York University School of Continuing Studies launches Canada’s first university-level Post-Graduate Certificate in Offensive Cyber Security

By Matthew McGrath

New cybersecurity program teaches professionals to identify potential threats and prevent data breaches 

Today, the York University School of Continuing Studies announced the launch of a new full-time Post-Graduate Certificate in Offensive Cyber Security. This program—the first to be offered in Canada by a post-secondary institution—will prepare domestic and international students to be proactive in protecting organizations’ networks and computer systems from cyberattacks.

Offensive cybersecurity is a specialization that uses ethical hacking techniques to mimic cyberattacks. This method exploits security vulnerabilities, allowing cybersecurity professionals to anticipate what may happen during an attack and how to block or intercede against a real threat should one occur.

“The demand for cybersecurity professionals is high, but the job market is also highly competitive,” says Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly, Assistant Vice-President, Continuing Studies at York University. “Employers want candidates with an educational background in cybersecurity and practical experience. The Post-Graduate Certificate in Offensive Cyber Security provides exactly that.”

“Our students will learn from offensive cybersecurity professionals at the top of their field and gain first-hand experience performing essential offensive security duties like penetration testing, conducting a vulnerability assessment, producing an offensive security report with recommendations, and more. Students who graduate from this program are positioned for successful careers in an area facing critical labour shortages.”

According to an (ISC)2 2020 Cyber Security Workforce Study, the global cybersecurity workforce needs to grow by 145 per cent to fill the demand for skilled workers. In the Canadian market, experienced cybersecurity professionals are in high demand, marked by a 13 per cent cumulative annual growth rate in the number of entry-level cyber security job postingsi.

With this strong demand, the discipline is becoming increasingly specialized, driving a persistent need for multi-skilled cybersecurity professionals. As more organizations adopt cloud platform solutions as part of their digital transformation, leaders are investing in offensive cybersecurity teams to safeguard their digital assets and application security to get ahead of cyber breaches before they happen.

“The most effective approach to learning this skill set combines incredible subject matter experts, learning processes, and deep hands-on experiential learning. Offensive security demands tenacity, commitment, intelligence, and technical knowledge in the field. But one must also possess certain ‘soft skills,’ which include verbal and written communication and the ability to convince an audience to act.” says Ed Dubrovsky, cybersecurity expert, Managing Director, CYPFER and academic advisor and program advisory committee member for the new certificate.

“The School of Continuing Studies program in offensive security aims to mold the next generation of practitioners with a 360-degree view of practical assessment techniques of enterprise environments.”

The addition of this new program rounds the School’s suite of cyber offerings to five and positions the School as a national leader in cybersecurity education.

The School offers a more specialized and comprehensive approach to non-degree cybersecurity programs than other universities, as its experiential curriculum ties to the skills needed at each stage of career progression. 

In addition to industry-specific expertise, the School also prioritizes cross-functional skills like communication, problem-solving and decision-making that workers need to thrive in a Canadian workplace.

In fact, according to a September 2021 report to the York University School of Continuing Studies on student satisfaction conducted by Forum Research, 95% of students in Post-Graduate Certificates programs at the School said that they felt “completing their program at York University will better prepare them for the workforce.”

To further bolsters students’ employability after graduating, the School has partnered with Offensive Security, the leading provider of hands-on cybersecurity training and certifications. The Post-Graduate Certificate in Offensive Cyber Security is the only official educational partner of Offensive Security, and as part of this partnership, students will access Offensive Security’s labs and courses. The program’s curriculum also aligns with their Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) designation, which is a gold standard in the industry.  

The program is co-designed by an advisory committee of senior cybersecurity professionals invested in developing a program that can be a pipeline for top-notch talent in their organizations. 

Through practical labs taught by industry leaders, students will:

  • Conduct penetration testing (also referred to as ethical hacking) to various use-cases to determine vulnerabilities, analyze impact, and determine remediation
  • Install, configure, utilize, and troubleshoot various offensive cyber security tools and software
  • Produce a comprehensive offensive security report with recommendations and an information security risk rating scale
  • Participate in a comprehensive capstone project where they will showcase their cumulative knowledge and skills in offensive cybersecurity

Learn more about the Post-Graduate Certificate in Offensive Cyber Security. Enrolment is now open, with classes beginning in May 2023.

i According to Lightcast data