Trying to choose between cyber security vs web development can be a hard choice.
So, in this article, we’ll look at the differences and similarities between these two career paths to help you decide which one is right for you.
Cyber Security vs Web Development: Which is Better?
Choosing between cyber security and web development really comes down to your preferences.
If you want to spend your days protecting data and creating robust information systems, then go for cyber security.
But, if you like the idea of coding websites and applications from the ground-up (or redesigning them), then web development is a better option.
If you’re still unsure, my advice for you, aside from reading the article below, is to learn website coding first.
Why should I learn coding first?
You’ll find that many cyber security professionals come from various backgrounds, some of which aren’t even related to IT or cyber.
That means your experience in web development, should you choose to pursue that career path first, will give you an edge over other cyber security professionals.
The best part is that you’ll only need a few short years of experience as a web developer.
That’ll give you the background necessary to make that move into a security-related role, if you’re interested.
Once you’ve got the experience, you can apply to application security-type roles, or you can even become a system administrator. This is a great starting point for a career in security!
By going this route, you get the best of both worlds, and then you don’t really have to choose.
But at the end of the day, I get it. There are many reasons (e.g. salary, location, work/life balance, etc.) that’ll go into your final decision, so it really depends on what interests you.
Cyber Security vs Web Development: Which is Easier?
With web development, you have a much faster learning curve than cyber security.
Although there are ways to work in cyber security without a degree, it’s much easier to get started quickly in web development without needing a college degree!
That’s because the skills you learn are based in practical knowledge not theoretical; you begin coding as soon as you learn it. That’s not the case with cyber security.
By the way, if you’re looking for a free open-source coding curriculum, try one of the following sources:
Much of what is taught and learned in cyber security is theoretical knowledge. I can’t just apply my theory as soon as I’m hired, I need practical experience.
For example, I might know what cross-site scripting is and how to mitigate it, but if you ask me to code it (or perform a code review), I wouldn’t have a clue.
This is where learning web development has the advantage, after you learn the concept, you can immediately apply it!
Even the actual scope of work is simpler; in web development, you’re responsible for building websites and applications that are hopefully free of bugs or flaws. It doesn’t work the same way in cyber.
Cyber security has a much broader scope of work which makes it more complex.
How Are Cyber Security and Web Development Similar?
Will I solve problems and need to learn new things?
It goes without saying that any technical field requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills to address challenges.
Web developers solve design and functionality issues, while cyber security professionals identify and mitigate security risks.
Of course, problem solving also requires you to stay up to date with the latest trends, tools, and best practices.
As a web developer, you’ll need to adapt to new web technologies and design trends.
In cyber security, professionals must be aware of emerging threats, mitigation techniques, and regulations.
Will I work alone or as a team?
Other than small projects, working in either professions will require you to work in teams and collaborate with other experts.
Web developers may work with other developers, designers, content creators, quality assurance personnel, and project managers.
Cyber security personnel will almost always work with a team comprising of personnel from various backgrounds: other security personnel, developers, engineers, administrators, and management.
Do keep in mind that as a web developer your position may be remote. If that’s the case, you still have a team, but you may end up working at home alone. For security workers, working remote may or may not be allowed depending on your role.
How Are Cyber Security and Web Development Different?
Cyber security and web development are distinct fields with very different objectives, skills, and focuses.
Let’s look at some of the key differences between the two:
What are the core objectives?
The goal here is to ensure a smooth user experience, attractive design, and efficient functionality.
Cyber security, on the other hand, is concerned with protecting information systems from various threats, including unauthorized access, data breaches, and cyberattacks.
Though cyber security professionals do use computer languages, their goal in using them is the detection and prevention of security incidents.
How are the skill sets different?
But you’ll also need proficiency in principles such as web design and user experience.
Now, it’s probably safe to say that most web developers have a very common core set of skills. However, cyber security is a field, not a job title; therefore, expect to come across a multitude of skills for each type of role.
Cyber security professionals, depending on their area of expertise, need skills in network security, cryptography, risk assessment and mitigation, vulnerability management, etc.
What about tools and software?
There are so many tools and software that have been developed for web developers and security personnel, that it would be a mistake not to consider implementing them.
Web development tools not only help developers to get the job done, but they also help to optimize the development experience (e.g. Sublime Text, Vagrant, Ack/Ag, Git, Apache, etc.). A quick search of GitHub will list for you thousands of tools offered to web developers, many of which are free!
Security professionals do have tools to use, but their tools are less about optimization and more about getting the job done.
You’ll find common tools that security personnel couldn’t do without such as NMAP, Wireshark, OSSEC, OpenVAS, Nessus, etc. Cyber security researchers often use a vast array of cyber security tools necessary to do their job.
Whichever career path you choose, the use of third-party tools and software to aid in your job is very important.
Are there frameworks I need to think about?
Both web developers and security professionals use frameworks in the course of their work. But these frameworks don’t take on the same meaning.
For developers, frameworks standardize how applications are built and deployed.
You might use frameworks such as Express, Angular, Django, etc. Mozilla provides an excellent article if you want to learn more about client-side frameworks.
