Information stored online is never 100 percent safe. Penetration testers are essential for companies to discover security vulnerabilities regarding their data. If you want to know how to get a job in penetration testing, then this article is for you. In it, we detail everything you might want to find out about the job.
We break down the highest-paying penetration testing jobs, the job outlook, and the penetration testing skills you’ll need to land one. We also cover the valued certifications you’ll want to earn, as well tips for finding a job in penetration testing and preparing for interviews.
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What Is Penetration Testing?
Penetration testing is deliberate, ethical hacking to simulate cyber attacks on a computer system, network, or web application. Penetration testers make vulnerability assessments to identify security risk areas needing improvement. Pre-empting these attacks helps businesses, governments, and individual clients protect their systems or data and improve their security systems.
Penetration testing is one of the many types of cyber security jobs. Penetration testers go by a variety of different names such as white hats, pen testers, ethical hackers, and assurance validators. Aircrack-Ng, Apktool, Burp Suite, and Hashcat are among the top 10 best penetration testing tools used in the field to identify and prevent security issues.
Penetration Testing Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects a 33 percent positive job outlook for pen testers. To add to this, Statista is expecting the cyber security market to hit 345 billion U.S. dollars by 2026. All of this indicates a promising career path for those working in cyber security.
What Education Do I Need to Become a Penetration Tester?
Most businesses hire applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, or Cyber Security. Regardless of the path you take, continued learning is important as technology evolves and new security flaws emerge. You will need to be on top of your game to identify the best possible cyber security protocols.
Can I Get a Penetration Testing Job Without a Degree?
Yes, there are many high-paying cyber security professional jobs available for people without a college degree, including penetration testing. Professionals who have opted not to get a degree have instead acquired certificates or have graduated from bootcamps. Some have even opted to self-study and have managed to secure employment in the cyber security field.
Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Get a Job in Penetration Testing?
Yes, a bootcamp can help you get a career in penetration testing. One of the best penetration testing bootcamps will provide you with the in-demand skills you need for an entry-level job in the field. Bootcamps offer hands-on learning to help you prepare to succeed on a cyber security team.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Job in Penetration Testing?
It can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. If you pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or Cyber Security, it can take between four and five years. Continued learning is important when working in the tech industry. It’s a good idea to get more penetration testing skills certifications other than your degree after you’ve graduated.
On the other hand, it can take as little as a few weeks to a few months to complete a bootcamp education. However, employers will often want you to have one to two years of hands-on experience before employing you as an ethical hacker or security analyst.
Common Penetration Testing Education Paths
Typical paths to a career in cyber security include getting a degree in computer science or cyber security at a university or community college, and bootcamp certifications. The path you take will depend on the flexibility of your schedule, what kind of tuition you can afford, and what kind of tech experience you already have.
Penetration Testing Bootcamps
A cyber security bootcamp can get you valuable hands-on experience and often a cyber security certification. Some bootcamps take a few weeks, others a few months. Top companies often hire people with bootcamp industry certifications. The best ethical hacking bootcamps offer valuable career services to help you secure employment after graduation.
Community colleges are an affordable way to get into a cyber security degree program, with some offering advanced degrees. Some allow both on-campus and online attendance. They can also provide other certification programs. Community colleges let you save on tuition costs and some offer accelerated or dual credit programs so you can earn a bachelor’s or a master’s in a shorter time.
Computer Science Degrees
This education path can give you a comprehensive knowledge of cyber security skills vital to protecting cyber security systems from malicious intent. A Bachelor’s in Computer Science or a master’s can more easily help you attain a high-paying salary in the cyber security industry. They can take three to five years to complete.
Key Penetration Testing Skills to List on Your Resume
There are both hard and soft skills crucial for a penetration testing position. These are things such as networking and system administration, network security control, and cloud security. Displaying your creative thinking and analytical skills will also come in very handy when applying for jobs.
Networking and System Administration
A comprehensive understanding of data transmission is paramount to the security of your data. Getting industry certifications like Cisco CCNA and CompTIA Security+ are helpful and will improve your experience level. Knowledge in system security will also make you proficient in system administration. Potential employers will be looking for these skills on your resume.
