I am applying for masters in computer science. Is a Master's at CyberSecurity possible?

Can I pursue a Master's in a field like CyberSecurity if I am not a US Citizen? Most research is sponsored by DARPA or the government(I suppose requires security clearance). It would make it difficult for me to be involved with anything even after been admitted and maybe it will steer the admissions from rejecting my application.

  • 2
    Have you asked this question to universities in the US offering such masters? – dimpol Nov 29 '16 at 17:32
  • yes, I thought it was implied – user2789433 Nov 29 '16 at 17:38
  • 2
    What did they say? – dimpol Nov 29 '16 at 17:53

Most research is sponsored by DARPA or the government (I suppose requires security clearance)

Some specific research projects in cybersecurity may require security clearance, or are restricted to US citizens. The vast majority are not restricted in this way. You can see this for yourself by looking at the author lists of papers published in conferences like S&P. Specifically look at those papers coming from US institutions and note the many papers with at least one author who is an international student.

US graduate programs in cybersecurity routinely admit large numbers of international students, who for the most part have access to the same research opportunities as students that are US citizens. If you want to be sure that the program you are applying to conducts research in which non-citizens may participate, check the authors of publications coming out of that lab - look up the authors online, and see if there are many international students among them. Some labs might also have a web page where they list current graduate students involved in their research.

(You obviously can't determine citizenship of an author accurately with a Google search, but if there are a large number of international students involved, it's almost certain that there are also non-citizens involved.)

One difference is that you will not be eligible for certain federal fellowships specifically for US citizen students involved in cybersecurity research, such as the Scholarship for Service program.

  • I was at another school that had a cyber security program, and all my attempts to be involved in research in cyber security were met with the "US citizens" only. – user2789433 Nov 29 '16 at 17:36
  • Do you speak this from you involvement in the specific field, as a student and teacher or as an observer? Often times US citizens will be unable to notice the big gap there is in opportunities in this field. – user2789433 Nov 29 '16 at 17:37
  • @user2789433 Yes, I've collaborated with the cybersecurity research center at my university, and many of my collaborators from that center were international students (not US citizens or permanent residents). I've edited my answer to address your concerns. – ff524 Nov 29 '16 at 17:40
  • @ff524 I noticed the date of this answer was posted before Trump swore in. Since the beginning of this year, I have received from multiple information sources that many Chinese students (even students from Taiwan) were turned down the admission of cyber security programs. Would you re-confirm this answer based on your close observation? Thanks. – scaaahu Oct 10 '18 at 7:03
  • @scaaahu Today we have: Chinese army scientists exploiting Western universities, report says. Are there restrictions on publishing, presenting or discussing your work in situations where security clearance is required? Can some CIA agent say "Sorry, you can't publish the results of years of work."? – Keith McClary Nov 2 '18 at 4:33

You will not be able to obtain a US security clearance, this is reserved for US citizens only. You will have to find a program that does not require a security clearance, or the ability to obtain a security clearance, as one of the requirements.

As for the research side, this will definitely depend on where the money is coming from and you would have to check with the PI. Without the clearance, you will definitely have limited access to resources.

If you want to work in industry in the US, you will definitely need to become a citizen.

  • 1
    "If you want to work in this field in the US, you will definitely need to become a citizen." - In industry, perhaps. I don't think this is true in academia, as the NSF supports plenty of basic research in cybersecurity without restrictions on the citizenship of the PI. – ff524 Nov 29 '16 at 17:52
  • @ff524, good point, I will clarify. – Hobbes Nov 29 '16 at 17:54

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