Penetration tester jobs salary

Penetration tester jobs salary DEFAULT

Average Penetration Tester Salary

Avg. Base Salary (USD)

The average salary for a Penetration Tester is $87,737

Profit Sharing

$690 - $15k


What is the Pay by Experience Level for Penetration Testers?

An entry-level Penetration Tester with less than 1 year experience can expect to earn an average total compensation (includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay) of $67,947 based on 71 salaries. An early career Penetration Tester with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $81,473 based on 293 salaries. A …Read more

What Do Penetration Testers Do?

The integrity of internal systems connected with the wider Internet is crucial to the operations of many organizations, from financial institutions to health care companies to government agencies. Organizations often employ cybersecurity experts to help protect their vital systems from malicious attacks. One of the basic tasks that must be accomplished to secure a system is to find where vulnerabilities exist. The penetration tester uses a wide variety of tools (some of which may be …Read more

Penetration Tester Tasks

  • Conduct IT/Cyber Security assessments / penetration tests (hands-on work), as an individual, self-managed tester, or in small project teams.
  • Work with customers to determine their need for security assessments, present and explain the employed methodology, and support them with feedback and verification during mitigation.
  • Document findings for management and technical staff and recommend mitigating actions.
  • Follow industry best practice methodologies for penetration testing, and be able to use tools for a basis level assessment.
  • Search for security vulnerabilities in web applications, fat/thin client applications, and standard applications, and assess the secure configuration of operating systems and network devices.

Job Satisfaction for Penetration Tester

4.1 out of 5

Highly Satisfied


Based on 53 responses, the job of Penetration Tester has received a job satisfaction rating of 4.1 out of 5. On average, Penetration Testers are highly satisfied with their job.

Gender Breakdown

This data is based on 247 survey responses. Learn more about the gender pay gap.

Common Health Benefits


Penetration Tester Career Overview

Penetration testers, also known as pen testers, help organizations identify and resolve security vulnerabilities affecting their digital assets and computer networks. Some professionals hold in-house positions with permanent employers, functioning as part of internal cybersecurity or information technology (IT) teams. Other pen testers work for specialized firms that provide services to clients.

Industries that deal with sensitive, personal, classified, or proprietary information tend to hire penetration testers. Employers increasingly prefer applicants with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science, IT, cybersecurity, or a related specialization. However, some may place more emphasis on the candidate’s knowledge and experience than their formal educational backgrounds.

The cybersecurity profession tends to attract people with advanced technical and problem-solving skills. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes penetration testing in the job duties information security analysts perform. The agency projects a 33% increase in demand for information security analysts from 2020 and 2030. The BLS also reports a median annual salary of $103,590 in 2020.

Explore This Page:History | Similar Careers | Required Skills | Salary | How to Become | FAQs

History of Penetration Testers

In the 1960s, computer systems became capable of exchanging data across communication networks. Security experts quickly realized these data exchanges were vulnerable to external attacks. The increasing role of computers in government and business made it necessary to create effective safeguards.

In 1967, more than 15,000 computing experts and public and private sector officials met at the Joint Computer Conference. They discussed the issue of network penetration, a concept that would become known as penetration testing.

Penetration testing has also become a big business, with 2021 estimates placing the value of the global cybersecurity industry at $217.9 billion.

Early efforts by the RAND Corporation helped create a systematic approach to penetration testing. Advanced computer security systems like Multics then emerged. Multics functioned as the industry’s gold standard until about 2000.

Since that time, penetration testing has become increasingly complex and specialized. Today, pen testers draw on various advanced tools to identify and close off system vulnerabilities. Penetration testing has also become a big business, with 2021 estimates placing the value of the global cybersecurity industry at $217.9 billion.

Similar Specializations and Career Paths

Cybersecurity offers many career paths beyond penetration testing. Senior roles with high levels of responsibility usually require multiple years of experience and advanced degrees.

Other positions are open to job-seekers with the same educational backgrounds as penetration testers. These include information security analysts, security software developers, and network security architects.

Candidates can pursue security-related career paths after earning a computer science degree with a cybersecurity specialization. However, general computer science, computer engineering, and information technology degrees may also qualify job-seekers for entry-level roles.

As their careers advance, professionals may choose to supplement their existing education with higher degrees. Others elect to pursue industry-standard certifications offered by organizations such as CompTIA, EC-Council, and GIAC.

