Is Calculus Required for Cybersecurity?

If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in cybersecurity and you dread the thought of taking a lot of high-level math courses, you may be wondering how much math will be required if you decide to get that degree.  I’ve covered the typical math requirements of cybersecurity degree programs before, but in this article, I want to cover one of the most dreaded math courses around that many people ask about – Calculus. To find out if Calculus is required to earn a cybersecurity degree, I reviewed over two dozen cyber programs at every level to find out.

So, is calculus required for cybersecurity?  Calculus is typically not a required course for cybersecurity majors at any level.  Most cybersecurity programs will require one or two math courses to be completed for graduation, however, in most cases, those courses are non-calculus courses.

This, of course, is only part of the story, so in this article, I’m going to dive in a little deeper so that you can know what math you’re getting into if you pursue a cybersecurity degree.

Typical math requirements for cybersecurity degrees

Of all of the cybersecurity degrees we reviewed, only one required any Calculus class at all.  All of the others at both the associates and bachelors levels required some math courses to be taken, but they were not Calculus-based.  In most cases, colleges only required one to two math courses throughout an entire four-year degree, and these courses were usually prescribed.  Cybersecurity students at these colleges and universities would usually need to take a course in Discrete Mathematics or Statistics.  Another course that was required in some cases was Algebra, however that was much less often the case.

Of the one college that we found that required Calculus, they went all in and required both Calculus 1 and Calculus 2.  In some examples, the cybersecurity program was a part of an original computer science program, however, the institutions did differentiate the requirements between the two disciplines.

Math at the associate’s degree level

Every college that we reviewed that offered an associate’s degree in cybersecurity required math courses to be taken, but there was good news for the math-adverse.  Usually, these colleges only required one math course to be taken throughout the entire associate’s degree, and none required Calculus. Some of these colleges require “any college-level math” while others specifically stated that Algebra must be taken.

For those that plan to complete an associate’s degree in cybersecurity, expect that you will have to take a math course at some point in your degree program, but you should be able to get away without taking Calculus.

Math at the bachelor’s degree level

The math requirements for cybersecurity majors at the bachelor’s level definitely jumped up beyond the associate’s degree level.  In most cases, a bachelor’s program requires students to take two math courses throughout the four-year degree. In one case, we saw a college require three math courses, however, none of those were Calculus.

Math at the master’s degree level

For those that make it to a master’s program in cybersecurity, you can expect that your math classes are behind you.  All of the classes in the master’s degree programs that we reviewed were discipline-based technology courses or soft skills courses, such as business writing, for example.  We did not find an example of a master’s program in cybersecurity requiring a math course, and obviously no examples of Calculus at that level.

What about calculus in computer science?

Those pursuing a degree in computer science that wanted to avoid Calculus were not as fortunate.  Nearly all of the computer science degrees we reviewed, at both the associate’s and bachelor’s levels, required Calculus, and in many cases require more than just the first level.

It would be nearly impossible to complete a degree in computer science without having to take Calculus.

Should I skip college if I’m terrible at math?

Avoiding the opportunity to earn a degree in cybersecurity is a large price to pay in order to avoid a math class at the college level.  The good news for prospective students is that all of the colleges and universities we looked into provide tutoring services and a learning center on campus to assist students through any academic area, including their math courses.  Many colleges also offer transitional or remedial math options as well, which review high school math concepts in order to prepare for any college-level math course that may be required.

How can I prepare if I’m terrible at math

Most math teachers and professors will tell you that anyone can learn math if they apply themselves.  While some people may be more math-inclined than others, the idea that there is a sizable portion of the population that just can’t do math is a myth.

Strategy #1:  Study before the placement exam.  One surefire technique to prepare for math in your college career is to complete some study prior to taking a college placement exam if the college or university requires one.  College placement exams will often cover math, reading, and writing skills, and going into a placement exam without refreshing what you already know is a sure way to score lower, which may end up requiring you to take additional math courses at a lower level.  If a college requires a placement exam, ask if there are any pre-study materials or what the exam covers.

Strategy #2:  Begin studying for a math class before the semester starts.  Simple techniques, such as reading one chapter ahead of the lectures in class is a proven way to increase math comprehension, which will decrease your stress.  Be sure to get the book before the semester starts, and stay ahead of the class by a little bit. Work hard to not fall behind.

Strategy #3:  Don’t overload your course schedule during the semester that you’re taking a math class.  A fast-lane path to a difficult math class is to take your math class during the same semester where you’re taking a lot of other classes, or classes that are difficult.  I’ve seen students before who were already working two jobs take their dreaded math class, along with four others, which included two higher-level cybersecurity classes. That’s a recipe for failure.  Consider cutting yourself a break and giving yourself enough time to be able to be successful in your math class.

Do technical schools require Calculus?

Most of the non-degree granting technical schools that provide cybersecurity training do not require any math courses, however, they may have an entrance exam that does have a math component.  If you don’t feel that you’re college-ready, you could look into a technical school and avoid some of the typical general studies requirements, such as English and math courses. These programs can be worthwhile, however, each individual should evaluate if they think they’ll need a college degree at some point in the future, and what their future plans may look like.

Conclusion

Most college programs in cybersecurity do not require a Calculus course but will require at least one math course to be taken at some point during the program.  For students that pursue computer science, Calculus is a mandatory class.

To get started on your cybersecurity career journey, check out our Getting into Cybersecurity guide.

Matt Day

Matt Day

Matt Day is a cybersecurity professional with over twenty years of experience in the IT, cybersecurity and technology training fields. He has a degree in Computer Information Science and holds CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, CySA+, and Cisco CCNA certifications. Matt is the author of the book CCENT Troubleshooting Guide.