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a cyber security engineer with eyeglasses working on computer

Is Cyber Security Hard to Learn? 

Cyber security is considered a difficult field because even entry-level cyber security jobs require a wide range of technical abilities combined with problem-solving and analytical skills. Although people with strong mathematics and computer science backgrounds will find it easier to study cyber security, anyone can potentially learn it if they have the right level of interest and commitment.

While learning the basics and gaining practical skills can take less than a year, there is no such thing as “mastering” cyber security as the field is always evolving and requires continuous learning. In this article, we discuss just exactly how hard cyber security is to learn, what makes it such an attractive industry, and even give you tips to maximize your chances of becoming a successful cyber security engineer.

What Is Cyber Security?

Cyber security is the practice of protecting computer systems, networks, and data from threats such as unauthorized access, theft, damage, or disruption. This rapidly evolving field plays a crucial role in safeguarding individuals, organizations, and governments from the ever-evolving risks posed by cyber criminals and malicious actors in the digital realm.

Cyber security professionals focus on implementing measures to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of digital information. They master a wide range of techniques, tools, and policies that allow them to identify and counteract malware attacks, data breaches, hacking, and other forms of cyber attacks.

Top Reasons to Start a Cyber Security Career

  1. High demand and job security: Demand for skilled professionals in the field is extremely high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for information security analysts stands at a whopping 35 percent.
  2. Challenging and dynamic work environment: New threats are constantly evolving, which means cyber security professionals must always be updating their skills. This makes cyber security a good career for people who love learning and who love to put their critical thinking and problem-solving skills to use.
  3. High relevance: Cyber security experts help protect invaluable information at companies and government agencies around the globe, thus playing an important role in making the world a safer place. Because of this, the profession enjoys high rates of professional satisfaction.

Is Cyber Security Hard?

Student learning cyber security at a coffee shop.
Cyber security is considered hard to learn as it requires math, computer science knowledge, problem solving, and analysis.

Cyber security is generally considered a challenging field as practitioners must be knowledgeable in a wide range of areas, including network security, cryptography, risk management, and incident response. Likewise, they must understand the vulnerabilities of the systems they are working with and their defense mechanisms.

However, perhaps the number one factor that makes this a hard field is the constant need to adapt to new threats. Cyber crime is constantly evolving and cyber security professionals must evolve alongside it. They are both intertwined in a complex arms race that makes the willingness to stay relevant and up-to-date an important requirement to join the industry.

Mastering the plethora of topics required to work in cyber security and staying up-to-date with the latest developments requires dedication. This is an important quality to become a cyber security expert. On top of this, cyber security professionals need problem-solving and critical thinking skills and an aptitude for mathematics.

Is It Hard to Complete a Cyber Security Degree?

A cyber security degree is considered a difficult program to complete because it involves highly technical subjects such as network security, ethical hacking, cryptography, and risk management. These subjects require a strong foundation in computer science, mathematics, and problem-solving skills.

In addition, the workload can be demanding as cyber security programs often involve real-world projects, hands-on labs, and extensive research. The goal is to improve critical thinking in students and help them develop the skills needed to analyze complex situations and respond to them appropriately.

However, if you are dedicated to your studies and have an aptitude for mathematics and computer science, you may not find a cyber security degree too difficult. Additionally, many cyber security programs offer supportive environments, including access to teachers after class and resources like labs and simulations, which can make it a lot easier for you to finish your degree.

What Skills and Traits Do You Need for a Career in Cyber Security?

The field of cyber security is very demanding. To enter the field and remain relevant, cyber security professionals must possess certain skills and traits. We take a closer look at what they are below.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

The ability to analyze complex situations, identify patterns, and make informed decisions is essential. Cyber security professionals must be adept at evaluating risks and developing strategies to prevent or mitigate them. To overcome the challenges they will encounter at work, they must be able to break problems up into manageable components, make good use of available resources, and think creatively.

