Is Cyber Security for Me? (2024’s Ultimate Decision Guide)

Is Cyber Security for Me

Are you wondering, "Is cyber security for me?" You're not alone in asking this crucial question.

Cyber security is an exciting and challenging field that can lead to many opportunities for those willing to take the plunge. But it’s not for everyone.

Our article will briefly introduce you to cyber security, what you need to know before jumping in, and the paths you can take. 

To help you decide if this is a career you should pursue, we’ve compiled some crucial questions in eight categories, including technical skills, ethics, and work environment. 

Your responses to these yes-or-no questions can shed light on whether you're a good fit for a career in cyber security which can answer the question, is cyber security right for me?

Cyber Security as a Career

Cyber security practitioners protect computer systems, networks, programs, and data from unauthorized digital access, attacks, and damage. It has exploded in demand as a career choice due to the growing frequency and sophistication of cyber threats against individuals, businesses, and governments. However, it is unique compared to other technology career paths.

The cyber security workforce grew 8.7% between 2022 and 2023, adding nearly 440,000 jobs. 

Cyber Security as a Career

What You Should Know

Before diving into cyber security, it is important to ensure you cultivate some core technical skills, as it builds upon basic IT and networking foundations. Having strong basics covered in the CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications can accelerate cyber security learning. 

Cyber security involves continuously evolving technologies, persistent cyber threats, and changing attack methods. Therefore, continuous learning is important for success. 

Check out our related articles Is Cyber Security Hard to Learn? and How Long Does it Take to Learn Cyber Security? For information on the commitment required. 

Technical basics combined with a learning mindset will lay a solid foundation to explore various cyber career paths through methods we outline in Best Way to Learn Cyber Security. We also recommend these great cyber security books to boost your knowledge.

Career Paths

Our Cyber Security Career Path: The 5 Stage Roadmap to Success guide outlines various possible career paths and specializations, including  SOC Analyst, Cyber Security Engineer, and Chief Information Security Officer. Figuring out where your talents align is key through roles like Penetration Tester, Cyber Security Analyst, and other cyber security careers highlighted in our Top 10 Careers in Cyber Security.

Feeder roles start at Stages 1 and 2 of the career pathway, progressing to cyber security-specific roles from Stages 3 to 5.

Career Paths

Plan on shifting your mentality from building technology to breaking and safeguarding it. Cyber security professionals must think like hackers to catch hackers, requiring skills in computer security, data security, network security, and cloud security (see our Top Cyber Security Skills article for an overview).

Asking Yourself: Is Cyber Security for Me?

Whether a cyber security career is the right fit for you depends on a number of factors, including your personality, strengths, and interests. 

Be honest with yourself when answering the following questions, divided into eight distinct categories. If you answer “yes,” cyber security may be a good fit for you. 

If you answer “no,” it might mean you won't be satisfied with the field. Before committing to cyber security, use the questions and try your best to assess whether it seems like a field in which you would thrive.

For example, maybe after answering “no” to a number of questions, you notice you currently lack a certain skill set. This doesn't mean you are not well suited for a career; it simply means you now understand what skills you need to work on if you want to transition into cyber security successfully.

Technical Skills and Aptitude

Regardless of whether your position is hands-on keyboard, such as an Incident Responder or Ethical Hacker, or more high-level, such as Security Consultant or Security Architect, you need to understand technology. 

This goes well beyond simply being a power user. You need to have, or be willing to gain, real hands-on experience with a wide range of complex technologies beyond what most use daily.

1. Some cyber security roles are entirely hands-on while others are more administrative or consulting based. Regardless of the role you take, understanding and utilizing modern technology is a requirement. Do you enjoy working with computers and complex technology on a daily basis?

2. Cyber security professionals have hands-on experience well beyond that of an everyday user and usually dig into how systems operate behind the scenes. Have you tinkered with computers, network security, operating systems, or other technologies beyond basic usage to understand how they work?

3. In many roles, understanding and sometimes writing code is essential. This skill helps you understand the nature of cyber threats and allows you to understand and develop different tools used. Have you previously or currently worked with programming languages like Python, JavaScript, Ruby, etc., to read, write, modify, or troubleshoot code? Or used software to code on Mac, Windows, or Linux systems?

4. Cyber security professionals must understand various operating systems and their security settings to find vulnerabilities and/or secure systems. Are you familiar with operating systems beyond the basic user level, including their configurations and security features?

Problem-Solving and Analytical Thinking

Most roles, including those that are hands-on, need you to be good at solving problems and using analytical thinking. 

This means you need to be able to break down a problem and find a solution, such as searching for privilege escalation paths during a penetration test or piecing together scattered indicators of compromise as a Cyber Security Analyst. 