Additional certifications can help cybersecurity professionals advance into roles with high pay and strong growth potential. For instance, the BLS projects that demand for information security analysts will grow by 33% between 2020-2030. The median annual pay for information security analysts exceeded $100,000 in May 2020.

CareerDescriptionRequired EducationRequired ExperienceMedian Annual Salary (2020)
Information Security AnalystSecurity analysts plan and implement strategies to protect their employer’s computers and networks from intrusions and attacks. Bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science, computer programming, information technology, or cybersecuritySome companies prefer candidates with specialized MBAs in information systemsMultiple years in a related position, such as database security or systems administration$103,590
Security Software DeveloperThese professionals specialize in developing software-based tools for enhancing organizational computer and network security.Bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science, software development, information technology, computer engineering, or mathematicsPrevious experience in quality assurance (QA) testing or a related position may be an asset$110,140
Security ArchitectNetwork security architects design, implement, and monitor the security features used in communication network infrastructure.Bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science, computer engineering, or a specialized information systems discipline5-10 years in IT roles such as systems analysis or database administration$116,780

Explore More Related Careers in the Field of Cybersecurity:

Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

What Does a Penetration Tester Do?

Some penetration testing jobs carry other titles, such as “ethical hacker” or “assurance validator.” These positions have similar duties to a penetration tester: to seek, identify, and attempt to breach existing weaknesses in digital systems and computing networks. These systems and networks include websites, data storage systems, and other IT assets.

Many people confuse penetration testing with vulnerability testing. However, these two cybersecurity specializations have distinct differences. Vulnerability testers look for flaws and weaknesses during a security program’s design and setup phases. Penetration testers specifically seek out flaws and weaknesses in active systems.

Penetration testing teams simulate cyberattacks and other security breaches designed to access sensitive, private, or proprietary information. They utilize existing hacking tools and strategies and devise their own. During a simulated attack, pen testers document their actions to generate detailed reports indicating how they managed to bypass established security protocols.

Penetration testing teams help their employers avoid the public relations fallout and loss of consumer confidence that accompany actual hacks and cyberattacks. They also help businesses and organizations improve their digital security measures.

Key Soft Skills for Penetration Testers

  • A Desire to Learn: Hackers and cybercriminals constantly change their strategies and tactics as technology continually evolves. Penetration testing professionals need to stay updated on the latest developments on both fronts.
  • A Teamwork Orientation: Penetration testers often work in teams, with junior members undertaking duties with lower levels of responsibility while reporting to senior members.
  • Strong Verbal Communication: Team members must articulate their findings in clear, easy-to-follow language that people without advanced technical knowledge or skills can understand.
  • Report Writing: Strong writing skills serve penetration testing professionals well because their duties include producing reports for management and executive teams to review.

Key Hard Skills for Penetration Testers

  • Deep Knowledge of Exploits and Vulnerabilities: Most employers prefer candidates whose knowledge of vulnerabilities and exploits goes beyond automated approaches.
  • Scripting and/or Coding: Testers with good working knowledge of scripting and/or coding can save time on individual assessments.
  • Complete Command of Operating Systems: Penetration testers need advanced knowledge of the operating systems they attempt to breach while conducting their assessments.
  • Strong Working Knowledge of Networking and Network Protocols: By definition, understanding how hackers and cybercriminals operate requires penetration testers to understand networking and network protocols like TCP/IP, UDP, ARP, DNS, and DHCP.

A Day in the Life of a Penetration Tester

Pen testers spend most of their time conducting assessments and running tests. These duties may target internal or external assets. Pen testers can work both on site and remotely.

During the morning, the tester or testing team decides on a strategy for the project at hand and sets up the required tools. In some cases, this involves rounding up what professionals call “open source intelligence” or OSINT, which real-life hackers draw on when trying to bypass security measures and initiate attacks.

In the afternoon, teams carry out the tests they spent the morning designing. Other duties include carrying out simulations to assess other aspects of internal risk. For instance, penetration testing teams may target select employees with phishing scams or other false breaches to see how those responses affect established security protocols.