Mathematics

Although not an absolute requirement to enter the field, being mathematically inclined will no doubt help you achieve success in the industry. Mathematics plays a key role in cryptography. Additionally, expertise in probability, statistics, and data analysis can help you analyze data breaches, conduct risk assessments, and perform statistical analyses of cyber security incidents.

Computer Science

Being acquainted with the principles of computer science will give you a better understanding of the technologies that you are using. Moreover, programming skills allow you to automate processes and find security flaws in the code of a particular software or application. Many cyber security practitioners learn Python, Java, and C++.

Ethics

Cyber security professionals handle sensitive information and can access and control critical systems. To ensure they don’t exploit data or systems for their own benefit, cyber security professionals must have integrity and a strong sense of ethics. They must respect privacy and confidentiality, and act with honesty, transparency, and accountability.

Continuous Learning

Locked in an arms race with cyber criminals, cyber security professionals must remain vigilant and ensure they are always a step ahead. This can only be done by dedicating a lot of time to updating one’s skillset. This means cyber security professionals must have a love for learning and always be curious about new technologies and developments.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Cyber Security?

The time it takes to learn cyber security varies depending on factors such as your existing knowledge, educational background, and the amount of work you are willing to put in. A common option is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as computer science, IT, network security, or even math. In this case, it will take you around four years to complete the program and join the workforce.

A faster way of getting the skills needed to enter the cyber security field is to attend a coding bootcamp. These programs focus on the practical aspects of the job, often at the expense of theoretical knowledge. Because of this, most coding bootcamps last only a few months to a year, making them the ideal option if your goal is to join the workforce fast.

You can also choose to learn on your own with online courses, although this method requires a lot of discipline and progress may be slow. Whether you choose a coding bootcamp, college degree, or online courses, the learning journey never really ends for a cyber security professionals, as they have to stay updated on the latest technologies and threats. 

How to Become a Cyber Security Expert: Tips to Succeed in Cyber Security

Choosing the right training option is key to start your cyber security career on the right foot.

There are many ways to go about entering the cyber security industry. However, there are a few steps that almost all cyber security professionals have taken to be where they are now. Below, we take a look at some of these steps and other important milestones in a standard cyber security career.

Test the Waters With an Intro Course

Jumping straight into a degree or bootcamp may not be the best idea if you are still unfamiliar with the concept of cyber security. If you are new to the field and still unaware of its core principles, the best thing that you can do is take an introductory course on a learning platform like Udemy or Coursera.

You can find great coding courses in these and similar platforms, many priced under $100 and some even free. They will allow you to explore the core tenants of the field while keeping the financial investment to a minimum. If, by the end of the course, you find you have an affinity for the subject, you can start considering bigger things.

Evaluate Your Aptitude and Interest

After having completed a few courses and tutorials on cyber security, you will have developed a beginner’s understanding of the subject. With enough information to make a sensible decision, it is time now to determine if the field is a good fit for you and if it excites you. 

Both interest and aptitude are hugely important. You should choose an industry that you are excited about as you will spend a great deal of time at work. Aptitude is also very important, particularly in a technical field like cyber security. However, remember that you can always develop skills like math and problem solving through practice and hard work.

Join a Coding Bootcamp

Coding bootcamps are short and intensive programs that teach tech subjects like software engineering, web development, data analysis, and cyber security. They have seen a huge rise in popularity in the last decade, as more and more people look to upskill or reskill to enter more profitable industries.

Cyber security is a common offering among coding bootcamps. Cyber security bootcamps such as those offered by Woz U or Springboard focus on the technical skills that will get the student hired, covering theory only briefly. The best coding bootcamps employ professional teams of career advisors to help students with their soft skills and guide them through the job search. 

Due to this emphasis on job placement, around 71 percent of students are able to land a job after graduation, according to data collected by the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR). This makes coding bootcamps more effective at getting students hired than even computer science programs at top universities.