1. In many roles, you will frequently run into technical difficulties. To handle these problems on your own, you have to trust in your abilities. Think about the way you approach and manage technical issues. Are you comfortable attempting to troubleshoot and solve technical problems on your own before seeking help from others?

2. The ability to deconstruct a complex issue into smaller components is vital. It helps you tackle and resolve different issues within the job, making seemingly overwhelming problems manageable. Are you good at breaking down large problems into smaller, manageable parts?

3. If you're naturally drawn to activities that require strategic thinking, like puzzles or certain strategy games, this could indicate a strong aptitude for the analytical thinking required in cyber security. Do you enjoy puzzles or games that require strategic thinking?

4. Data analysis is an important part of cyber security. When dealing with information, finding patterns is important to identify security breaches or potential vulnerabilities before they are exploited. Can you analyze data and information to identify patterns and solutions?

Adversarial Thinking and Security Mindset

In cyber security, an important aspect of most roles is to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the bad guys to understand and anticipate the tactics and strategies used by attackers. 

"Thinking like a hacker" is the key to defending cyber threats and helping to mitigate them. This could include predicting types of social engineering attacks or identifying malware used in the wild. 

Thinking creatively about how you would infiltrate systems, escalate privileges, move laterally to other systems, and cover your tracks is crucial.

1. A security-minded person often evaluates daily decisions through the lens of risk and security. Whether it's about setting passwords, clicking on email links, or sharing information online. Do you regularly consider the security implications of your everyday actions and decisions?

2. In cyber security, being able to think like an adversary is crucial. This involves predicting potential methods an attacker might use to exploit vulnerabilities in a system or network. Can you anticipate how an attacker might exploit a system or network?

3. Consider how often you evaluate the security of various daily technologies, such as public WiFi, app permissions on your personal devices, or even the security settings on your home network. Do you proactively think about potential security loopholes in everyday technology you use in your personal life?

4. Identifying the most vulnerable part of a system is a key skill in cyber security. It's about understanding where an attacker might strike first. Think about how you would assess a system to find its weakest link. Would you be able to identify the weakest link in a system that an attacker might target?

Continuous Learning and Adaptability

In cyber security, the ability to constantly learn and adapt are not just beneficial traits; they are essential for success. 

With new attack vectors, exploits, malware strains, adversary groups, and vulnerable technologies or the latest penetration testing tools, intrusion detection systems, endpoint protection, and cloud architectures constantly changing, you must have an “always learning” mindset. 

The attackers never stop learning, and you can’t either.  

1. Think about times when you've encountered new technology, either at work or in your personal life. The ability to adapt is critical in the fast-evolving world of cyber security. Can you adapt quickly to new technology or software in your personal or professional life?

2. Think back to instances where you had to adjust your strategy or viewpoint in response to new information or feedback. This flexibility and willingness to adapt are important in cyber security. Are you open to changing your perspective or approach based on further information or feedback?

3. Consider a difficult scenario in your work or personal life and how you responded when presented with a problem outside the scope of your existing knowledge. A key trait for cyber security professionals is the willingness to look for tools, read articles, or find different ways to deal with the situation. When you encounter a problem in your current field, do you independently seek resources or training to solve it?

4. It's crucial to be able to learn and explore topics outside of your current knowledge base when it comes to cyber security. This can be accomplished through self-study, online courses, or formal education. Do you regularly, or are you willing to, invest time in self-education or upskilling?

Communication and Teamwork

The ability to communicate effectively and work well in a team environment is an important skill to possess when considering cyber security as a career.

Working in cyber security involves a lot of collaboration with others to solve problems by sharing information, ideas, and strategies.

Clear communication is important for doing the work and explaining technical details to non-technical people, such as management and other stakeholders, including clients. 

1. The ability to articulate complex technical concepts clearly and concisely is crucial in cyber security. This skill ensures that everyone involved can contribute effectively to solving security issues regardless of their technical background. Can you explain technical information to a non-technical audience?

2. To tackle threats, cyber security frequently requires teamwork. Developing a cohesive and successful strategy requires a collaborative approach in which you actively participate in and support a team. Can you work as part of a team to solve a challenge or task?

3. Creating reports is common practice in cyber security roles, whether they relate to a potential threat or post-incident analysis. To be effective in this area, you must ensure that your reports are clear, educational, and targeted. Can you write detailed reports that include complex information for various audiences?

4. It's critical to communicate clearly and promptly during security incidents. Accurate and timely information sharing with the appropriate parties is crucial, and it frequently makes the difference between a contained problem and a full-blown crisis. Are you able to communicate effectively during a high-pressure situation?

Ethics and Responsibility

One of the key aspects of working in cyber security is the ethics and responsibilities involved. You will be trusted with sensitive information and responsible for protecting various systems. 