Penetration Tester Main Responsibilities

  • Plan and Design Penetration Tests: Penetration testers must develop experiments and simulations that evaluate the effectiveness of specific, existing security measures.
  • Carry Out Tests and Other Simulations: After planning and designing assessments, penetration testing teams carry out investigations and document their outcomes.
  • Creating Reports and Recommendations: Penetration testing teams convey findings into reports to present to their supervisors and other key organizational decision-makers. Depending on the intended audience, these reports may use either lay or technical language.
  • Advise Management on Security Improvements: Senior members of penetration testing teams often interface directly with management-level employees, communicating the level of risk posed by specific vulnerabilities and offering advice on how to address them.
  • Work With Other Employees to Improve Organizational Cybersecurity: Penetration testing professionals cooperate with other cybersecurity and IT personnel to educate employees on steps to boost the organization’s cybersecurity levels.

Learn More About a Typical Day for a Penetration Tester

Salary and Career Outlook for Penetration Testers

The BLS predicts explosive growth in the cybersecurity field. The projected employment growth for security analysts is 31% from 2020-2030, which far outpaces the average rate for all other occupations.

As of September 2021, PayScale reported a typical base salary of nearly $87,000 per year for pen testers. At the low end (bottom 10%), pentesters earn about $59,000 per year. At the high end (top 10%), they make up to $138,000 per year. Pay rates in major metro areas and leading tech hubs tend to be on the higher end of the scale.

The projected employment growth for security analysts is 31% from 2020-2030, which far outpaces the average rate for all other occupations.

As in many career paths, experience and education influence earning potential. With additional experience and skills, professionals can make more money.

Penetration Tester

Average Annual Salary


Source: PayScale

See How Location Affects Salary for Penetration Testers

How to Become a Pen Tester

The typical journey to becoming a penetration tester begins in high school or college. During this time, individuals with the necessary aptitudes often discover and explore their interest in computer science and IT, building technical skills and knowledge of operating systems, scripting, coding, and programming.

Students proceed into computer science, computer engineering, IT, or cybersecurity degree programs. Entry-level penetration tester requirements include both education and experience. A bachelor’s degree increasingly serves as the minimum necessary level of schooling.

Candidates then build penetration tester skills by working in entry-level IT positions, including system or network security and administration roles. Professionals can also pursue industry certifications. After 1-4 years of employment, emerging professionals typically possess the knowledge and experience to land penetration testing jobs.

Resources for Penetration Testers

Professional Organizations for Pen Testers

  • Information Systems Security Association International

    This collaborative professional network unites cybersecurity professionals worldwide through training programs, workshops, and career services. ISSA also maintains a fellows program for ambitious professionals.

  • (ISC)2

    This leading nonprofit cybersecurity organization features a membership base of more than 150,000 professionals. It offers respected certifications, exam preparation resources, career services, and many other perks.

  • Comp-TIA

    Another respected global leader in cybersecurity, the Comp-TIA organization offers specialized training programs, continuing education, and certifications. Members also gain access to an exclusive career center.


    This enterprise-oriented organization offers benefits including members-only career fairs and job boards, international conferences, and more than 200 local chapters that host training workshops and events. ISACA offers student, recent graduate, and professional membership levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to become a penetration tester?

    Job-seekers usually transition into penetration testing after earning a four-year bachelor’s degree and obtaining 1-4 years of IT experience.

  • Is there a penetration testing degree I should get?

    For some employers, knowledge and skills may take higher priority than formal education. However, many pen testers enter the field after completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science, IT, or cybersecurity.

  • How much does a penetration tester make?

    PayScale reports an average penetration tester salary of $87,436 as of August 2021. Actual salary figures may vary, depending on industry, location, and experience.

  • What do I need to learn penetration testing and get a job?

    Degrees and industry-standard ethical hacking and penetration testing certifications can help applicants land jobs. Typically, pen tester job requirements include advanced knowledge of the techniques and tools hackers use to breach protected information networks along with experience.

  • What does a penetration tester do?

    Pen testers design and plan simulations and security assessments designed to probe existing cybersecurity measures for potential weaknesses. They also document their findings in reports and present them to their clients and employers.

Reviewed by:

Portrait of Brian Nichols

Brian Nichols

Born and raised in upstate New York, Brian Nichols began his IT education through a vocational high school where he focused on computer science, IT fundamentals, and networking. Brian then went to his local community college, where he received his associate of science in computer information science. He then received his bachelor of science in applied networking and system administration from a private college. Brian now lives in Kansas City, where he works full-time as a DevOps engineer. Brian is also a part-time instructor in cybersecurity. He’s passionate about cybersecurity and helping students succeed.

