This article answers five of the most common questions about Python and cybersecurity. To see our article about Python’s usefulness in cybersecurity, go here. We also cover the best programming languages for cybersecurity here.

One of the most common questions beginning cyber professionals have is whether or not programming is a necessary skill. While it’s true that you don’t need the level of understanding that software engineering requires, knowing a programming or scripting language is invaluable in cybersecurity.

Python’s value as a scripting language is on the rise. It’s a powerful yet simple language that has been used to design effective cybersecurity programs and is easily interpreted across operating systems.

If you’re starting out in cybersecurity or if you’re scrolling through job openings for cyber professionals, you’ve probably seen Python mentioned as a desired cyber skill along with a few other programming or scripting languages (Java, C++, Perl, and SQL also tend to pop up).

In cybersecurity, you only need a basic understanding of a programming language and you probably won’t need to learn more than one (although a benefit of learning one is that you have insight into how the other languages work, too). If you have no previous programming experience, or if you just want to learn another coding language for fun, Python is a great place to begin.

If you’re concerned about whether or not Python is actually worth the time and effort to learn, let’s take a closer look. Based on five common questions about Python, let’s see if we can’t convince you that Python is one of the best scripting languages out there for cyber professionals.

1) Can I learn Python without a programming background?

One of the first questions cybersecurity students generally ask is if it’s practical to start learning Python with zero experience. While it may not be as easy for you as someone who has been programming since kindergarten, the fact is, every professional has to start somewhere. You don’t need to know everything about a subject before you’re qualified to start learning. That’s just counterintuitive.

So, can you learn Python without a programming background?  Python’s learning curve is rather minimal, making it an excellent language for beginners without programming experience to learn first.  In fact, many colleges and universities utilize Python in their entry-level coding and programming classes for this exact reason.

Out of all the programming language choices, Python is probably the best starting place for beginners. No coding language can’t be learned without hard work and dedication, but Python has the most forgiving syntax for programmers who want their code to look like readable English. Let me show you a few classic examples.

Every programming class starts with the “Hello, World” program. It’s really just a basic output program that prints the phrase “Hello, World”. Here is what the “Hello, World” program can look like in popular programming and scripting languages:

Java

Class HelloWorld {

public static void main(String[] args) {

System.out.printIn(“Hello, World”);

}

}

C++

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main()

{

cout << “Hello, World”;

return 0;

)

SQL (Structured Query Language)

begin

dmbs_output.put_line(‘Hello, World’);

end;

/

Python

print(“Hello, World”)

The difference is pretty shocking, right? No crazy brackets or semicolons. No cryptic keywords. Python’s syntax is almost intuitive and consequently, Python is often considered the most human-friendly coding language available. 

For complete beginners and those without a programming background, it’s still challenging, but that goes for every subject out there. Python’s simple syntax and familiar keywords still make it the perfect starting place for new coders.

2) Can I learn Python on my own?

Short answer: yes! With extensive internet resources, it’s possible to learn almost any programming or scripting language entirely through your own effort.

The benefits of self-teaching are obvious. You can avoid student loans and skip straight to the material that you feel is most beneficial to your career. If you are in a university and just want to avoid the costs of another class, or if you’re a graduate and want to continue learning, the internet has many useful, free resources for learning Python. Some employers allow their employees to take online classes that their company will pay for.

While the pros of learning Python on your own are obvious and totally legitimate, there are a few concerns you should keep in mind:

  • Motivation – In order to take full advantage of free internet resources, you need to be sufficiently motivated to use them. It’s too easy to sign up for an online course or watch a few YouTube videos and then start to procrastinate. You might be learning on your own, but you need to set times for studying and stick to them as if you’re working against a deadline
  • Picking and Choosing Your Resources – You probably won’t be surprised that there hundreds of resources for you to learn from online. There’s a good side and a bad side to the wealth of sites and educational videos—generally, they’re free, and some are definitely better than others. Be sure to do a little research before settling on a program.
  • Don’t be Overwhelmed – When you’re just starting out, it’s too easy to want to try everything. That impulse is definitely a good one, but if you’re a beginning programmer and you’re learning the basics of Python, it’s probably not the best idea to start looking up free Java or C++ tutorials. Focus on one subject at a time. With patience and practice, you’ll be more than ready to take on more in the future.
  • Time Yourself – To be an effective self-learner, you need to be disciplined. That means not just disciplined in the time you spend working, but knowing when it’s time to take a break, too. It’s never a good idea to try to pack too much information in your head without giving yourself room to breathe and remember. Knowing when to take a break is just as important as sticking to a study schedule.

3) Can I learn Python in one month?

Short answer: No. You’ll see a lot of online programs advertising quick and easy ways to learn Python, but the truth is you’ll never truly be fluent in Python if you’re not willing to put in more than a month’s time.

Theoretically, you can learn the basics of creating a very simple program in one day. To master the entire language in a month is insane unless you already have a background in programming and/or scripting languages, and even if you have mastered another language, learning all that Python has to offer in a single month is impossible.