Join a Cyber Security Community

Joining an online cyber security community can be immensely beneficial for anyone aspiring to enter the field. These communities provide a platform to connect with like-minded individuals, professionals, and experts in the cyber security field. You can find a mentor, gain industry insights, keep up with trends in the cyber security industry, and even be introduced to employment opportunities.

As an aspiring cyber security professional, you can find the support you need, both practical and emotional, in an online community. This is a challenging field. Finding a group of people that are supportive of your efforts and want to see you succeed can keep you going and help you reach your goals.

Get Cyber Security Certifications

With a coding bootcamp under your belt and a presence in some well-known online communities, it is time to take the next step. Certification plays an important role in the field of cyber security, serving as hard proof of a person’s skills and knowledge. Cyber security certifications demonstrate your ability to handle cyber security tasks effectively.

Moreover, obtaining a certification will boost your employability. Many organizations require or prefer candidates with relevant certifications when hiring for cyber security roles. If you are already employed in the field, getting certified can easily lead to a promotion and a higher salary.

Apply for Cyber Security Apprenticeships

Making the jump from learner to working professional is not always easy but an apprenticeship can help smooth out the transition. Doing an apprenticeship is a great way to get paid to learn cyber security and get much-needed hands-on experience. You are also likely to benefit from the guidance provided by seasoned professionals during your placement.

Apprenticeships can help you start building industry connections, which will come in handy when you are applying for actual jobs. And let’s not forget that completing an apprenticeship will make you more employable as it shows your commitment and dedication to your trade.

Apply for Entry-Level Cyber Security Jobs

With a coding bootcamp and an apprenticeship in your resume, you should have no trouble applying and securing entry-level cyber security jobs that appeal to you. Just make sure your curriculum is up-to-date, draft a powerful cover letter that you can modify for each opening, and begin looking for opportunities on online job boards or through your connections.

If you are a coding bootcamp graduate, make sure to lean heavily on your career services team. Bootcamp career advisors can connect you with employers in the bootcamp’s partner network, which will give you an advantage over the competition. They can also help you prepare for job interviews and give you feedback on the state of your resume to ensure you are putting your best foot forward.

Can I Become a Cyber Security Expert By Joining a Coding Bootcamp?

Yes, cyber security bootcamps are a popular option among students looking for a way into this competitive industry. The curriculum at one of these fast-moving programs covers topics like network security, penetration testing, programming, ethical hacking, cryptology, and risk management. Below, we bring you the top-rated cyber security coding bootcamps but keep in mind that there also some great bootcamps that focus on ethical hacking.

Top Cyber Security Bootcamps

  • Springboard: This popular online learning platform offers an excellent Cybersecurity Career Track backed by a coding bootcamp job guarantee. Even better, you’ll graduate with a CompTIA Security+ Certification. 
  • The Tech Academy: This coding bootcamp provider has a strong, instructor-supported cyber security program. You’ll learn full stack development alongside network security, VPNs, and languages like Java and Swift. 
  • Kenzie Academy. This Southern New Hampshire University-associated bootcamp has a Cybersecurity Certificate Program that will prepare you for success in the industry in just nine months. The program is online and requires 20 hours of study a week.
  • Flatiron School. Flatiron School has an excellent online cyber security bootcamp, as would be expected from one the most established bootcamp providers in the country. The program comes in full-time and part-time formats. 
  • Coding Dojo. Another well-respected coding bootcamp, Coding Dojo has an effective cyber security program that is offered part-time and remotely. Students enjoy the support of an experienced career services team to help them during the job search.

Which Cyber Security Certification Should I Get First?

Many factors come into play when deciding which cyber security certification to earn first. You need to consider your specialization, your career ambitions, your budget, and even how long it takes to earn the certification. Below, we give you the top certifications in cyber security alongside their cost and requirements to jumpstart your research.