You must adhere to high ethical standards, as this is crucial not only for yourself but for cyber security to be effective. This could include being transparent in your work and reporting potential conflicts of interest or unethical behavior you witness or following responsible vulnerability disclosure practices.

1. Working in cyber security means dealing with private and sensitive information frequently, and your choices can have a big impact. Do you consider the ethical implications when making decisions, especially when it involves handling any form of private or sensitive information?

2. In the field of cyber security, you need to be not only skilled but also honest. It's important to report unethical conduct or security issues to ensure integrity, even when it may seem difficult. Would you report unethical behavior or security issues in your workplace?

3. Vigilance and a proactive approach are essential in cyber security. Beyond your own responsibilities, ethical responsibility involves being aware of potential weaknesses that could be exploited, even if taking action to address them is outside of your responsibility. If you discovered a vulnerability in a system that could potentially be exploited, would you take the initiative to report it and ensure it is addressed, even if it's not within your direct responsibilities?

4. Your moral compass is often put to the test in cyber security. There may be times when you have to weigh a lot of different moral and ethical issues, especially when dealing with private data. If faced with an ethical dilemma, especially one involving sensitive information, do you believe you would prioritize and uphold ethical principles, even if it presented a personal or professional challenge?

Work Environment and Lifestyle

Working in cyber security can be both unique and demanding. Most people currently working in cyber security may deal with high-stress situations and tight deadlines and sometimes be on call for emergency situations. 

The work may also include working irregular hours such as weekends and holidays. Because threat actors work around the clock, cyber security teams do as well. 

Due to the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of working in cyber security, you must also be comfortable with constant change. 

1. Cyber security is a field that doesn't always follow the standard nine-to-five schedule. Sometimes, you have to deal with critical issues at odd hours. Are you comfortable with the possibility of working irregular hours, including nights and weekends, to address urgent security issues?

2. It can be hard to balance the demands of a cyber security career with your personal life, but knowing how to do it right is important. Is maintaining a work-life balance while managing the demands of a cyber security career something you are prepared to do?

3. Because of the constantly shifting nature of the threats in the cyber security industry, the workplace can become stressful, requiring effective stress management and productivity. Can you effectively manage stress and maintain productivity in a field where the threat landscape is constantly evolving?

4. Compared to other IT fields, cyber security can be less routine-based and predictable, so you need to be ready for a more fluid work environment. Are you prepared for a career with less predictability and routine than other IT fields?

Impact and Job Satisfaction

A career in cyber security is not simply about the salary or the technical things you will be working on, it’s also about the impact and satisfaction that can come from protecting systems and information from the bad guys. 

The sense of accomplishment when you’ve thwarted an attack or informed a customer about a vulnerability in order to make their business more secure can be highly rewarding. 

It’s also important to remember that working in cyber can be challenging and demanding. It requires a passion for the work and a commitment to the larger goal of cyber security. 

1. You will often feel a strong sense of purpose in your work, knowing that you protect critical digital assets against ever-evolving threats. Would you be satisfied knowing that your work significantly protects digital information and systems?

2. In addition to being intellectually stimulating and rewarding, finding solutions to difficult cyber security problems can provide a sense of accomplishment. Do you believe you would find fulfillment in tackling and solving complex challenges?

3. As a result of the dynamic and ever-changing nature of cyber security, the work is rarely boring and always provides opportunities for personal development and professional advancement. Would you enjoy a career that is dynamic, constantly evolving, and offers continuous learning opportunities?

4. In addition to reacting to threats, a career in cyber security requires innovation and staying one step ahead of potential risks. Being proactive about security can be very fulfilling because it involves developing and implementing ideas. Would you find job satisfaction in being part of a proactive, innovative effort to stay ahead of cyber threats?

Conclusion

Now that you’ve answered all the questions, it’s time for you to self-reflect and decide, “Is cyber security right for me?”

This self-assessment is an important step in understanding where your strengths and interests align with the skills needed for a career in cyber security. Recognize that some gaps may not apply equally to all cyber roles.

Take stock of where you answered “no” and decide if you will adapt to learn and grow in the areas where you need improvements. If you answered “no” to most questions, cyber security is probably not an ideal fit for you, and your skills and strengths would be better suited in a different field.  

Cyber security comprises people from all different backgrounds, and if you are ready to dive in, join our Accelerator program, where we provide you with a clear roadmap to success with courses, mentors, and mastermind groups. 

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  • Richard Dezso

    Richard is a cyber security enthusiast, eJPT, and ICCA who loves discovering new topics and never stops learning. In his home lab, he's always working on sharpening his offensive cyber security skills. He shares helpful advice through easy-to-understand blog posts that offer practical support for everyone. Additionally, Richard is dedicated to raising awareness for mental health. You can find Richard on LinkedIn, or to see his other projects, visit his Linktree.

  • bcaa says:

    This post is great, thank you for sharing.

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