Is Cybersecurity Hard To Learn?

In the trending days of ransomware and data breaches, people are moving into cybersecurity, but is cybersecurity hard to learn? This is a common question I often get asked, so today we’re going to take a look into the industry, and how hard it is to learn.

Is Cybersecurity Hard To Learn?

So, the reason you’re here – is cybersecurity hard to learn? I don’t think it is. Whilst everyone learns and understands things differently, in general, cybersecurity is not too hard to learn.

There are so many learning paths for you to take, that even starting at a fundamental stage and moving up the ranks to a more advanced stage will take several years. Whilst it can often be a little daunting, starting cybersecurity will quickly help you realise that the subject itself is not too difficult to learn, and can be done so with ease.

Read More: How to become a Cybersecurity Expert (Step-by-Step)

There are also some certificates that I would personally recommend to you, especially if you’re at a foundational level. Not only will these certifications help you get a role/position at a beginner level, but will teach you a great deal of cybersecurity terminology and know-how. 

Is Cybersecurity A STEM Degree?

At the time of writing, Cybersecurity is not specifically a STEM degree, however, does play a part in the ‘technology’ portion of STEM. Standing for ‘Science, technology, engineering and mathematics’, there is no specific angle for cyber security.

However, cybersecurity is reliant on STEM and the future will likely move to include this. 

Is Cybersecurity a STEM Degree?
Is Cybersecurity a STEM Degree?

Is Cybersecurity Fun? (Key Highlights)

Cybersecurity can be a really fun industry, generally speaking. Whilst I could say that you can be happy in any industry, as always, it depends on your working environment. Cybersecurity in general is fun because you’re learning very topical, and very useful information to get ahead of the curve. If I was to put them into some highlights, this is how it would be. 

Cybersecurity Learning Curves

Something that drew me to cybersecurity was the learning curve to it. Unlike other technology fields, cyber security brings you learning that can be used on tasks that don’t exist yet. What I mean by this, is I learnt how to mitigate malware exploitation, for malware that doesn’t exist yet. 

Cybersecurity as an industry changes faster than other technology industries, and with that – the learning curve is often fun and rewarding making it overall quite fun and exciting because you don’t know what tomorrow brings. 

Understanding some pretty Advanced Stuff

Similar to the above, cyber security is quite fun when you know you carry some intelligence that other people, even people within the industry won’t understand. Although it might push your egotistical side, this is also pretty fun, just don’t get overconfident.

A feeling of Self-worth and Belonging

Cybersecurity, depending on the role is quite important. Whether you’re protecting your information, finding holes in infrastructure, or protecting your country’s data – all of these require you to function correctly.

Whilst it might not always be exciting, this sense of belonging and requirement will often uplift you, as you’re needed to help keep the bad guys away. 

Cybersecurity professionals working hard together.
Cybersecurity professionals love teamwork and friendliness!

A friendly and professional industry

Although I’ve had my fair share of colleagues and experts – for the most part, every single one of them has been down to earth, friendly, but professional. In fact, out of the hundreds of people I’ve spoken to, only 3-4 have been a bit too much on the ego side, which isn’t needed within the industry. 

Overall, you can get on with other professionals and colleagues who are friendly and will help with the overall fun you experience in cyber security. 

Is Cybersecurity A Hard Major? (5 Things To Consider)

As someone who never majored in cyber security, I have looked into it several times and have spoken to multiple people, from multiple universities that have all vouched for it. Cyber security is not the simplest of majors but isn’t too much more difficult than other tech majors. 

Whilst it’s not something I’ve done personally, I’ve asked a few of my colleagues to assist with this portion. Here are 5 things to consider when taking a cyber security major.

Most Cybersecurity Majors teach from the Beginning

Despite a major being… a major, most of the courses start from foundational levels of cybersecurity but quickly build up too much more advanced levels. This typically starts with acronyms, fundamentals, and terminology as well as processes, but moves into AI, reverse engineering, and much more. 

My colleague said, “my major started off for the first month or two, where [I] knew everything just from basic research, but after 6 months [it] got much harder, and more useful for my knowledge.”

Cybersecurity (generally) changes Very Fast

Cybersecurity, both from a learning point of view and in general changes much faster than most industries. This is mostly part of cybercriminals finding new ways to exploit systems, and technologies adapting faster too. When a company says it’s a ‘fast-paced environment’, learning cybersecurity through a major is likely to have some pretty fast-paced activities too.

Another colleague said, “whilst my major didn’t change too much, I had learnt some aspects of reverse engineering which were almost retired within weeks of it being taught – and it was new for my term!”. This just shows how fast things changed. 

