Is Cybersecurity Hard? What to Know

Many cybersecurity careers feature a lucrative salary. Check out how to learn cybersecurity and start a career.

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by Thomas Broderick

Published August 9, 2022

Reviewed by Darnell Kenebrew

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the need for information security experts to grow 33% between 2020-2030. This figure is much higher than the 8% average projected growth rate for all U.S. jobs.

Cybersecurity careers also feature salaries exceeding $100,000. Many factors drive this growth and salary potential, such as the increasing number of connected devices, people's reliance on online banking, and government agencies investing in cybersecurity.

Individuals interested in cybersecurity careers may wonder, is cybersecurity hard? According to a Tripwire survey, professionals in the field report challenges with budgets and advancement. Workers need strong analytical skills and must commit to continuing education throughout their careers.

The following article discusses the cybersecurity field, how to learn cybersecurity, average salaries, and online learning.

How Hard Is Cybersecurity?

Answering the question, "Is cybersecurity hard?" begins with defining the field. Cybersecurity refers to protecting computer networks against cyberattacks wanting to steal data or cause other harm. Cybersecurity careers require professionals to update technology, train employees, and coordinate with peers.

Cybersecurity experts advance their careers by developing in-demand skills, such as analysis, communication, and problem-solving. These workers also need advanced skills to identify security risks. As with other career fields, cybersecurity provides opportunities for experienced workers to pursue more challenging and high-paying roles.

Workers with little to no computer science experience face a steep learning curve. However, there are many ways to learn cybersecurity skills.

How to Learn Cybersecurity

Individuals can explore how to learn cybersecurity by researching coding bootcamps, cybersecurity degrees, and online programs. Then, prospective students can find a learning style or program that meets their unique academic needs and aspirations.

Please note that other learning options besides those listed exist. However, these may represent the best choices for most learners.

Coding Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps are an option for students not interested in earning a degree. Intensive coursework prepares learners for an entry-level career. Private companies and accredited universities offer bootcamps.

The benefits of a coding bootcamp include more than just career preparation. Students may choose a bootcamp aligning with their interests. A typical cybersecurity bootcamp takes 24 weeks and prepares learners to earn one or more industry certifications, such as Network+, CompTIA Security+, or Cloud+.

Potential downsides of a cybersecurity coding bootcamp include cost. Although short, some programs charge $14,000 or more. Unfortunately, learners typically do not qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as grants and federal student loans. There are other payment plans that students can enroll in, such as ISAs or deferred tuition plans.

Prospective students can find the right bootcamp by comparing curriculum, cost, and graduate outcomes. Outcome data helps reveal information about a bootcamp's quality.

Cybersecurity Degree

Other people may consider a four-year bachelor's in cybersecurity or a related field. Classes provide learners with a foundation in computer science before requiring advanced coursework in emerging technologies in cybersecurity, managing information security, and penetration testing.

A cybersecurity degree offers additional benefits, such as general education classes and an academic credential. Bachelor's coursework helps students develop transferable skills relevant to many career fields outside of cybersecurity. Having a degree lets graduates switch careers or fields more easily than workers who only graduated from a bootcamp or took individual online classes.

A cybersecurity degree may not appeal to all aspiring cybersecurity experts. A college degree may cost more than a bootcamp. Also, it takes longer to complete a degree vs. a bootcamp.

Working students may consider an online cybersecurity degree. These programs' asynchronous formats let learners view lectures and complete coursework around other responsibilities.

Online Courses

Individual classes and short programs introduce students to coding and cybersecurity. Options may include introductions to cybersecurity, data science, Python, and machine learning. These and other classes may appeal to learners with little to no computer science experience.

Typical online coding classes last 1-3 months. Some may choose to earn an industry certification. Similar to a degree or bootcamp, certifications can show prospective employers mastery of specific skills.

Working professionals completing an online class or a program may pursue promotions or additional responsibilities at work. Learning online lets workers apply new knowledge and skills right away, as well. These and other benefits make online classes an accessible and convenient method of career advancement.

Possible downsides of online classes and programs include taking one not aligning with in-demand careers. Compare class content to relevant jobs before signing up.

Cybersecurity Careers

Demand for cybersecurity professionals is high. According to a 2019 (ISC)2 study, the U.S. cybersecurity workforce needs to grow by 62% to fulfill demand. Professionals can choose from many cybersecurity careers, including cybersecurity engineers, ethical hackers, information security analysts, and cybersecurity architects. Workers in these and related jobs feature similar skill sets.

What Does a Cybersecurity Engineer Do?

