With its focus on intricate concepts such as threat detection and ethical hacking, one might naturally wonder: “Is cybersecurity hard to learn?”
Like many other IT specializations, cybersecurity degrees demand both technical and personal skills, which can be challenging to acquire. However, the difficulty of the course often depends on your individual perspective and passion for the field.
If you’re captivated by technology and data security, enjoy tackling intricate problems, and have a willingness to learn, then you might find cybersecurity an appealing and rewarding career path. The courses themselves typically aren’t overly difficult. What can prove challenging, however, is securing your first high-paying position and handling the intricate issues that arise on the job.
What is Cyber Security?
Cyber security involves defending computers and data networks from threats. The rise of data as a valuable business tool has helped foster innovation and commercial value. But the trade off is that access to sensitive information has also become a motivation for threat actors. Cyber security professionals help protect against malicious attacks and unsafe user activity.
Cyber security has many categories, including network security, information security, application security, and operational security. Experts in the space also focus on threat identification, disaster recovery, and business continuity. A university degree such as a cyber security masters will provide students with a solid base in these areas, which they can develop in practice.
Because technology is a fast-moving sector, cyber professionals must keep on their toes and stay updated with emerging threats and innovations. As a result, professional certifications and ongoing learning play a big role in cyber security.
Is Cyber Security Hard?
If you’re coming into cyber security for the first time, it’s normal to feel intimidated by the prospect of learning and maintaining the required skills.
Cyber professionals often enter the field with an IT background and good knowledge of cryptography, security design principles, networking concepts, and basic programming skills. They also possess excellent analytical and critical thinking skills.
Some of these skills are no doubt challenging. But with the right mentality and a little effort, you can build a foundation for a promising career.
Additionally, there are several steps you can take to begin understanding the basics before enrolling in a cyber security course. You can:
- Take an introductory course: Learning organisations provide various free and paid courses that teach the basics of cyber security. For example, you might explore an open university course that provides introductory learning in cyber security. You could also do a free audit of an undergraduate or master’s programme to learn core concepts and identify the value you’ll gain from the course.
- Attend industry events: Industry events are a great way to learn about cyber security and build familiarity with the sector. You’ll get to meet cybersecurity enthusiasts and engage with experts.
- Speak with a pro: You might also approach a professional about your interest in cyber security. You’ll benefit from learning about their career path, their challenges, and how they surmounted these to excel in the industry.
- Follow the industry: Joining industry communities, such as forums and discussion groups, and following news updates can help you learn more about cyber security.
How Difficult is Cyber Security?
As is likely clear to you already, cyber security is not as difficult as most expect. Nonetheless, certain aspects of the field can feel challenging, such as staying on top of evolving threats and responding accordingly.
Some potentially demanding factors to watch for in cyber security include:
- Programme courseware: Cyber security programs develop their courseware with the aid of top industry professionals and academics. Accordingly, programs are designed to provide core skills required for success in the industry, backed by practical learning in modern methods. Typical coursework will be based on real-life case studies that stretch problem-solving skills.
- Job prospects: Cyber security jobs are in-demand due to organisations’ need to protect corporate and consumer data. The US Bureau of Labour Statistics reports that security analysts have a 33% average job growth rate, higher than other occupations.
- Rate of new threats: Organisations experience a jaw-dropping volume of cyber threats daily – 80,000 per day, according to 2018 data from Purple Sec. Due to the rapidly evolving nature of the industry, many of these threats are new and will require novel protective approaches. It’s a cybersecurity expert’s job to face these threats.
- Ongoing learning: Since new threats arise each day, cyber professionals must remain current on the latest techniques to defeat cyber risks. That means taking new certifications, attending workshops, and being open to daily learning.
- Challenging work: The work of cyber professionals is also not helped by those they serve. Users may fall for threat tactics that seem simplistic in hindsight. As a result, cyber professionals have to stay on the watch for malicious external risks and inadvertent internal errors.
To me, the hardest part about learning cyber security and doing the job on a daily basis is the amount of ongoing learning you have to do. As newly minted cyber security professional Grant Collins put it, “Cybersecurity is hard because there’s such a broad spectrum of knowledge, skills, responsibilities… there is such a broad spectrum of information and tools and technologies and concepts and attacks that you must know and it’s almost impossible to keep up with everything.”
While the work demands might seem challenging, they’re no different than the everyday rigors of an exciting and engaging role. You also get to do fulfilling work, knowing you’re keeping people’s sensitive information safe from malicious actors. My tip is to focus on one task at a time, one skill at a time, and enjoy the learning process. At least it won’t be dull.
Cyber Security FAQs
How hard is a cyber security degree?
A cyber security degree is no more challenging than other technical courses. It balances a good mix of technical learning and personal development to create well-rounded cyber professionals. While cyber security may involve more technical instruction than a business degree or art major, keep in mind that those courses also have their sticky points.
Is learning cyber security hard?
Studying for an undergraduate or advanced degree in cyber security isn’t hard, especially compared to other technical fields. Programmes in data science and business analytics are potentially more technical and require skills in complex topics like linear mathematics and algebra. Cyber security has its challenges, but it gets easier with the right resources and a learning attitude.
Is it hard to get a job in cyber security?
As an in-demand role, cyber security is a competitive field with plenty of attention from top candidates. But the tradeoff is companies have a growing need for accomplished professionals to protect their data and customers.
Although, it’s worth noting that entering these roles might require more than just an undergraduate degree. Recent data also suggests that 60% of cyber security positions require at least one professional certification.
How long does it take to learn cyber security?
The duration of a cybersecurity program will depend on whether it’s an undergraduate course or an advanced degree. A college degree takes three to five years to complete, while you can earn a master’s in one to two years. Professional certifications are shorter, typically running for a few weeks to one month.
Final Thought: It’s Not That Hard
While cyber security can require technical learning and be a demanding job, it’s not substantially harder than other courses or career paths.
I found it telling that in researching the demands of the profession, most complaints about its difficulty centered on two aspects: (1) breaking into the industry due to limited demand for newbies, and (2) dealing with the ever-evolving nature of threats on the job. There’s relatively little mention of the coursework being especially hard to learn.
Ultimately, how well you do in the field depends on your enthusiasm for cyber security and willingness to learn. Have those in your toolkit, and you’ll likely surmount any challenges the field can throw up.