Brian Nichols is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.

  1. 980ti msi
  2. Google play conversion rate
  3. Blood during ovulation
  4. Yugioh organization news
  5. Receiver home audio

18 Realistic Pen Testing Salaries in the US

The IT salaries posted on blog posts and websites are often entirely out of touch with the vast majority of American cities. 

Here’s how it goes: A company wants to show the importance of certification, so they claim that earning the CompTIA A+ will earn you $100,000 per year. We all know that’s ridiculous. Certainly, there are IT pros that may have earned the A+ along the way and now make six figures, but that salary isn’t the direct result of a foundational exam.

The other type of wildly out-of-touch salaries is the national averages. What happens when high-cost areas like California, New York, and Washington, D.C. push up the average for places like Cleveland and Orlando.

In this article, we’re going to look at 18 (realistic) salaries for penetration testers across the United States — and the reasons for the salary ranges. 

What Does a Penetration Tester Do? 

A penetration tester is a security professional who assesses company security defenses — and attempts to find vulnerabilities in their networks, applications, and even people. A thorough penetration tester may even test physical security. 

Penetration testers are essentially just company-sponsored hackers. That’s why they’re also known as white hat hackers or ethical hackers, which imply they have the company’s permission to gain otherwise unauthorized access to their systems. 

Read More: How to Become a Penetration Tester

18 Honest Penetration Tester Salaries

To realistically look at salaries, you have to dive in a little deeper. You have to look at localities, and determine the cost of living, housing prices, and the value of skill on the market, which is largely factored into sites like Glassdoor, which is where we got these salaries. 






San Francisco

























New York




















Salt Lake City





Des Moines

























Kansas City





As expected, penetration tester salaries in larger markets make more than their smaller-market peers, but there’s still a considerable distance between the salary ranges here. 

For instance, there’s about a $51,000 spread between the highest and lowest paid among the medium-sized cities like Tucson and Cleveland. There’s an even greater range of salaries in the largest metro areas. The lowest-paid San Francisco pen testers make $69,000 less than the highest-paid pen testers. 

Now that we’ve looked at the location as a salary variable, let’s look at the other reasons for the disparity between the highest and lowest penetration testing salaries. 

Salary Considerations for Penetration Testers

As with all jobs, there are a few factors that play into the level of compensation: experience, education, and the type of company. Salaries for penetration testers are no different.

Start your 30-day FREE TRIAL and begin your PenTest+ certification journey today!

Pen Testing Experience Requirement: 6 to 8 years

Penetration testers are fairly well-paid as a whole due to the relative scarcity of security professionals in the United States. In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that more than 500,000 cybersecurity positions went unfilled in the United States due to the lack of qualified candidates. 

Next, there’s a high demand for qualified penetration testers. Cybercrime has been prevalent since the dawn of the internet, but companies are paying closer attention to security since the giant Marriott and Yahoo data breaches. Additionally, GDPR takes a bad situation and adds potentially massive fines on top of it. 

For all these reasons, security professionals — and offensive security professionals in particular — are in high demand at the same time as when they’re scarce. That’s great news both for salaries and job prospects. There’s no better time to be a security professional. 

Unfortunately, you can’t become a security professional overnight — and certainly not a pentester. Most companies require at least a few years of pen testing experience, which doesn’t sound like that much until you realize the pen testers didn’t start out in security.

Security professionals typically start out as network engineers, sysadmins, or software engineers, and then move laterally into security. To even get a job in cybersecurity, you’ll probably need at least 3 to 5 years in a non-security role before transitioning to security. 

Tack a few years of penetration testing experience onto another 3 to 5 years in non-security roles and you’re at 6 to 8 years to become a pentester. And that makes sense considering the level of proficiency you need to find and exploit threats. 

Think of it this way: Penetration testers are essentially just company-sponsored hackers. That’s why they’re also known as white hat hackers or ethical hackers, which imply they have the company’s permission to gain otherwise unauthorized access to their systems. Since pentesters are just hackers, they need the same experience as a hacker, which means knowledge, tools, and methods. 

