program also requires 36 credit hours of course work. The core of the program is different in that it rebalances the focus on technical depth with an emphasis on the breadth of management, policy, and implementation topics. There are fewer elective choices in the MSISM degree program, but additional required courses covering topics in Information Security Audit and Legal issues and policy. With a greater focus on communications skills, the Information Security Management program requires additional written research. You can learn more about the required and elective courses in the MSISM program at our website or by downloading the latest set of MSISM Course Descriptions.


Engaging in the Master's Programs

Are courses taken live in classrooms, online, or both?

The master's degree programs are taken in a mix of live and online instruction, which offers enormous flexibility for you to choose how to engage and progress through your course of studies. While the majority of the program may be done at-a-distance, some elements of the program require a graduate student to be present at a live event, typically once a year. There are many choices for the specific time, date, and location for live event attendance. Most technical courses in the program may be taken either at events in live classrooms or online; assessments and exams are frequently taken at proctored locations near where you live; presentations are graded both live and virtually; some projects require you to work in virtual groups, while another requires that two or more people are physically present for a 24-hour period.

How and where do graduate students get live classroom instruction?

The SANS Institute conducts more than 200 events ("Residential Institutes") at locations held throughout the world. At any given Residential Institute, hundreds of individuals come together for up to a week and a half of intense, immersive training that spans cyber defense, penetration testing, forensics and incident response, secure software development, information security auditing, and many other topics. These events allow students to interact with the leaders in the field as they teach courses, lead labs and simulation exercises, and present their most current research and findings at evening briefings. Residential Institutes are a unique setting for learning, networking, and development. When a SANS Master's student needs to take one of these SANS Institute classes, he or she will be registered for the class at the desired Residential Institute upon registering for the associated course in their master's program. The student will then travel to the associated Residential Institute and take the class as a SANS Master's student. Afterwards, the master's student continues to work on the associated exam or assessment, research paper or project, until the course requirements are completed.

Can I take training from SANS online and at-a-distance?

When a SANS master's degree candidate needs to take a SANS Institute class, they may frequently also choose to take it online and at-a-distance through our highly-rated OnDemand, vLive & Simulcast delivery formats. To mitigate constrained budgets or simply to fit a busy professional's schedule, SANS Institute classes may be accessed through these systems, where you see the same slides used in our classes and hear the same highly-rated instructors as they teach. For the OnDemand system, where the faculty instruction is recorded and not live, subject matter experts are available virtually to answer any questions. Because of the density of new information taught in our classes, many students actually prefer this format because they are able to 'replay' certain sections that otherwise might have been difficult to follow live. At prescheduled times, SANS classes are also available via vLive (virtual live), a format in which live classes are held over the internet, typically between 7-10pm ET on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During a vLive class, the instructor and all participants are online simultaneously, allowing for more direct interaction between our students and instructors, even though they remain in different locations.

How do the online classes compare to those at the live events?

Whether live or online, SANS' rigorous ratings and feedback system confirms that we maintain a superior student experience and consistently high levels of student satisfaction in all these modalities. Furthermore, SANS is unique in our ability to prove that there are no statistically significant differences in the tested learning outcomes of students who take our courses in a live setting versus those who take them via OnDemand (time delayed) or vLive (synchronous). We encourage you to evaluate free demonstrations of OnDemand and vLive as you consider and explore the SANS master's program.

How does the SANS Technology Institute maintain such high quality?

Nearly all of SANS instruction is paid for by the very employers and government agencies that need a more skilled and capable workforce, requiring year after year that SANS classes justify the time, offer a strong return on investment, and clearly impact the information defenses of those sponsoring organizations. Like our most successful clients, the SANS Institute is dedicated to excellence and continuous improvement. We constantly seek feedback to measure the value and applicability of our training, both the content of courses and the effectiveness of our SANS faculty. A rigorous, quantified, and ongoing quality measurement process driven by the ratings and comments of our students ensures that our instruction has currency in the constantly changing threat landscape, and that our instructors are both highly engaging in their class presentations and active, valued practitioners in the field.

