One of the fastest-growing jobs in the tech industry is penetration testing. Cyber security is a rising concern in various industries. Businesses are looking for solutions and need their IT security staff or external security consulting firms to assess their security systems’ strength. Continue reading to learn about the best entry-level penetration tester jobs and common penetration tester salaries.
What Is Penetration Testing and Why Is It Important?
Penetration testers, often referred to as pen testers, are network security professionals who try to hack into a company’s IT systems and software. They perform authorized network penetration testing to uncover security flaws, report assessment findings to stakeholders, and provide recommendations. Penetration testers also design and create their own set of tests.
What Is the Job Outlook for Penetration Testers?
The career outlook for penetration testers is very favorable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the expected employment growth for 2020 to 2030 is 33 percent, with approximately 16,300 job openings annually. Cyber security analysts play a key role in designing network security measures for a broad range of businesses and financial institutions. This is essential to protect digital systems from the increasing cyber risks present today.
Top Reasons to Pursue a Career in Penetration Testing
- Job security. Companies will not easily let go of their pen testers since there is often a shortage of cyber security analysts.
- High demand. As technology advances, the demand for this specialized job grows consistently every year.
- Financially rewarding. An entry-level pen tester’s average annual salary of $69,061 will increase with their level of experience and the professional certifications they gain.
- Flexible work arrangements. A lot of pen testers work from home or remotely. Flexible working hours are common in this field, and it’s easy to find a remote opportunity if that’s what you’re after.
- Job satisfaction. It can be mentally challenging but gratifying when you find security risks and develop the best security protocols to counter them. Pen testers can help a variety of businesses and, in turn, consumers, avoid major security breaches.
What Does an Entry-Level Penetration Tester Do?
Penetration testers use their security experience to assist organizations in security vulnerability analysis and resolving security issues that impact their digital systems and computing networks. They can be part of a company’s internal cyber security and IT technical teams or work for a specialized cyber security services firm that provides security assessment services.
Types of Entry-Level Penetration Tester Roles
Internal Network Penetration Tester
An internal network pen tester simulates attacks carried out by a hacker who already has access to the internal network to acquire more control and cause damage. They record, analyze, and determine how a possible attacker’s actions can cause harm once inside the network. Based on their test results, internal network pen testers recommend ways to bolster the network’s defenses before an actual cyberattack can happen.
External Network Penetration Tester
An external network pen tester simulates cyberattacks and hacking activities from a hacker with no prior access to the network systems. They assess the network’s security perimeter systems and their most exposed parts. These professionals try to uncover vulnerabilities, attempt to gain control, and access sensitive information.
They analyze the cyberattack techniques used for breaking into the system, the extent to which a malicious attacker could penetrate the network, and the business impact of a successful attack.
Wireless Penetration Tester
A wireless penetration tester mimics real-life cyberattacks on the network security using wireless gateways like wireless local area network (WLAN), Bluetooth and BLE devices, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and DECT. They test the strength of the network security, identify the vulnerabilities, and propose remediations on the security flaws.
Common Responsibilities of Entry-Level Penetration Tester Jobs
- Conduct regular tests on a company’s different applications, networks, and computer systems.
- Create physical security assessments for the security features of servers, computer systems, and networks for improved vulnerability analysis.
- Conduct regular security audits from a logical, theoretical, technical, and hands-on standpoint.
- Conduct threat analysis and use the penetration test reports to strengthen the security of wireless networks, databases, and software.
- Oversee penetration testing tool installations.
How Much Do Entry-Level Penetration Tester Jobs Pay?
As mentioned above, an inexperienced entry-level pen testers’ average annual salary is $69,061, while those with one to four years of experience earn an average of $88,040. The pay range goes from $59,000 to $137,000 and is dependent on the experience level, penetration testing skills, and relevant certifications.