Network Security Control
Network security control involves improving network security, a fundamental skill in cyber security engineering. Learn about how networks, routers, firewalls, and devices work so that you can adequately leverage security tools to prevent unauthorized breaches with malicious intent. Putting these skills on a resume will help employers know that you’re worth hiring.
Proficiency in cyber security will demonstrate your technical skills to a potential employer. Showing that you can resolve concerns with programs such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and other hybrid or public platforms like Azure is important. Private businesses utilize cloud infrastructures to manage applications and usually offer high-paying salaries for those with these skills.
Where to Find Penetration Testing Jobs
There are several online platforms you can use to get started when looking for jobs in penetration testing. Here are some of the most popular ones. Keep in mind that there are many places and ways to find your dream career. Networking, internships, and dropping off a resume in person are all great options as well.
Indeed is a job board platform that is easy to use and is used worldwide. You can find permanent, part-time, and remote jobs. This is also a great way to see what penetration tester salaries are like, in case you are negotiating with a potential employer. Indeed lets you check out company profiles with reviews from previous employees.
ZipRecruiter is another popular job board website. Their job listings provide job descriptions, salaries, and requirements. You may need to sign up, but once you do, you’ll be able to create a profile that’ll let you easily apply to any job posting.
CareerBuilder is a well-known job board website posting on-location, remote, permanent, and part-time positions from a wide variety of companies. You can find jobs in cyber security, among others, with the listed salary and job requirements.
How to Prepare for Your Penetration Testing Interview
Preparing for an interview in the penetration testing industry is important. Acing the interview is vital to your success in landing the job, so you will want to make sure you are prepared. Here are a few questions you’ll likely have to answer in the interview.
Penetration Testing Interview Questions
- Compare penetration testing and vulnerability assessment. Can you explain the differences?
- What is cryptography?
- Explain symmetric and asymmetric encryption differentiations?
- What is your process when performing penetration testing? Do you have a specific approach you like to take?
The Five Highest-Paying Penetration Testing Jobs
|Penetration Testing Jobs||Average Salary||Projected Growth|
|Chief Information Security Officer||$167,117||33%|
|IT Security Architect||$126,906||33%*|
|IT Security Manager||$114,083||33%*|
*Job outlook has been sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report on Information Security Analysts.
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
- Salary: $167,117
Primarily, a CISO oversees the overall operations of a business’s IT security concerns and staff. A company’s cyber security is the CISOs number one priority. They usually have a graduate degree, a lot of experience in the field, and exceptional problem-solving skills.
- Salary: $151,966
Security directors are senior-level employees whose job duties are overseeing the implementation of a company’s IT security measures. This includes designing, managing, and disseminating resources within various security programs. They create user awareness and security compliance educational campaigns.
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IT Security Architect
- Salary: $126,906
An IT security architect is another senior-level worker in charge of building and managing a business’s computer and network security infrastructure. IT security architects develop ways to test security architectures via an image of its technological and information needs.
IT Security Manager
- Salary: $114,083
The IT security manager is a mid-level employee whose job description includes controlling a company’s IT security policies. They develop and implement strategies, manage budgets in collaboration with the CISO, and lead security awareness initiatives. Interpersonal and communication skills are crucial for success in this role.
- Salary: $95,762
A security engineer is a mid-level employee that develops and maintains IT security solutions. They configure firewalls and investigate intrusion incidents. Extensive knowledge of cyber security is vital for vulnerability and penetration testing, using encryption technologies, and developing network and web-related protocols.
Penetration Testing Career Path
The penetration testing industry, like many others, has various paths you could take throughout your career from entry-level to mid-level and then on to senior-level roles. Below are some of each to help you see what career path progressions your penetration testing skills could let you take.
Entry-Level Penetration Testing Jobs
- Application Penetration Tester – A pen tester simulates the breaching of a company’s computer systems and applications, detecting and addressing vulnerabilities that hackers may exploit.
- Cyber Security Penetration Tester – These professionals conduct ethical hacking on a company’s systems and networks to identify security threats and weaknesses. The outcomes of their tests and their recommendations help prevent cyber attacks.
- Network Penetration Tester – Network penetration testers run tests on cyber security networks and examine the strength of a company’s networks and infrastructure. This helps the business in identifying and addressing threats that hackers may use with malicious intent.
