Does Cybersecurity require a lot of math?

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Math is one of those subjects that tends to polarize people, with 70% of students either loving or hating it. For many people advanced mathematics can be quite stressful and a deterrent for choosing certain career paths. Fortunately, cybersecurity is not one of the career fields that require a large amount of mathematics. It is 100% optional, you can have a very high paying career in Cybersecurity with a very basic level of math skills. However, if you are strong in mathematics there are career paths that will let you leverage that skillset. Here I’ll outline some of the career options for people that are strong in mathematics and for those that do not excel in mathematics:

Cybersecurity careers that use advanced mathematics

Cryptography: This is the study of encrypting and decrypting information. This is one of the few areas of cybersecurity that uses advanced mathematics and some positions will even require a master’s degree in mathematics. If you are someone that really likes math, this may be a good area to go into where you can put that skill to good use. 

Programming: Some cybersecurity positions require the ability to read and write in multiple programming languages. In order to effectively write complicated computer programs you need a solid understanding of mathematics. In most cases having an “Average” level of mathematics i.e a high school graduate level of mathematics is all you would need.

Cybersecurity careers that require little to zero mathematics

Most cybersecurity careers require a very basic understanding of mathematics. Here I give some examples of these careers to demonstrate how many different areas there are within cybersecurity that would not require day to day mathematics: 

Penetration Tester: This is the professional name for a full time computer hacker. Penetration Testers are paid to try to hack into infrastructure, websites, web apps etc. They help companies test their security and see where they need to improve. Also, many companies are required by law to have these tests performed on a regular basis which increases the overall demand for penetration testers. Being an effective penetration tester requires a lot of knowledge about computer systems and programming but it doesn’t involve a lot of math. 

Cybersecurity Lawyers: Lawyers are one of the most well paid and prestigious career choices. Cybersecurity lawyers specialize in the legal aspects of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is all about protecting confidential information, which in many cases is governed by privacy laws, industry regulations, questions of ownerships and responsibility etc. There’s a big demand for lawyers that understand cybersecurity issues, privacy laws and can even go to court to provide expert testimony if needed. 

Cybersecurity Sales Engineer: Sales is the driving force of all businesses, businesses make money whenever they sell their products or services. For many companies cybersecurity is no different, many companies sell cybersecurity software or services and they need people that are knowledgeable about the field to sell those products. If you have a solid understanding of cybersecurity issues that your potential customers are experiencing and the sales skills to demonstrate to the customers why your company’s product is the right solution, you can make a lot of money being a sales engineer. Not only can you have a high salary, but most sales roles include some type of commission, which greatly increases the total amount of money you can make as a sales engineer. Sales engineers make between 180,000 to $220,000.

Crisis Communication: Whenever a company suffers a serious data breach, they are required to notify customers, regulatory bodies and in many cases the media. There are professionals whose primary responsibility is to advise companies and make statements on their behalf to the public regarding data breaches. It requires no advanced mathematical or technical knowledge, just the ability to communicate clearly and effectively so that the company looks good in the public eye. 

Final Thoughts

Cybersecurity does not require a lot of math for you to have a successful career. There are many elements of cybersecurity that are focused around others skills such as crisis communication, incident response, legal, privacy etc. If you’re interested in cybersecurity as a career choice, do not let a fear of math deter you. The only time mathematics would be a requirement is if you’re doing some sort of computer science program, or pursuing a computer science discipline with a security focus. In those situations you will be expected to understand some advanced mathematics concepts, which is standard for all advanced science degree programs. If you do excel in mathematics, this is a plus and I would suggest you leverage that and look for a niche that will allow you to use that skillset to your advantage.