How to Become a Penetration Tester?

Certified Penetration Testing Professional

How to Become a Penetration Tester?

Today, penetration testers are in high demand due to the rising prevalence of cyberattacks. As high-profile security breaches become more frequent, sophisticated, and complex, the chances of becoming the target of a successful hack are also increasing rapidly. To mitigate these security risks and prevent data breaches, organizations rely on penetration testers to identify and fix security vulnerabilities in their systems and networks.

EC-Council’s Certified Penetration Testing Professional (C|PENT) certification is a cutting-edge, multidisciplinary program that trains participants to meet the latest cybersecurity challenges and prepares them for a variety of career paths. The curriculum covers a wide range of topics, including advanced Windows attacks, penetration testing in Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT) systems, bypassing filtered networks, writing exploits, single and double pivoting to access hidden networks, advanced privilege escalation, and binary exploitation.


What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration tests, also known as pen tests, are authentic but simulated cyberattacks used to assess an organization’s security infrastructure—including web-based applications, systems, and networks—to detect actual and potential vulnerabilities. Pen tests are often part of ethical hacking .

Pen testers use strategies and methodologies similar to those used by malicious hackers, but without the intent to cause harm. With the target organization’s permission, penetration testers apply hacking tools and techniques to break into protected applications and networks and probe for security vulnerabilities. Organizations can then implement the findings from penetration tests to repair identified weaknesses and fine-tune their security policies and procedures.

Are Penetration Testers in Demand?

Penetration testers are in short supply, and demand is only getting higher. Organizations hire penetration testers to strengthen their information security by detecting and mitigating system vulnerabilities before unscrupulous hackers can exploit them. These precautions lower the risk of cyberattacks, which can be costly and damaging to a company’s reputation. Penetration testers frequently work in teams to collaborate on developing new tests that simulate cybercrimes. These professionals are trained to spot application vulnerabilities and analyze the physical security of computer systems, servers, and network devices.

Are Penetration Testers in Demand

Because of the intensive training needed for this role, however, employers are having a difficult time finding qualified and certified cybersecurity talent to fill the increasing number of jobs. The alarmingly low number of trained penetration testers, among other cybersecurity and IT personnel, is one of the leading factors influencing the attractive compensation in this field.

Why Does Your Organization Need a Penetration Tester?

Even if an organization has implemented all recommended security measures, there’s no guarantee that its IT infrastructure is safe from cyberthreats—it’s also important to apply advanced preventive security strategies. Building and maintaining a strong cyber defense system means regularly testing current and proposed security plans and measures.

Penetration testing is an essential part of an organization’s overall cybersecurity strategy. Trained and certified penetration testers can:

  • Reduce network downtime.
  • Uncover vulnerabilities before cybercriminals exploit them
  • Initiate a highly efficient security measure
  • Facilitate regulatory compliance
  • Protect their company’s reputation and solidify customer trust

Explore the C|PENT certification to learn more about the value that professional penetration testers can provide to organizations.

benefits of penetration testing

Top Skills Needed to
Become a Penetration Tester

A penetration tester’s core responsibility is to conduct security tests of computer systems, networks, and web-based applications. Pen testers also devise security strategies and solutions that are tailored to a company’s needs and may offer ongoing support as the organization implements these new security measures. Developing certain hard and soft skills is essential for success as a penetration tester.

Hard Skills

  • Networking (TCP/IP, cabling techniques)
  • Ethical hacking techniques
  • Open-source technologies – MySQL, Apache, etc.
  • Wireless protocols and devices
  • Web application architecture
  • Pentest tools –
    • Specialized OS distributions (e.g., Kali Linux, based on Debian; BackBox, based on Ubuntu; Whax, based on Slackware)
    • Software frameworks (e.g., Metasploit, Nmap, OWASP ZAP, Nessus, Wireshark)

Soft Skills

    • Curiosity and desire to learn, especially about the latest security threats
    • Teamwork and collaboration
    • Public speaking
    • Report Writing
    • Exceptional problem solving
What is the Average Salary of a Penetration Tester?

What is the Average Salary of a Penetration Tester?

Several factors affect the earning capabilities of a penetration tester, most importantly experience, location, education, and qualifications. The average annual salary for a penetration tester in the United States is USD 87,845, with mid-career and experienced professionals making upwards of USD 100,000 (PayScale, 2022). Similarly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS; 2022) reports that information security analysts earned a median annual income of USD 103,590 in 2020.

Employment of information security analysts is anticipated to grow by 33% between 2020 and 2030—much faster than average, according to the BLS (2022). Demand for qualified penetration testers is only expected to rise in the future as more industries go digital, increasing the need for new and creative solutions to prevent hackers from accessing sensitive information.

The following table lists the average salary for a penetration tester in various locations around the world.