Certification Cost Requirements
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) The exam fee is around $749 Five years of professional work experience in at least two of the eight domains of the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK). Alternatively, you can have four years of experience with a relevant college degree or other approved certifications.
Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) Pricing changes depending on various factors, but you can expect to pay around $950 It is recommended to have at least two years of experience in information security.
CompTIA Security+ The exam fee is around $392 It is recommended to have at least two years of experience in IT administration with a focus on security.
Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) The exam costs around $575 for ISACA members and $760 for non-members. There is also a $50 application fee Five years of work experience in information security management, with at least three years of experience in at least three of the four CISM domains.
Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) The exam fee is around $599 Five years of cumulative, full-time work experience in information technology, including three years in information security and one year in one or more of the six CCSP Common Body of Knowledge domains.

Does Cyber Security Pay Well?

Cyber security is a very lucrative field. At all levels of professional development, cyber security practitioners earn well above the average for most other industries. For example, an entry-level cyber security professional makes an average of $69,335 according to Glassdoor. On the other end of the spectrum, a seasoned cyber security professional earns $112,981 on average. 

Freelance positions in cyber security are also common, with many preferring them due to their flexibility. Even as a contractor, you can bring home a large paycheck. For example, ZipRecruiter reports that the average freelance cyber security consultant earns $59 an hour, with some earning as much as $90.2 per hour.

Entry-Level Cyber Security Jobs

After completing your cyber security training, you’ll have access to a variety of roles, from security analyst to ethical hacker. Whether you choose to work for a software company, a retailer, or an insurance firm, here are some of the most common entry-level cyber security jobs that you could qualify for.

Position Responsibilities Average Salary
Security Analyst Monitor and analyze security systems, detect and respond to security incidents, perform security assessments, and contribute to incident response efforts. $84,823
Security Engineer Design and implement security solutions, conduct risk assessments, configure and manage security tools, and collaborate with teams to secure systems and networks. $132,823
Ethical Hacker Assess the security of systems by identifying vulnerabilities. Conduct penetration tests and provide recommendations to strengthen systems. $89,002
Incident Responder Investigate and respond to security incidents, perform forensic analysis, and develop and coordinate incident response plans. $49,694
Security Consultant Provide advisory services to clients, conduct security assessments, develop security strategies, and offer recommendations for improving security. $102,375

Is Cyber Security a Good Career?

Yes, cyber security is an excellent professional field due to the lucrative positions available and the high job security. In addition, job satisfaction is high because of the opportunity to have an impact by safeguarding important information and systems. While individuals with strong mathematics and computer science backgrounds may find it easier to learn, anyone with the right level of interest and commitment can potentially enter this field. 

However, cyber security is not an easy field to study and forge a career in. It requires a wide range of technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and continuous learning. Fortunately, there are plenty of study options that give students the material and emotional support needed to become successful, from computer science programs to cyber security bootcamps

Is Cyber Security Hard to Learn FAQ

Is cyber security harder than coding?

Both cyber security and coding require technical aptitude and continuous learning. However, cyber security can be seen as more challenging because it requires a broader knowledge base and the ability to adapt to a constantly evolving threat landscape. Moreover, cyber security often involves risk analysis and incident response, which adds to its complexity.

What is the hardest cyber security certification?

Some certifications regarded as being particularly difficult to attain include Offensive Security Certified Expert (OSCE) and Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), both offered by Offensive Security, and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) by (ISC)².

How many hours do cyber security professionals work?

Most cyber security professionals work full-time. This often translates to about 40 hours per week. However, it is important to note that due to the nature of the job, cyber security professionals may be expected to work outside office hours to deal with unforeseen complications and cyber attacks.

Is cyber security fun?

Cyber security is fun for those who enjoy stopping cyber criminals in their tracks and protecting information that, if disclosed, could lead to serious damage to the company or organization. In short, this is a fun job if you like to help and protect others. It is also fun if you enjoy activities like programming and conducting analyses.

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