Python is simply too big a subject to learn in a single month. It’s as difficult as learning any language. Remember those Spanish or French classes in high school? Unless you were already bilingual, there was no way a single month of study was sufficient for fluent conversation. 

Programming and scripting languages are no different from spoken human languages. There are rules of syntax you have to remember, besides keywords that have to be memorized in order for a command to perform a specific task. 

Every rule has to be followed correctly or, like a mangled sentence in a spoken language, the computer simply won’t know how to interpret your program. Logic errors, syntax errors, runtime errors, are all basic errors that come from mistakes in using a language like Python.

If your job requires that you actually know how to use Python, a month-long crash course won’t give you nearly enough fluency. However, if all that’s asked of you is that you understand a few simple basics without being required to create programs or test them, a month of intensive research probably is all you need.

It really comes down to what you expect to happen in a month. If you’re looking to be fluent in Python, it’s going to take a lot longer. On the other hand, if all you want is a basic understanding, an intensive, month-long course is probably all you need. It all depends on what you see yourself doing with Python in the future. 

4) How Long Does It Take to Learn Python?

That depends on how much time you’re willing to put in. For a professional, working knowledge of Python, probably two years of continued study is enough to become proficient enough to get a job as a Python developer. Keep in mind that if you are in school, there are internships for software engineers that will help you hone your programming skills.

Using a programming language to create small programs goes a long way towards solidifying your understanding. It doesn’t have to be a complex program. Even a basic, simple program will help you hone your skills and remember what you’re learning.

How fast it takes you to learn Python finally depends on you. Depending on what you expect to learn from Python and how much time you’re willing to put in, you can have a basic understanding of Python in one to two years.

5) Is Python the best programming language for cybersecurity professionals?

In cybersecurity, Python is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand programming languages. Python is one of those languages that can be understood across computer platforms and has proved more than capable of performing security-related tasks.

The best way to see which programming language is most lucrative in the cyber field is to look up current jobs on the market. The results I’ve accumulated are from a handful of recent entry-level to high-level positions. I’ve only highlighted the programming, scripting-related qualifications.

  • Embedded Security Software Quality Assurance Engineer – ability to code automated tests with a strong preference for coding Python and some C/C++/Rust test applications
  • National Security Agency Software Engineer – programming with a high-level language (e.g., C, C++, Java, Python, Ruby)
  • Junior Security Test Engineer Cyber Security – able to understand C, C++, Java, or Python programming languages
  • Junior Associate Cyber Research Scientist – experience in one or more of the following languages: C, C++, Python, Java
  • Information Security Analyst – knowledge of the ability to script in either Perl, Python, or Bash
  • Cyber Security Specialist – demonstrable scripting knowledge with common platforms (PowerShell, Bash, Python)
  • IT Cyber Security Intern – scripting or programming experience preferred (Python)

Going through that list, you’ve probably noticed a few other recurring programming languages. Python isn’t the only desirable language out there for cyber professionals, but notice that of all those languages Python is the only common denominator. 

Python is a versatile language used by pen testers and security software engineers. Knowing Python also boosts your chances of finding a well-paying cybersecurity job, placing you above the competition with a highly valued skill. One of the most valuable features about Python is its cross-platform accessibility. 

As a cyber professional, you’ll probably be using Linux, Windows, Mac, and other operating systems. Python works across systems, making it even more valuable from a security point of view.

A Few Interesting Python Facts

If you’re still not convinced that Python is the right programming language for you, here are a few interesting Python-related facts that might change your perspective.

  • Python for Cyber Security Professionals – The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies offers an online training course for cybersecurity students, showing them how to do web recon, port scanning, packet sniffing, TCP packet injection, forensic analysis, and malware analysis while using Python
  • Python programmers are in high demand – according to Be A Python Dev, the demand for Python developers is only going up. Python “is the most sought after programming language, via tutorials search on Google.”
  • If you like Python, your future is secure – the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the job outlook for software developers as extremely promising with a 21% rate of growth over the next decade. The median pay is $105,590 a year.

Whether or not you want programming to be your primary selling feature as a cyber professional, there’s no doubt that anyone interested in cybersecurity should have at least a basic understanding of the language. It’s simply too useful a language for designing and executing security features.

How you decide to learn Python, whether you pay for classes at college or teach yourself the basics using online material, finally depends on what works best for you. A combination of both instructor-led classes and extracurricular, do-it-yourself research is also an effective combination.

Whatever path you choose, just be sure to research all the options (there are a lot out there). If you are new to scripting, Python is a great place to start, and if you’re not, it’s the perfect language to add to your cybersecurity repertoire.

About the author 

Asha Azariah-Kribbs

Asha Azariah-Kribbs studies computer science and cybersecurity. She has a degree in English.

Other Cyber Articles

3 Certifications You Should Consider After Network+

Read More

5 Things to Consider Before Choosing the A+ or CCNA

Read More