WGU Review

Rich
4 min readApr 23, 2024

TL;DR I just finished a Masters in Cybersecurity & Information Assurance in 5 months at an ‘out of pocket’ cost of $2,655 thanks to TA, certs, and WGU’s self paced program.

Background

I finished up my BS degree in Cybersecurity & Networking from the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) in mid 2021. Thanks to a snafu with the contractor who setup ArmyignitED Tuition Assistance (TA) and Certification Assistance (CA) were both down for the count throughout 2022.

Hence I spent the year doing TryHackMe, home labbing, and taking free and/or cheap certs like eJPT, Microsoft Certified Identity & Access Management Administrator Associate, and ISC2 Certified in Cybersecurity. Work also threw me a SANS voucher for SEC555 / GCDA. It wasn’t really my lane as a non SIEM Guy, but I still learned some things.

ArmyignitED got a new company to run it in late 2022, at which point they immediately paid for my last class from UMGC. Luckily the school was understanding. I CAed a course and certification in 2023 and renewed some SANS certs, which took up most of my TA for the year.

So why a Masters?

I didn’t want to let TA go to waste and I had been thinking about going back to school for awhile. I have always said that if work will pay for your college then you’d be insane not to go.

Everyone I know who has done a MS degree used Western Governor’s University (WGU) so I looked into them.

The logistics

WGU accepted the following certifications as course credit:

Class                                     Hours   Cert
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Penetration Testing 4 Pentest+
Security Operations 4 CySA+
Security Foundations 2 Security+
Cybersecurity Architecture & Engineering 4 CASP

Their degree program Cybersecurity & Information Assurance is 34 credit hours total, so right off the bat we knocked 14 off that.

TA pays up to $250 per credit hour. WGU unfortunately costs $500 per credit hour, but this seems to be the going rate for Masters Programs. The good news is that by lowering the total courses required to graduate I was looking at 2 terms and roughly $5,000 out of pocket to finish.

Finishing early

Luckily WGU allows you to take more classes in a term once you complete the scheduled ones. I finished the first 3 courses in 3 months, so I signed up for more. I was on leave at the time, so this wasn’t overly difficult. I finished up the Capstone 3 days before my leave ended.

WGU doesn’t charge anything for additional classes that are taken in a term, hence the total cost of the degree was $4,905. TA paid $2,250 and I paid $2,655 ‘out of pocket’. Considering that the average cost of a Masters in Science degree is 57k, I give WGU very, very high marks on this point alone.

I know some knock WGU because one can finish a degree there in one term, however the following has to be taken into account:

  • I’d been studying & working on this stuff off & on for over a decade already.
  • I’d been intently working on, studying, home labbing, automating parts of, etc this stuff since circa 2020.
  • I certed out of 14 of the 34 credit hours in the degree program.
  • I had already completed the Capstone project last year. All I did for WGU was write it up in the format they wanted, pretending that it was a security project ran by a fictional company.

A college can certainly drag out a program longer, require weekly mandatory posts, time gate the assignments rather than let you finish as soon as you’re done, and jack the price up in the process … but why would you want that?

Summary

In case anyone is curious, my Capstone was about bouncing delegation of privilege in Active Directory off a white list, something we had automated last year.

I snuck in two self citations in the paper. The degree just wouldn’t have been complete if I hadn’t. I snuck a self citation into my BS degree Capstone after all.

I highly recommend WGU. They are online and are truly self paced. They are affordable. They were easy to work with overall. The instructors were responsive. My program mentor was very quick to answer any question and was really helpful.

They also encourage you to put in the work, take more classes per term, and finish early. This is in spite of the fact that they get more money if you drag out the degree program. I give them very high marks for that.

References

Average cost of a Masters: https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-a-masters-degree

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Rich

I work various IT jobs & like Windows domain security as a hobby. Most of what’s here is my notes from auditing or the lab.