How long does it take to complete the program?

The program is designed to take three years, on average, to complete. This timeline requires approximately 10 hours of work accomplished per week (again, on average, allowing for periods of more or less intense work). Over time, participation in the program is subject to a Satisfactory Academic Progress policy that requires students to complete at least eight (8) credit hours of work each year, consistent with the requirement that students complete the program within a maximum five years from the date of their matriculation.

Are there time limits to complete individual courses?

Certain courses in the master's program have required maximum time limits. Typically, the requirements for a three or four credit course are expected to be completed by a student within four months of their class starting date, and must be completed within five months (subject to a failing grade). These time limits are sometimes different from what GIAC applies for test taking or completing a Gold paper, and in these cases the time limits of the master's program apply, rather than the standard GIAC timing.

Are there semesters and trimesters, or is the program 'open enrollment'?

The open enrollment nature of the program is another instance of flexibility. Accepted students may apply to and be accepted into the program at any time during the year, and each individual then works with an appointed academic advisor to schedule a plan of studies each twelve months. Students often match the times and locations of Residential Institutes with their work and personal schedules, and then plan which additional courses they'll take at-a-distance in order to maintain satisfactory academic progress. In some instances, students may join a specific industry cohort, designed to coordinate the progression and interaction of people with similar industry backgrounds.


Application and Tuition Questions

How many people do you plan to admit in 2014?

We plan to admit only 100 new graduate students in 2014, and we anticipate we will fill most of the available spaces in the early portion of the calendar year.

What is the admissions process?

The admissions process begins when you submit a completed application, which requires you to:

  • Complete the basic information request on the application form.
  • Submit a copy of your recent resume.
  • Have your official undergraduate or graduate transcripts sent to us.
  • Write an Outcome Statement and Leadership Essay.
  • Create a brief video presentation (see instructions).
  • Submit a letter of recommendation from your employer, or customers if you are a consultant.
  • Submit all of the above via email to applications@sans.edu or, as appropriate, to:
    Master's Program Admissions
    SANS Technology Institute
    PO Box 130957
    Dallas, TX 75313
Once the application is deemed complete, the admissions committee reviews the candidate's application and compares it to that of former entrants and other applicants. This review process typically takes 30-60 days. If the applicant is invited to matriculate, they will then engage with a member of the faculty or academic advisor in order to plan their first year's course of studies and confirm that they have appropriate time and funding expectations. When this planning process is complete, the student is formally enrolled in the program.

What is the Application Fee?

The application fee is $250, and is non-refundable. Applicants may either pay by credit card or mail their check to the above address, together with a copy of their application form.

What are the requirements or prerequisites for admission?

There are several requirements for admission, including that you must hold a bachelor's degree with at least a 2.8 GPA, and you must have a minimum of 12 months of work experience related to information technology, information security, or audit. The master's program requires excellent written and oral communications skills, so you must either be a native English speaker or be able to meet the requirements for non-native English speakers (see below).

What is the current cost per credit hour?

The cost per credit hour is currently $1,250, subject to change with a three-month notice period.

What is the total cost of the program?

Over 36 credit hours, the total cost of the program would be $45,000, plus certain fees, the cost of travel, and the cost of the capstone exams (currently, these are $1,699). Fees include a $250 application fee, waiver fees of $125 or a maximum of $500, or other fees that might be associated with challenging qualifying exams in lieu of taking the full courses (this activity reduces the total cost of the program by the amount of the cost of the course which is waived).

How do I pay for the program?

