Going Directly from an Undergrad to an Online Master’s Program

David Chirco, a 2017 graduate of the MPS Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis program, talks about how his undergraduate studies at Utica College led to the master’s program and his future career goals.

Talk a little about your background.

My background is a little bit different from everyone else in the cyber program because I'm only 23 years old, where everyone else is a little bit older, and they have more of a professional background than I do. I went to Utica College for my undergrad and I majored in criminal justice.

I actually had no desire to do my master’s in cyber policy until I was in one of [Director] Joe Giordano's classes as an undergrad—it was a cyber class for criminal justice majors. Two of my buddies actually recommended that class because they liked Professor Giordano. We had a nice discussion about the future, and he encouraged me to do the cyber program with UC for my master’s. From there, it was something I wanted to do because it was such a big field.

Why did you choose the MPS Cyber Policy program versus the MS in Cybersecurity?

For my first class in the master's program, I was in the cybersecurity program. That was all the coding and stuff like that. I was terrible at it. I was so confused, I wanted to just smash my computer because I was so bad at it! Joe and I talked and we made the switch into the cyber policy program. That fit a lot better for my knowledge and what I was more interested in.

Were there any particular courses in the cyber policy program that you really enjoyed?

I really liked the Cyber War and Deterrence class. I'm not the most philosophical guy in the world. But when it came to actual conflict, learning about how cyber technology has actually caused different conflicts and helped change the way war has evolved throughout the years was really, really cool to me.

Debating whether or not cyber war is a real thing, or if it's ever occurred or ever will occur, it was just kind of cool to think about it. We all think we're such experts in the cyber world now, but going through a class like that shows us that we still have a lot to learn.

What helped you adjust to the online format?

The faculty was really good. Whenever you had a question, you could just shoot them an email and 99 percent of the time you'd get an email back within a couple hours. They'd be able to help you out and clarify whatever issue you had. You just had to reach out and ask. They're not just going to send you an email every day and ask, “Is everything OK?” But if you reach out to them, you're going to get a response back. I had a couple of professors who would even get on Skype with you, or get on the phone, whenever you needed something like that.

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What kind of career are you leaning toward?

I was actually planning on going to law school. Joe and I thought that it would be a nice supplement to a law degree to have the cyber policy aspect. I originally intended for the master’s to help me get into a better law school, and then down the road, get a really good position within the cyber world, too. I actually was accepted to 9 or 10 law schools.

Then I decided not to go to law school.

I was interviewing with the Secret Service in Washington, DC. I had two different interviews with them. I passed both and they made a conditional offer to me based on me passing the remaining polygraph test. That's my dream job. But without my master’s degree, I wouldn't be eligible for it.

To qualify for that position, you either have to have a master's degree or three years in the federal work field. Without the master’s, I'd have to wait three more years.

Would you recommend the master’s program?

I absolutely would. It takes a special kind of person to do it, because you have to be very self-motivated. You can't rely on going to class two or three times a week and having the professor remind you, “All right, make sure you do this. You have to do this. You gotta do this.” You have to be on top of it.

In most of the classes, you have outlined at the beginning what's going to be due and when and how long you have to work on stuff. If you can be proactive and get ahead, then you're going to benefit from that in the end. There was a class or two where I procrastinated and then for about a week straight I didn't come out of my house because I was just doing school work the whole time. So as long as you have the drive to be able to do it on your own and jump on that computer every day and expect the unexpected, then you'll be fine.

Any other tips for people thinking about this Cyber Policy program?

Just don't get frustrated. There were some days where I was stressing and cramming and trying to get everything done. And then once you're done and you realize, “Oh, I have my master’s.” And that was all worth it.

For more information on the online MPS program, complete the form or call us at 315.732.2640–or toll free at 866.295.3106.