Cybersecurity engineers perform many roles, such as troubleshooting security problems, responding to breaches, and testing networks for vulnerabilities. Other typical tasks include writing reports for senior managers and upgrading their employer's technology. However, specific job duties vary by employer.

Payscale reports the average cybersecurity engineer's salary exceeds $77,000 per year as of June 2022. Professionals with more than 10 years of experience make an average of $100,000.

Ethical Hacker

Ethical hackers think like bad actors breaking into computer systems and then set up defenses to prevent these attacks. They perform penetration tests on their employer's networks and use the results to write reports for senior managers. The career also requires extensive collaboration with other computer science professionals.

Ethical hackers earned an average salary exceeding $90,000 and more than $20,000 in additional financial benefits, according to Glassdoor data. Some professionals make upwards of $185,000 in salary and benefits.

Information Security Analyst

A typical day for information security analysts involves monitoring networks, maintaining software, and discovering new vulnerabilities. These professionals also keep up with the latest industry trends. They also propose hardware and software updates to senior managers.

Information security analysts earn a median $102,600 annual salary. Those working in the information industry earned an additional $26,000. The BLS projects information security jobs to grow by 33% between 2020-2030.

Cybersecurity Architect

Cybersecurity architects use their education and experience to design a comprehensive security plan for their employers. Typical tasks include communicating with senior managers, researching their employer's cybersecurity risks and requirements, and training employees in cybersecurity best practices.

Cybersecurity architects hold different job titles, such as chief technology officer or chief security officer. Cybersecurity architects earn an average salary of $146,830, reports Ziprecruiter. Some workers make more than $200,000.

Is Learning Cybersecurity Worth It?

The cybersecurity field features many intellectually challenging and financially rewarding careers. However, these jobs do not appeal to all professionals. Meeting education and experience requirements takes some workers many years.

Consider professional expectations when researching cybersecurity careers. Some information security analysts work more than 40 hours weekly, and employers may require these professionals to remain on call. These requirements may negatively impact workers with families or other responsibilities.

Working overtime or on-call can provide some financial benefits. Employers may reward professionals with a higher cybersecurity engineer salary or provide other financial incentives to increase retention.

Prospective workers should weigh these factors against their work-life balance aspirations. College students contact a career advisor to help them perform research and make an informed decision.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cybersecurity

Is cybersecurity stressful?

The answer depends on the individual and job. Someone with a strong background in computer science and cybersecurity best practices holds the knowledge and skills necessary for professional success. An employee without this skill set may find their job much more stressful.

Cybersecurity jobs require professionals to respond immediately to hackers attempting to disrupt their employer's computer systems. This urgency may make some workers feel excess stress, even if they perform their job well. Repeated stressful events may lead to a lower quality of life and a desire to switch employers.

Individuals interested in cybersecurity careers should research the field and employee expectations before committing to a degree or bootcamp.

What coding languages does cybersecurity use?

Cybersecurity experts use many coding languages to protect computer systems against outside attacks. Top languages include Python, JavaScript, and SQL. Employers value workers with mastery of these and other languages.

Mastering a coding language may take significant time. Consider enrolling in a free online class to explore a language. Doing so lets you learn more about cybersecurity without making a financial commitment.

After mastering a coding language, professionals may consider earning professional certifications. Typical certification requirements include meeting education requirements, paying a fee, and passing an exam.

Does cybersecurity require a lot of math?

All computer science careers require professionals to use math. Typical math concepts workers use include binary number theory, Boolean algebra, complex numbers, and cryptography. The latter helps cybersecurity professionals create secure computer systems.

Aspiring cybersecurity experts learn these math skills in college or during a bootcamp. Other options include shorter individual classes. Classes let learners who struggle with math focus on a single concept before moving on to the next one.

Some students improve their math skills by taking online or in-person classes at a local community college. Advantages of doing so include earning college credit that may transfer to an associate or bachelor's in a cybersecurity program.

What are some cybersecurity skills to put on a resume?

Human resources professionals and senior managers want cybersecurity applicants with many hard and soft skills. Hard skills refer to those directly related to a job. They include malware analysis, intrusion detection, and cloud security.

A cybersecurity professional with advanced soft skills should work well independently and in a group. In-demand soft skills include communication, attention to detail, and problem-solving. Hiring managers may take note of applicants with proven creative thinking and accountability skills.

On your resume, be sure to list skills as action statements rather than a brief list. Action statements help hiring managers visualize applicants' competencies.

Feature Image: Maskot / Maskot / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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