Entry-Level Penetration Tester Jobs That Pay the Most: Overview
|Job||Average Salary||Min. Education/ Training||Associated Mid Roles||Associated
|Application Penetration Tester||$120,274||Associate’s or bachelor’s degree, preferably in computer science, technology, engineering or a math-related field||Cyber security engineer,
information security manager
|Senior cyber security engineer,
|Cyber Security Penetration Tester||$114,007||Bachelor’s degree, preferably computer science or information systems||Cyber security engineer,
cyber security manager
|Director of computing and networking,
senior cyber security engineer
|Network Penetration Tester||$109,029||Associate’s or bachelor’s degree, preferably computer science, technology, engineering or math-related field||Lead security penetration tester,
information security manager
|Chief information security officer (CISO),
senior defense assessment analyst
|Remote Penetration Tester||$105,033||Bachelor’s degree, preferably computer science or information systems||Cyber security engineer,
senior security consultant
|Senior cyber security engineer,
|Cloud Penetration Tester||$103,590||Bachelor’s degree in computer science or other computer majors||Lead security penetration tester,
defense assessment analyst
|Bug bounty specialist,
senior defense assessment analyst
|Junior Penetration Tester||$97,838||Bachelor’s degree in computer science, preferably major in cyber security, software development, networking, or systems administration||Lead security penetration tester,
senior security consultant
|Senior cyber security engineer,
senior penetration tester
|Associate Penetration Tester||$87,116||Bachelor’s degree in computer science or technical-related field||Senior security consultant,
cyber security manager
|Senior penetration tester,
Best Entry-Level Penetration Tester Jobs: A Closer Look
Application Penetration Tester
An application pen tester launches simulated infiltrations of a company’s computer systems through its applications to detect and address vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit.
- Conduct penetration tests of the applications created by the company or its clients to detect security vulnerabilities and verify the security strength of the company’s systems.
- Develop security controls in one or more security functions while evaluating, recommending, and implementing improvements.
- Develop and execute software solutions for web-based applications.
Cyber Security Penetration Tester
A cyber security penetration tester conducts authorized simulated cyberattacks on a company’s digital systems and networks to help pinpoint security weaknesses. The results and recommendations from these tests can help prevent malicious hackers from exploiting these weaknesses.
- Take a proactive, offensive role in cyber security by launching simulated attacks against a company’s existing computer systems and security protocols.
- Run network, web application, wireless, and social engineering penetration tests using a wide range of tools and hacking techniques with varying levels of complexity to find security gaps.
- Document actions in detail, create a penetration testing report, and provide remediation strategies to mitigate future attacks.
Network Penetration Tester
A network penetration tester runs tests and examines the cyber security and robustness of a company’s network and infrastructure. They use their technical knowledge to perform regular penetration testing to determine and remedy vulnerabilities.
- Identify, test, and document the primary targets in the network interface, including network interfaces, user interfaces, application programming interfaces (APIs), and other input points prone to hacking.
- Note all dialogs associated with user alerts and error messages sent to external users, identify how and what information is shared.
- Create various disaster scenarios for network penetration testing.
Remote Penetration Tester
In this pen testing role, you’ll need advanced knowledge and analytical skills in information security to conduct security tests on networks, web-based applications, and computer systems.
- Develop, design, and implement offensive cyber security tests and tools to break into security-protected applications, domains, and networks to search for vulnerabilities.
- Run web, mobile, and thick application pen tests and security reviews of application designs, including web applications, web services, mobile applications, thick-client applications, and SaaS.
- Create advanced security strategies and supporting assets.
Cloud Penetration Tester
The growing corporate use of cloud technologies has led to the creation of a new role, namely the cloud penetration tester. Their expertise is cloud-specific configurations, encryption, application programming interfaces (API), databases, and storage access.
- Pinpoint threats, exposures, and gaps in the cloud system.
- Determine the effect of these security gaps and create a working remedy.
- Improve the company’s overall cloud security and avoid infringements on privacy policies.
Junior Penetration Tester
A junior penetration tester improves a computer network’s security by finding and exposing any vulnerability a hacker might take advantage of. Junior penetration testers plan and execute evaluation tests under the supervision of senior penetration testers.
- Carry out pen tests, social engineering tests, and vulnerability assessments.
- Bolster computer security by researching tools, techniques, and countermeasures in computer and network vulnerabilities, data hiding, and encryption.
- Perform penetration testing tool installations, configurations, and maintenance.
Associate Penetration Tester
Associate penetration testers plan and execute security systems to secure electronic information. They monitor systems for intrusion alerts, possible vulnerabilities, and develop guidelines for reporting issues.
- Execute network penetration, application penetration assessments, wireless network assessments, source code inspections, and social-engineering checks.
- Develop accurate reports and presentations that are understandable for technical and executive audiences.
- Instruct and train technical staff on identifying, avoiding, and mitigating cyber security threats.
What Types of Companies Hire Entry-Level Penetration Testers?
Big tech companies like Microsoft often employ two teams of penetration testing specialists. Smaller tech companies contract a cyber security firm like Rhino Security Labs Inc or Raytheon Technologies to outsource their penetration testing tasks. Gaining employment at one of these companies is an excellent opportunity for an entry-level penetration tester to gain experience and enter the cybersecurity industry.