Cybersecurity Majors almost always include Lab Environments

Something that you might find with any kind of cyber security learning, is that it either recommends or provides lab environments to play with what you’ve learnt. In nearly every cyber security major I’ve seen – labs are provided, recommended, and used widely. A lab in cybersecurity is often a VM that is either used to exploit or is exploited itself. 

If your university doesn’t provide a lab environment, either virtual or on campus – we would recommend setting up a device for it as it’ll prove vastly beneficial in the long run with hands-on experience. 

I’ve personally used hundreds of lab environments, and using them has honestly improved my knowledge and hands-on experience much more than just typical textbook learning. 

Cybersecurity Major at KCL (UK) - Is Cybersecurity hard?
Cybersecurity Major at KCL (UK)

Cybersecurity Major Content is often Vast and Oddly Specific

Whilst most majors cover a full topic in quite a bit of detail, cyber security majors seem to do this but across much more than cyber security, branching into technology stacks and terminology. Whilst this being said, it would also branch into very specific, and detailed modules.

One of my closest friends said, “My major was great, but I would often find myself learning some very basic aspects [of cybersecurity…], followed by advanced networking diagnostics, with no real rhyme or reason … but after completing it, I now know why I was being taught it all like that.”

You need to be a Quick Learning for Cybersecurity Majors

Cybersecurity has hundreds of acronyms, and terminology, and is very vast with specific details being critical to your knowledge. With that being said, you would need to be a quick learner or someone who can store/revise notes very well as you can often feel a little overwhelmed going through your notes after each lecture. 

Overall, everyone can do a cybersecurity major, it just depends on your commitment and dedication to it. 

Is Cybersecurity Hard? Common Questions (FAQ)

How hard is cyber security for beginners?

Cyber security for beginners is quite easy – because the foundations of cyber security, whilst vast, are often quite easy to learn. Whilst this may seem a bit daunting, you could theoretically start with no technology experience and gain enough foundational knowledge to start your career. 

How long does it take to learn cyber security?

Learning cybersecurity can take some time, where you could learn the foundations within the first 3 months – you may be looking at 1-2 years before you get comfortable with standards and industry knowledge before you can get going properly in a cyber security role.

Is cybersecurity harder than programming?

Cybersecurity isn’t nessersairly harder than programming. Programming and cyber security are two completely different subjects, and can’t be compared. Whilst cyber security is much more vast and ever-changing, programming on the other hand can be learnt and mastered without much change.

Why is cyber security difficult?

No! Cyber security is not difficult in itself, but can progressively get harder depending on your role, position, or willingness to adapt to new issues within the industry. Whilst it may seem a bit daunting, in cyber security you need to keep on top of topical issues and new forms and compliance regulations. 

Is cybersecurity a lot of math?

Not really – cybersecurity itself doesn’t require much math and you would be fine with school-taught maths. Whilst this is true, you might find yourself needing some quite advanced maths for your job role, such as modification of detection rules within a SOC, or for reporting capabilities. But, this is something a quick Google can help with! 

Do I need math for cyber security?

Nope! Math in cybersecurity is common, and you may use it depending on your job role, however for the most part – whatever you learnt in school would be sufficient. For anything else, you can always use Google to search for the answer. 

Can I learn cyber security in 2 months?

Yes! Cybersecurity can be learnt/taught in 2-months, but you won’t be at an advanced level yet. Hardcore training programs for cyber security typically last 2-3 months (daily weekday learning) but this would be to get you into a baseline, or beginner cyber security role. To become confident and knowledgeable, you would be looking at upwards of a year of studying.

Is cyber security a stressful job?

Cybersecurity itself is not a stressful job, however, depending on your role within a business, it can get quite stressful. This is typical because of the nature of what you’re role entails, for example, a SOC analyst who is dealing with genuine threats daily.

Whilst these can get stressful, for the most part, cybersecurity is relatively calm. One tip, if you ever feel stressed in cyber security, or a role – remember that some of the stressors are inevitable, and it’s not you’re fault. 

Is Cybersecurity Right For Me? (Closing Thoughts)

I often get asked, “is cybersecurity for me?”. Cybersecurity in itself is not for everyone, but if you’re reading this blog post then I don’t see why you shouldn’t! Cyber security does take some time to get into, and it does take a lot of determination, but we think you have what it takes! 

Not sure how to get started in your career? We’ve written a blog post for how you can get into a cybersecurity career quickly, and what it’ll take.

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About the Author

Charlie K

Charlie has been working with technology since the age of 6, and has skilled up on all things technical. Cybersecurity is one aspect that has never failed to disappoint. After several years in the industry, Charlie is branching out to help others get into the industry.

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