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Is Coding Necessary for a Career in Cybersecurity?

Malik GirondinMalik Girondin 03/07/2024

In this article, we will explore the idea of coding within cybersecurity. Is this a necessary skill for juniors? Will it help mid-level folks progress toward advanced roles within the field? There are so many questions; let's dive right into them below!

What is Coding?

Coding is how we, as professionals, communicate with computers and give them instructions on what to do. You may also hear this called ‘programming’ to forewarn you. Apps, games, and websites are all the results of professional programming. Although the job outlook for programmers is declining, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the crucial skills used in this profession are essential in other fields (e.g., cybersecurity). 

Think of it as a human language— a set of symbols and words governed by composition rules (syntax). The syntax is the rule that defines the combinations of symbols that are considered to be correctly structured. For example, look at the Python script below.

hello = "Hello, readers! I hope all is well"
print(hello)

If you want to learn how to code—especially in Python—check out SBT’s FREE Introduction to Python course.

Programming vs Coding

As mentioned above, you will likely hear the terms programming and coding used interchangeably, but experts say they are entirely different.

Coding is the exercise of writing code. This code will help develop your program.

Programming refers to all the processes involved in creating programs. Processes like testing, coding, identifying solutions, defining the problem, and selecting an efficient solution. While programming covers software creation, translating requirements into code, debugging and creating documentation, the term “coding” refers to a subset of programming. It involves writing lines of code and creating machine-readable inputs. 

The Coding Guide for Cybersecurity

Last month, I wrote a guide to landing a job in cybersecurity. Knowledge of that article is not a prerequisite to understanding the next couple of paragraphs, but it will help.

Competition for cybersecurity positions is growing, especially with the 2023 tech layoffs reported by Layoffs.fyi—currently sitting at 263,180 at the time of this writing. I advised newcomers to stay current on industry trends and equip themselves with the latest technical skills that benefit the market. Professionals in the field must continue their education via certifications, boot camps, college, etc., to stay relevant in their ever-changing careers.

It is highly recommended that cybersecurity professionals learn at least one object-oriented programming language. These are languages with most of the features of objects (inheritance, methods, classes) but in a distinctly original form.

Before we list the world’s most popular programming languages by Berkeley Boot Camps, I want to talk about something serious. Cybersecurity criminals commonly use the languages below; therefore, a good grasp of them will provide the cybersecurity defender a significant advantage against malicious attacks.

A good barometer of whether or not you, as a professional, should invest time and money in learning a coding language is its popularity. Now, let the list begin!

The Most In-Demand Programming Languages

  1. JavaScript
  2. Python
  3. HTML (Technically a Markup Language)
  4. CSS (Technically a Sheet Style Language)
  5. Java
  6. SQL
  7. NoSQL
  8. C#
  9. Rust
  10. Perl

How Can I Learn Coding?

Looking at the list above, we can see that it is a laundry list of languages to learn! As mentioned above, you should invest time and money into popular languages that will benefit you and your career. I won’t get into much detail about each language because it will take weeks, if not months, to fully break them down. Here is your homework assignment for you guys. Yes, the class is in session, so try to research and learn about the above ten languages. You might find something interesting about each of them that could spark your coding journey!

If you want to take your career to the next level, learning security programming and coding can help you understand many back-end stuff (behind the scenes). Whatever specialization you choose, you will further increase your competence in Information Technology and make yourself highly competitive.

College: Most folks usually expand their education in college and take IT and cybersecurity-related classes to get early exposure to the field. Many schools like Western Governors University or Georgia Tech offer rewarding computer science programs. These certified instructors can teach you coding well. This is an excellent opportunity to find out if coding and cybersecurity align with your future goals. I do not advocate for student loans, so go ahead and let me know if you can afford your tuition via FASFA, scholarships, or out-of-pocket financing!

Coding Bootcamps: There are many boot camps like Scrimba or Springboard, and this is yet another opportunity to learn! For others, coding bootcamps are one of the best ways to get intensive training in learning coding languages. Although it’s possible to teach yourself via self-learning—which we will explain below—having dedicated teacher assistants (TAs) may be beneficial in the long run since coding is highly technical and detailed. This is not a skill you can master in just a few months, so you must keep practicing to reach competency and become proficient.

Projects: Create a small project that helps you in your day-to-day work. How does one start? Look around and analyze what you do daily in tech or cyberspace, try to automate that activity or enhance previous tools, and add functionality; this can continue. But remember this: practice makes perfect; projects are the way that will help you connect coding with practicality.

Self-Learning: I save this for last because it requires focus and discipline. Many people know the vast options of free and paid resources online that can give you the same, if not better, knowledge than a BootCamp or college per se. This is one of the most affordable options out of the four but the hardest. You can find many websites like FreeCodeCamp or App Academy that will teach coding experience for free, but you will lack the TA or instructor to keep you on track/provide input to your work. Also, many YouTube channels have comprehensive videos available for teaching.

Summary

Writing code is critical in cybersecurity whether you agree or not—especially as you move up the ranks. Developing code to protect computer systems and networks from malicious threats and attacks is a high-value skill a company will pay for. These skills alone can determine whether or not to get a position. As I roam the internet and look at job postings, many positions seem to want a candidate with coding experience.

The following advice is applicable irrespective of your cybersecurity domain. If you are in the information technology field, you should be at least able to solve a problem—hence the reason you were hired. Do not always consider coding competitive coding where you worry about complexity. It would help if you started easy and then grow. For cybersecurity professionals, the more you automate your stuff, the more skilled and payable you become, as you use your time and efforts in tasks that need human intervention and might not be solved by machine or code.

Aside from the BLS post earlier, the coding trend will continue to rise. This will be a popular skill for many IT careers besides cybersecurity. Here are some closing benefits that coding can provide you once you take that leap:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Wider career opportunities
  • Increase digital literacy.

Learn More About Cybersecurity Training

CySec Careers was created by one of the world's leading providers of online blue team training, Security Blue Team. With a solid commitment to delivering an exceptional experience to each user, SBT has implemented a robust infrastructure to support its operations, and also offers free training to those starting out in the cybersecurity career.

Malik Girondin

Malik Girondin

Malik has experience with both technical and educational roles within cybersecurity, and is here to share his knowledge on both! Areas he writes on are careers advice and mentorship.