A security framework references the standard an organization has chosen to adopt in order to implement its security practices.
Since legal implications are involved, the chosen security framework depends on the organization’s country and industry. Examples include ISO 27001/2, NIST CSF, HITRUST, FedRAMP, and so on.
Are there any compliance requirements?
Security professionals, by the very nature of their work, are already focused on securing assets.
Although web developers should consider security when designing and building websites and applications, this isn’t always the case.
The clients and employers of security professionals or web developers are usually subject to various regulations and compliance requirements.
Regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS aim to protect users’ data and privacy.
Although it may feel like a nuisance for web developers when requested to do so, professionals in both fields must understand and adhere to these regulations in their work.
If you decide to become a web developer, the OWASP Top Ten is the first secure coding technique you should start learning and implementing in your applications.
What should be my mindset?
While web developers are not the same as UX/UI or graphical designers, you still need a creative mindset to design visually appealing and user-friendly websites.
You also need to be open to new ways of coding and be able to ask for help; there’s no expectation you’re going to know how to code every process.
Places such as Reddit and Stack Overflow are great resources to find web developers willing to help.
Cyber professionals require the ability to pick up information quickly and must be able to handle their jobs with patience.
That’s because cyber security is very competitive and is generally employed with fewer resources making it a very stressful environment.
Why Choose Cyber Security Over Web Development?
Let’s discuss why you might consider choosing cyber security over web development:
What can I specialize in?
In the web development field, specialization arguably comes down to front-end, back-end, full stack, mobile development, and UX/UI design.
There is some variety in the types of web applications and websites developers build.
However, after having several years of experience you’ll find the scope of your work can be repetitive.
In many ways, there’s more room for specialization in cyber security.
Different cyber security professionals will focus on areas like cloud-based security, network security, critical infrastructure security, etc. Here’s a full list of the cyber security domains you can research further.
Because it’s not realistic to know everything, you’ll have a lot more room to specialize in security.
For example, if you’re interested in computer networking, then network security is a fitting career for you.
Really like cloud-based systems? There are plenty of roles in cloud security, too.
What’s the work environment?
Cyber security offers a wide range of roles and responsibilities, from cyber analyst and penetration tester to incident response and risk management.
Professionals in this field are always learning and adapting to new challenges, keeping the work engaging and stimulating.
However, there’s an important consideration here.
Both web development and cyber security can be quite stressful. It’s not uncommon for security personnel to work long hours and burnout quickly.
The two reasons for this are that you’re either working for an organization with poor management skills or working in an industry that’s highly competitive.
While web development isn’t an industry that suffers from a supply-demand problem (unlike cyber security), it can be stressful when resource constraints exist.
You may find this to be a problem with smaller development firms, with fewer developers, as management prioritizes different projects at various times.
What’s the demand like?
Check out this interactive map for the demand of web developers by county…
Now compare that to the demand of just cyber security analyst by county. Pay particular attention to the Washington D.C. area…
More importantly, cyber security is a global concern. The skills and knowledge gained in this field are valuable and transferable across borders.
This can open opportunities for international careers and collaboration.
That means that the demand for cyber security roles isn’t going away. To give you a quick statistic, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimated a 35% increase in the number of information security analyst jobs between 2021 and 2031.
Compare this to the 23% increase for web developers during the same time frame.
Why Choose Web Development Over Cyber Security?
What industries can I work in?
Web development obviously focuses on industries that rely on an online presence, such as e-commerce, services, media, and marketing.
Your talents won’t usually apply to businesses that have a very small online presence (i.e. DIY WordPress websites) or mom-and-pop retail shops.
But you will be given the chance to work in different sectors throughout your career.
Within cyber security, you’ll tend to find that professionals are heavily present in specific industries.
While both fields can cross over many industries, web development clearly gives you experience from a wider set of industries.
What’s the impact on user experience?
As a web developer, you also play a huge role in shaping the user experience of a website or application.
This can be rewarding for those who want to create enjoyable, accessible, and user-friendly digital experiences. This is the complete opposite of cyber security.
In cyber security, you’ll know you’ve done your job right when your client or organization isn’t knocking on your door asking what went wrong. This probably adds to the reason why many organizations underfund their security budgets.
Is freelancing an option?
Web development skills are valuable if you’re interested in freelancing.
This flexibility can be appealing if you prefer more control over your work environment and schedule. This isn’t possible with cyber security as it requires teamwork.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Freelancing in cyber security is usually reserved for subject matter experts that are experienced enough to act as security consultants.
Cyber Security vs Web Development Salary: Which Pays More?
Cyber security positions pay more than web development roles.
There are exceptions, of course, but cyber security is generally the more lucrative of the two.
The average base salary is $62,013 a year for a web developer. This is due to the high number of entry-level positions in web development, which brings the average down.
However, this increases to more than $90,000 a year at the higher levels of the field.
Since cyber security is a mid-career role, there are fewer entry-level positions, resulting in a higher starting pay. Take a look at average salary figures for someone in web application security:
In some instances, base salary increases to more than six figures — with many top roles earning at least $130,000 annually.
Of course, these are all averaged numbers, and your skills and experience will play a significant role in your annual salary.