Graduate students pay for the individual courses they take as they register for them. For example, ISE 5100 Enterprise Security Essentials is a 4 credit hour course. A student would therefore pay $5,000 (4 x $1,250) when registering for this course, which would then cover the costs associated with enrolling in SANS Institute class SEC 401 either live or at- a-distance, scheduling and taking the GIAC GSEC certification exam, and the costs of advising and peer-review grading of the required research paper (in this case, a GIAC Gold Paper). The minimum academic progress required would indicate that a typical student pays $10,000 per year, while completing the program in three years would typically average $15,000 per year.

Can I utilize my company's tuition reimbursement benefit?

The SANS Technology Institute is regionally accredited, and this status typically qualifies our programs for inclusion in corporate tuition reimbursement plans. However, each company's policies and practices are different, and you should check with your company's HR department or other authoritative source to determine if you would be eligible for tuition reimbursement once enrolled in our master's program.

Can I utilize 'GI Bill' funds to pay for my education?

The SANS Technology Institute is applying to enable current and prospective students to employ their veteran's benefits for purposes of funding their SANS Technology Institute education. Though we are regionally accredited, the rules governing approval for these benefits distinguish between public, non-profit schools and private, for-profit schools, and require us to be reviewed and approved in each U.S. State that might be applicable. If this is an important benefit to you, please let us know at info@sans.edu so that we can inform you of any changes in our status, if and when we are approved.

Can I apply for and use federal student loans to pay for my education?

The SANS Technology Institute does not participate in any federal/Title IV student aid or loan programs. Most graduate students are either reimbursed by their employers or are self-funded.

Do SANS Institute classes and GIAC exams I've taken in the past apply to the program?

If you've taken relevant SANS Institute classes in the past, or if you currently hold relevant GIAC certifications, you may receive waivers for related course elements that will afford you advanced standing in the program upon matriculation. Because of the ever-changing nature of the information security techniques and associated threats, SANS Institute class experiences that are more than two years old or GIAC exam scores that are more than three years old will not typically qualify for a waiver in the master's program, in order to ensure new students have current skills and capabilities. The determinations of whether and how these apply does require a more in-depth evaluation of the specifics for each individual than is described here. To evaluate how your own past experiences may apply, download the Guide to Waivers and Advanced Standing found on our website.

Once admitted, how quickly do I need to start the program?

Within sixty days of final matriculation, a new student must register and pay for a minimum of three credit hours, commensurate with the academic plan they established with a member of the faculty or their academic advisor.


Questions for non-US citizens or non-native English speakers

Do I need to be an American citizen in order to apply to the Master's program?

We are an international program, so you do not need to be an American citizen nor do you need security clearance. We welcome students from all over the world. Although based in Maryland, the SANS Technology Institute's programs will serve students in all states and many countries around the world.

How do I present non-US Transcripts for an application?

When presenting a non-US transcript for admissions, candidates must first have their transcripts evaluated by World Education Services before completing their submission to STI.

What if English is not my Native Language?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required for Applicants whose native language is not English. We require a minimum score requirement of 100 (Internet-based test) over-all with each of the sub-categories (Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing) preferred to be at a minimum of 25 each. The test scores must be sent to us directly by the testing agency. The TOEFL Bulletin of Information and registration form can be obtained at American embassies and consulates, offices of the United States Information Service (USIS) and U.S. education commissions.

In addition, the writing quality of the Outcomes and Leadership essay is an important element in our evaluation of any student's application, and we have found that TOEFL scores are not always consistent with graduate-level writing skills required by our program, so we encourage non-native English speakers to consider the strength of the written English skills as well as their oral communication capabilities.


Other Questions

Are scholarships or financial aid available?

The SANS Technology Institute does not provide scholarships, and does not participate in Title IV loan programs.

How are credit hours assigned to each course?

Please read our Policy and Procedure for Credit Hour Assignment and Review.

What are the policies with regards to student identify verification?

Please read our Policy Regarding the Verification of Student Identity.


Learning More about the SANS Master's Programs

Where can I learn more information?

Please learn more at www.sans.edu. If you are unable to find an answer to a question, please inquire via email to info@sans.edu or admissions@sans.edu.