Mid-Level Penetration Testing Jobs
- Cyber Security Engineer – They protect data and systems from unauthorized access, possibly with malicious intent. Cyber security engineers also design policies and programs that protect data and systems from these security breaches.
- Cyber Security Manager – They perform operation evaluations and inspections. Cyber security managers usually manage a team of cyber security professionals.
- Information Security Manager – They manage security teams and monitor their performance. Information security managers manage budgets and ensure project goals are met using various technologies.
Senior-Level Penetration Testing Jobs
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) – They decide a company’s information security policies and strategies. The CISO supervises the development, execution, and enforcement of those measures and guidelines.
- Senior Defense Assessment Analyst – They research, analyze and record trends using the defense assessments of computer systems. Senior defense assessment analysts use data they’ve collected to develop insights and create plans for a wide range of industries.
- Director of Cyber Security – A director of cyber security sets and implements security measures and makes sure all employees follow these security measures.
Penetration Testing Certifications
There are several certifications you should consider getting to start your pen testing career. Below are some of the most recognized ones that will help potential employers pick you out from amongst the crowd of other applicants.
This certification is well known throughout the cyber security field. It proves your hands-on skills with all the most up-to-date cyber security tools, technologies, and protocols. This certification is not specifically for penetration testers, but it will help you progress in the field.
EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) v11
A Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification program by the EC-Council is a certificate for ethical hackers and cyber security professionals. It proves proficiency with the latest hacking tools, Exploit Technology (ET), hacking difficulties, malware analysis, and Internet of Things (IoT) security.
Penetration Testing with Kali Linux
The penetration testing with the Kali Linux program is an Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certification. This certification teaches you ethical hacking skills, hacking techniques, the Kali Linus OS, and preparation strategy for the OSCP exam.
Tips on How to Get a Job in Penetration Testing
You can take various routes to get a job in penetration testing. However, what we recommend is acquiring certification, networking with other professionals, and doing internships and hackathons. Remember to keep learning and educating yourself on the newest industry developments.
Whether you start with a degree or a bootcamp certificate, any kind of certification puts you ahead of those without it. Many employers require a degree, although there are opportunities for you to enter this profession in a top company with other kinds of certification.
Network With Other Professionals
Networking is important in any industry. Many people become employed via networking and establishing a positive rapport with working professionals. Joining the job boards mentioned earlier is a vital part of networking. LinkedIn is also a great way to network.
Get an Internship
Penetration testing internships and apprenticeships are a perfect way to acquire valuable on-the-job experience in pen testing that employers value. It is one of the best ways to network, as you are actually in the industry making valuable connections with people who might help you land a real job in the field.
Participate in Hackathons
Hackathons will help you practice and hone your pen-testing abilities and skills. You’ll get the opportunity to connect with many professionals already in the industry, opening up networking opportunities, and employers will note your solid penetration testing skills as a result.
Cyber security is a rapidly evolving industry. You need to stay updated on the latest developments in cyber security knowledge and skills to stay relevant. You can attend events, participate in forums, take workshops and courses, and listen to tutorials, blogs, and podcasts to help you stay informed.
Should You Get a Job in Penetration Testing in 2022?
Yes, if being an ethical hacker is of interest to you, then this article should have done nothing but provide great reasons you should get into this field. With the potential for excellent salaries and a positive job outlook, getting a job in penetration testing seems like a no-brainer.
If you’re looking for a faster path to get a job in penetration testing, look for bootcamps that also offer you valuable career services like mock interview preparations, resume writing tips, and post-graduation mentorship.
Penetration Testing FAQ
Yes, you can. Although some companies prefer applicants with a degree, penetration testing is a profession you can get into without a degree.
Yes, it can be hard to get into penetration testing. It may be easy for you if you have strong ethical integrity and a knack for technology and its technical concepts. There is a range of complicated skills you need to learn and master to get into penetration testing.
Penetration testers are necessary to protect businesses from malicious hackers who want to breach their systems and acquire valuable confidential data and more.
Yes, in the tech industry, candidates with at least some hands-on experience tend to be favored during the hiring process. There are some apprenticeships specifically designed for beginners, so make sure you do your research and choose the most appropriate one for your needs and level of skill.
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