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Coding vs. Cybersecurity: Difference and Making the Career Switch

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jan 19, 2024
A Cybersecurity Professional Studies the Code Displayed on a Big Wall Screen.

Coding vs. Cybersecurity: Difference and Making the Career Switch

Cybersecurity professionals help protect organizations from the growing threat of cyber attacks. As companies increasingly rely on technology to facilitate their operations, the demand for cybersecurity professionals will continue to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for information security analysts will grow 32% between 2022 and 2032.

Individuals with a background in coding or software development may be thinking about making the jump to a cybersecurity career. Many of the skills developed in coding and software development roles are often considered assets by those looking to fill a range of cybersecurity jobs. 

For those considering coding vs. cybersecurity careers and whether a switch might be good for them, it’s worth learning how a coding background might be combined with an advanced education in cybersecurity to expand their career options.

What Is Coding?

Coding, or writing code, is using the language of a computer or another piece of hardware to give the computer specific instructions. Everything from the operating system through which users interface with a computer to software programs and even operations that increase a computer’s processing speed and efficiency are all created through the power of coding.

Code is written through a computer’s text editor in a language specific to the code’s purpose. For example, the language JavaScript is used to develop website user interfaces while SQL is used to communicate with databases to perform updates or transmit large packets of data. Since coding serves multiple purposes, from building applications to developing websites, there is a multitude of coding jobs, including:

  • Software developer
  • User experience designer
  • Machine learning engineer
  • Web developer
  • Mobile applications developer

What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity involves searching for, preventing, and resolving threats to technology and digital spaces, such as cyber attacks. In the least damaging scenarios, cyber attacks interfere in the workings of an organization, stalling critical programs from running or disrupting the continued operations of services. In the worst cases, however, cyber attacks damage a company’s infrastructure through malicious code that infects its servers or steals confidential employee or customer data.

Cybersecurity professionals create protections against these threats, monitor networks and systems for suspicious activity, and create response plans in case of a breach. They’re responsible for testing their systems rigorously to understand where their systems are weakest, and prioritizing protections for the areas that need them most. They work to find “bugs” or exploitable features in their organization’s software and to fix these issues before hackers find them.

Cybersecurity professionals must also stay up to date on the latest tactics being used by cybercriminals to anticipate threats and create adequate defenses. 

Cybersecurity is a wide field with many specialties and a number of job options, such as:

  • Systems administrator
  • Information security analyst
  • Penetration tester
  • Chief information officer

Coding vs. Cybersecurity: Differences

Comparing coding vs. cybersecurity careers showcases many of these fields’ similarities, as both center on the functions of software, websites, and hardware. However, where coding jobs are primarily concerned with the creation of systems and software, cybersecurity jobs focus on eliminating vulnerabilities and protecting data. Cybersecurity jobs often rely on coding fundamentals, but they also require a wider breadth of knowledge, such as knowledge of software systems, how to test those systems for errors and security gaps, and how to plan ahead to prevent their exploitation.

Switching Careers From Coding to Cybersecurity

Making the switch from one career to another can be difficult, even when the two are as similar as coding and cybersecurity. However, individuals with a background in coding or software development can have a leg up on those without it. Here are a few tips that can help put coding professionals on the right track toward reaching their cybersecurity career goals.

Develop Key Skills

Focusing on how to use programming skills in cybersecurity jobs can be a great place to start. Many of the systems and software that coders build must be protected by cybersecurity professionals. So having deep knowledge of how they were built can help in determining where their vulnerabilities lie and how to repair them. Additionally, understanding how websites are developed can be beneficial, as websites are often targets of hackers.

Certain languages may need further development depending on an organization’s systems, but having a high degree of competency in a variety of languages, like Python and PHP, can be helpful, as understanding the code that malicious programs are written in can help inform how they work and how to stop them. 

Learn Cybersecurity Fundamentals

Cybersecurity professionals need to be skilled in certain areas that some coding or software programming professionals may not be as well versed in. These subjects include penetration testing, incident response planning, and cryptography. Earning relevant certifications or seeking an advanced degree can help aspiring cybersecurity professionals gain a deeper understanding of these subjects. Developing these fundamentals in cybersecurity can showcase to employers an ability to handle the responsibilities of a cybersecurity position.

Take Your Next Career Step in Cybersecurity

Making a career change can be challenging, but individuals who have developed programming skills in their jobs as coders can leverage that background as they transition to a role in the cybersecurity field. If you’ve been weighing coding vs. cybersecurity careers and are now ready to leap from building software to helping safeguard it, consider how enrolling in The University of Tulsa’s online M.S. in Cyber Security program can help you achieve your goals.

The program’s curriculum covers the foundations of cybersecurity that can help you build upon your established knowledge of coding principles, including courses in penetration testing, cryptography, and data encryption. As an online program, it also offers you the opportunity to study where and when it’s most convenient for you, allowing you to continue working in your current job while taking the first step toward your future.

Embark on your next career adventure with The University of Tulsa.

Recommended Readings

Cybersecurity Defense Strategies: The Role of Cybersecurity in National Security

Information Security vs. Cybersecurity: What’s the Difference?

The Benefits of Earning Cybersecurity Certification

Sources:

Indeed, “Cybersecurity vs. Computer Science: What’s the Difference?”

Indeed, “Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering: What’s the Difference?”

Indeed, “Programming vs. Coding: What’s the Difference?”

LinkedIn, “How Can You Switch From Web Development to Cybersecurity?”

Springboard, “Cyber Security vs. Software Engineering: 2024 Career Guide”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts

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