Do you need to be proficient at Math to get into the field of Network and(or!) Security?

This is an incredibly common question regarding entry into the field.

One of the reasons for this question is that the people considering an education or career in the field are concerned that their level of math is not up to the demands of the role.

Others(like myself) may have a great interest in the field, but believe they are lacking in their mathematical ability.

Academic check-list

Something that any student going through college should consider is that universities place a great emphasis on your math grade at GCSE, In my experience this had a far greater weight than my level 3 diploma in IT.

However the actual math you will interact with – especially within an academic setting is likely to be relatively small, most undergraduate courses do not go deep enough into the systems and protocols to touch upon how they work, just that they do.

I believe one of the reasons academic institutions rely on a students math grade so much is that it is a good indicator of a students qualities and ability to succeed on the course. A person good at math is likely to enjoy or at least be adept at problem solving and logical problems that are a key component of networking and security. Given the lack of information the admission officer has on you – this criteria has even more emphasis.

The area matters 

The course or job you choose will differ in math though. For example a networking course is likely to have less math than a computer science degree would, but the trade off for this is a richer wealth of knowledge on a wider area of topics and a deeper understanding of how they work at their base level (but less focused knowledge about networking).

But even then, the math should not scare anyone away from a pursuing an interest in the field.

Don’t let fear stop you

I think one of the things we need to work on in the UK is overcoming this fear of math that is rooted in the entity style of teaching still taught in many schools.

For example – my parents are unable to read or write properly and have never had any education past the age of fifteen. So any homework I was given was promptly discarded of and I’d go to school to be ritually humiliated in front of my peers for being so awful at math.

By the time I reached secondary school I believed that I simply wasn’t any good at math and so stopped attending altogether.

Of course the reality is that math like all skills is an incremental learning experience in which one builds up a depositary of knowledge and context that can be built upon to improve your skill and work out even harder problems in the future

So my advice would be to not let a fear of math scare you away from pursuing a job or degree in the field.

The math in undergraduate degrees and entry level positions should not be feared. Any deficiency you do have can be easily overcome by committed study and the resources online are plentiful.

There’s no reason you can’t start learning today, and turn one of your greatest fears into your biggest strengths.