What Should You Study To Become A Computer Security Researcher?

Some people think that security researchers need to be ex-hackers to be effective.

Other people think that you can train a person to become a security researcher and they will be able to do their job just fine.

But the simple truth is that no matter if you are a natural hacker or a trained security researcher, you will need to know the inner workings of the computer in order to become exceptional at your job.

Sure, you might be able to get away with just knowing the basics, but if you really want to make a name for yourself and excel in the industry then you will need to know computers and networks inside and out.

You should be able to take that information and use it to your advantage.


Start With Operating Systems

The first class that you should take to be a computer researcher is an intro to operating systems class.

No matter if you are going to be working on desktop security or maintaining the security for your company’s network, you will still have to deal with the desktop.

Even on a server, the operating system is still the thing that rules all.

Most hacker attacks will result in them finding some way that they are able to exploit the operating system.

They can do this because they have studied the operating system and how it works.

If you want to be able to counteract an attack such as this, you will need to be able to know the moving parts of an operating system as well.

This is not something that should be taken lightly.

If your opponent, who is the black hat hacker, knows more than you do, then they have already half way won the game.

Networking Next

The next thing that you should study if you go to college is how networks work.

Most hacks are delivered over the internet so knowing how the internet and smaller networks work is essential for being able to stop an attack.

You need to know the theories behind the seven layers of the network and what certain protocols such TCP, HTTP, UDP and others mean.

What is more important is that you should know how these protocols interact with each other.

This way, if need be, you will be able to read an attack and counteract it on the fly.

Business Studies

The last class that you should take in school to get ready for your career in computer security is a business course.

Computer security these days is more than just trying to find and stop exploits from happening on the network.

You must also be able to interact with the people who work in these businesses as well.

Knowing how to speak their language is a big advantage in doing this.

You don’t have to minor in business to accomplish this but taking one or two classes would not hurt.

If you are going to college and want to get into a career of computer security, then these classes will definitely help you along.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.



    Thank you very much sir.Now I really understand how to proceed.

  2. I’m curious, have you guys looked at any college catalogs to see the names of classes that might actually line up with these suggestions? I am not having much luck finding comparable classes at my university and it’s quite frustrating. There needs to be more technical schools out there for specific computer degrees/certifications. Just my 2 cents.

    • Hi Josh,

      I think that trying lo list all the classes from all the universities around the world would be quite a task but, if you give an idea of your location, perhaps other readers could chip in with some suggestions?

      • Oh no, I wouldn’t expect that… there are way to many options out there. More what I mean is, in writing this, did you guys have a specific university in mind? I’d be curious to know what universities you guys are familiar with and what classes you had in mind. Maybe it’s just my area(Atlanta, GA), but it seems like a lot of universities offer computer business classes, but to get real nitty gritty, you have to go for a cert. For example, I’d be quite surprised to learn about the TCP three-way handshake at a university… am I alone in that thinking?

        I guess what I wish we could see is more real world experience in the classroom. For me, I’ve been in the IT field since 1997 but in 2001, had to leave the corporate space due to an injury. I’ve been consulting lightly since 2001, but am way behind the curve, but I know if I could get into a job, I could pick it up fairly quickly… it’s getting into the job that is the problem. I’d even work for free, but I don’t see many internships for networking or system admin (non-office setting).

        • I wrote this after having a cursory look over courses I’d spotted here in the UK so, alas, none of those would be any good to you anyway.

          I can understand your frustration though – IT/security is an area that fascinates me but I would never be able to work in the field as I have no formal training or job experience and am probably way too old to get either now 🙁


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