The following are the average salaries listed based on locations:

Countries Average Salary for Penetration Tester
USA USA $ 88,012[1]
Malaysia Malaysia RM 60,000[2]
Gremany Germany € 57,221[3]
India India ₹ 611,030[4]
UK United Kingdom £ 38,62[5]
France France € 42,216[6]
italy Italy € 26,500[7]
Brazil Brazil $ 96,996[8]
canada Canada C$ 74,726[9]
South-Africa South Africa R 356,000[10]
Countries Average Salary for Penetration Tester
Israel Israel ₪ 180,000[11]
spain Spain € 30,521[12]
Australia Australia AU$ 83,128[13]
Mexico Mexico $ 201,072[14]
United-Arab-Emirates United Arab Emirates AED 219,000[15]
netherlands Netherlands € 48,000[16]
SAUDI-ARABIA Saudi Arabia SAR 159,000[17]
new-zealand New Zealand NZ$ 80,000[18]
SWITZERLAND Switzerland 97,000 Fr.[19]
Singapore singapore S$ 58,281[20]

Sources (data collected March 17, 2022)


How to Become a Penetration Tester?

Step 1:
Get a Relevant Degree
Step 2:
Acquire the Necessary Skills
Step 3:
Gain Industry Experience
Step 4:
Get Certified

Step 1: Get a Relevant Degree

Professionals with relevant hacking skills and work experience don’t always need specialized degrees to become penetration testers. However, many pen testing jobs require a bachelor’s or master’s degree in cybersecurity, computer science, IT, or a related field.

Computer science and IT degree programs provide students with knowledge of technical fundamentals, like operating systems, programming languages, networking tools, and computer hardware and software. Cybersecurity-focused programs additionally provide specialized coursework in topics like cryptography, digital forensics, vulnerability analysis, and security frameworks and tools.

Step 2: Acquire the Necessary Skills

Penetration testers need the technical and analytical proficiency to accurately detect security issues. Developing tools and strategies for breaking into security systems or creating innovative solutions to security problems requires creativity and strong problem-solving abilities.

Pen testers also need comprehensive knowledge of computer security, including digital forensics, system analysis, and the coding skills needed to break into networks.

Step 3: Gain Industry Experience

Due to the expertise required to hack into information systems, many penetration testing positions require prior professional experience in penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, or information security. Entry-level penetration testing roles usually require 1 to 4 years of experience performing IT functions like system, security, or network administration and engineering. Higher-level positions typically require 3 to 10 years of experience related to vulnerability assessment or network penetration testing.

New graduates and early-career professionals can often use relevant internships or IT support positions as qualifications for entry-level penetration testing positions. Many degree programs include internship components that enable students to network, gain mentors, and cultivate real-world information security skills.

Step 4: Get Certified

In addition to degree programs, obtaining relevant certifications in IT and cybersecurity is a great way to acquire professional competencies and validate skills. Aspiring penetration testers can acquire these skills through industry-recognized penetration testing certification programs like the C|PENT.

Employers and recruiters view specialized certifications as proof of a candidate’s capabilities. As a result, industry certifications are often required for penetration testing roles, in addition to the education and work experience prerequisites described above. EC-Council offers a range of well-respected cybersecurity certification options that feature cutting-edge curricula and extensive hands-on practice through challenges on EC-Council’s live Cyber Range.

What is the Best
Penetration testing Certification?

Holding top penetration testing certifications can help aspiring penetration testers carve out their niche in this field. EC-Council offers several leading industry certifications for penetration testers and other cybersecurity professionals.

Certified Penetration Testing Professional

The C|PENT program is a comprehensive course with an innovative and multidisciplinary curriculum that helps cybersecurity professionals polish their skills and gain proficiency in performing effective penetration tests in real-world enterprise network environments. The program covers advanced Windows attacks, IoT and OT system hacking, bypassing filtered networks, exploit writing, single and double pivoting, advanced privilege escalation, and binary exploitation.

A set of performance-based challenges on EC-Council’s live Cyber Range gives C|PENT participants hands-on practice opportunities based on scenarios that professional penetration testers encounter on the job. This immersive training is designed to create world-class penetration testers who have an edge when conducting real-life penetration tests. To learn more about pursuing this program, visit the C|PENT course page.

Certified Ethical Hacker

The Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH) credential is designed to equip security officers, site administrators, auditors, cybersecurity professionals, and other cybersecurity enthusiasts with ethical hacking skills. EC-Council’s C|EH program is the world’s most comprehensive ethical hacking course, designed to help information security professionals grasp the fundamentals of ethical hacking from a vendor-neutral perspective.

The C|EH course teaches participants how to assess an organization’s security posture by identifying vulnerabilities in its network and system infrastructure and mitigating the risks of unauthorized intrusions. For more details, visit the C|EH course page.


Licensed Penetration tester (Master)

EC-Council’s Licensed Penetration Tester (L|PT) credential separates good penetration testers from truly great ones. To earn the prestigious L|PT (Master) certification, candidates must score at least 90% on the C|PENT exam: a highly demanding, proctored challenge that requires penetration testers to put their knowledge to the test in a live environment.

This rigorous, expert-designed assessment tests participants’ penetration testing skills against a multi-layered network architecture with defense-in-depth controls over three intense levels, each containing three time-bound challenges. The L|PT (Master) credential shows that a penetration tester has proved their ability to make informed decisions while choosing their approach and exploits under intense pressure at critical stages.

Since the L|PT (Master) is achieved by scoring 90% or above on the C|PENT exam, those who obtain this credential will also earn the C|PENT certification, offering a unique opportunity to obtain two prestigious EC-Council certifications in one. Find out what it takes to join the ranks of elite penetration testers on the L|PT (Master) course page .

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