Career Progression: Mid- and Senior-Level Penetration Tester Roles
Mid-Level Penetration Tester Jobs
Information Security Manager
- Average salary: $126,991
- Related entry-level roles: Application penetration tester, network penetration tester
- Responsibilities: Manage team members’ day-to-day performance, adhere to approved project budget, ensure fulfillment of project goals by using a variety of technologies
Cyber Security Manager
- Average salary: $136,625
- Related entry-level roles: Associate penetration tester, cyber security penetration tester
- Responsibilities: Conduct security operation evaluations and inspections, oversee team of cybersecurity professionals
Senior Penetration Tester Jobs
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
- Average salary: $159,877
- Related entry-level roles: Web application penetration tester, network penetration tester
- Responsibilities: Decides the company’s information security policy and strategy, supervises the development, execution, and enforcement of information security measures and guidelines
Senior Defense Assessment Analyst
- Average salary: $112,039
- Related entry-level roles: Cloud penetration tester, network penetration tester
- Responsibilities: Research, analyze, and document different trends and results of a computer system’s defense assessment, use available and collected data to draw insights and conclusions to create plans in various industries
Director of Cyber Security
- Average salary: $129,681
- Related entry-level roles: Cyber security penetration tester, cloud penetration tester
- Responsibilities: Set and implement security measures and ensure that all company staff follow them
How to Get a Job in Penetration Testing
Currently, businesses often hire applicants with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in areas of study such as computer science, IT, or cyber security. However, there are other ways to get a job in penetration testing. Attending certification programs, earning professional certifications, and having previous experience can help you get into the cyber security industry.
Required Skills for an Entry-Level Penetration Testing Job
- Strong technical skills: Knowledge in networking, *nix systems, programming, bug bounty programs, and coding are essential.
- Creativity and imagination: This skill is valuable when creating pen tests.
- Communication and interpersonal skills: Effectively framing social engineering attacks, documenting findings, and filling out written reports is crucial to conveying your work.
- Outstanding team player: Adaptability, flexibility, and teamwork are necessary as pen testers often work in teams.
- Exceptional problem-solving skills: This skill is crucial in finding the root cause of technical and non-technical issues.
Top Penetration Testing Certifications for Entry-Level Penetration Tester
- Certified Ethical Hacker: A renowned license issued by the EC-Council provides an excellent foundation for pen testers.
- GIAC Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN): A license issued by the digital-information protection enterprise GIAC since 1999, validating a practitioner’s penetration testing skills, techniques, and methodologies.
- Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP): It is the optimum pen testing license due to the detailed practical exam.
- Certified Penetration Tester (CPT): A license issued by the IACRB to evaluate a pen tester’s operational approach and skills.
- Certified Expert Penetration Tester (CEPT): An advanced version of the CPT, suited for penetration testing professionals with advanced experience and a wide knowledge base.
Can You Get an Entry-Level Penetration Testing Job with a Coding Bootcamp?
Yes, any of the best cybersecurity bootcamps can help you get an entry-level pen testing job. As a security professional, you’ll need to use various tools, frameworks, and hacking methodologies to conduct pen tests, and a specialized bootcamp can teach you how to do that.
Top Penetration Tester Bootcamps
Best Resources for Penetration Testing
Blogs such as SANS Cyber Security Blog and Pen Test Partners are excellent sources for the latest penetration testing updates and news.
Security conferences with professional speakers in cyber security and ethical hacking can help you gain new knowledge and stay updated with the latest developments in the community. At these conferences, industry pros share experiences and lessons learned and conduct informative and practical training presentations.
Is a Career in Penetration Testing for You?
A penetration tester career is an excellent idea if you want a challenging, intellectually rewarding, high-paying tech job. If you are ready to develop your technical skills as well as your analytical and problem-solving skills, you can begin to prepare for a career in pen testing.
Entry-Level Penetration Tester Jobs FAQ
After getting a four-year bachelor’s degree, preferably in IT or other computer-related majors, you’ll need at least one to four years of IT work experience to get entry-level positions in pen testing.
You’ll need an aptitude for challenges and a knack for problem-solving. Excellent communication skills and presentation skills are also essential if you want career growth. You should also be able to work well as part of a technical team.
Not necessarily, some cyber security roles depend on your skills and hands-on experience instead. It is preferable to have a major in computer science as it provides a great foundation, but it is not always required. You can also obtain the necessary penetration tester skills from a bootcamp.
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Yes, having IT certifications helps identify whether an applicant has baseline knowledge. CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) is the gold standard and oldest certification for IT security analysts.
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