Penetration Testing Tools: Kali Linux

Hackers are both looking for open doors (like open ports, weak passwords, or un-updated software) — and also cracks in your system. Cracks may include user input fields unprotected from SQL injections. To find these open doors and cracks, penetration testers and hackers alike will use the Kali Linux operating system, which is preloaded with more than 600 penetration testing tools. We published another blog post that goes deeper into the specific Kali Linux tools. 

Penetration Testing Methods

Hackers and penetration testers mix and match the 600+ tools available to them in Kali Linux into methods that match the system types, vulnerabilities they unearth, and their goals. But, ultimately, a penetration tester can actually be boiled down into a simple formula:

  • Find vulnerabilities
  • Exploit the vulnerability
  • Document the vulnerability

Penetration testing is an intensely hands-on profession that’s sometimes hard to document for finding a job.

Enroll in our Cybersecurity Bootcamp program to launch your career in cybersecurity.

Pen Testing Education: PenTest+, CEH, OSCP

To be a successful penetration tester, you basically have to know everything: networking, systems, applications, and then security as well. And those requirements are reflected in the penetration tester job descriptions. The easiest way to validate those years of knowledge and experience with pen-testing tools and methods is through three certifications:

CompTIA PenTest+

The CompTIA PenTest+ (PT0-001) is an intermediate-level IT certification that validates the tools and methods a penetration tester would learn in their first couple years on the job. While not as difficult or respected as the other two exams, it’s still a valuable certification to validate your entry-level penetration testing knowledge. 

Salary Impact: The PenTest+ will certainly get you an interview. But to enter in the upper range of the salary brackets, you should consider the other two certifications.

EC-Council CEH

The CEH Practical exam is a 6-hour hands-on exam that tests your ethical hacking skills in a massive virtual environment. It’s a relatively new EC-Council exam but carries with it ANSI-accreditation and approval by the DoD as compliant with 8140 and NICE 2.0 Cybersecurity Framework. 

Salary Impact: Depending on your sector, the CEH Practical will probably open some doors into senior offensive security roles. That’s particularly true if you work within the U.S. federal government or for one of its contractors. 


The OSCP is the gold standard and the one you should pursue at some point. The OSCP exam is a 24-hour practical exam that tests your ability to break into a variety of machines with a wide assortment of penetration testing tools. It’s both rigorous and grueling, but the impact on your career (and salary) will be great. 

Salary Impact: If you’re looking to pull down a salary at the top of the range, then OSCP should be your goal. OSCPs are highly regarded and sought-after by both large companies and security firms. 

What Type of Company Do You Want to Work For?

A penetration tester can be a full-time employee. For instance, Microsoft has two teams of security engineers divided into blue and red teams to test any new products or applications. The red team attempts to break into the systems hardened by the blue team, and then every quarter they switch teams. Then the former red team uses what they learned to harden the systems. 

(In case you were wondering, these security engineers likely make between $116,000 to $159,000 in base salary and bonuses according to Glassdoor.)

For a company like Microsoft, it makes sense to have (at least) two dedicated teams of pentesters-turned-security engineers. However, most companies hire out penetration testing to security firms, which is a perfect opportunity to get exposure to many systems and challenges.

Additionally, offensive security experts are also highly sought after by the federal and state governments. With the growing threat of state-sponsored hackers, the federal government is attempting to recruit as much tech talent as they can find, which absolutely includes penetration testers. 

Penetration testing can either be folded into the job roles of a security engineer or be assigned to a dedicated penetration tester. 

In either case, there’s never been a better time to be in the security field — and the demand is only going to grow. 

Connect with our experts for counseling on your next step to succeed as a Penetration Tester.

penetration testing for beginners - pen tester - ethical hacker - penetration tester career

How Much Can I Make with a CompTIA PenTest+ Certification?

IT cybersecurity offers countless paths to fulfilling jobs and rewarding pay – you determine the direction and, ultimately, how much money you can earn with CompTIA PenTest+. Not everyone has the same reason for getting certified. In general, you can apply your CompTIA PenTest+ certification in the following ways:

  • Attract the attention of employers with an endorsement of your skills that is respected globally and industry-wide.
  • Position yourself as a top candidate for intermediate-level cybersecurity positions.
  • Confirm to yourself that you've mastered the latest skills and concepts that act as the foundation of a career in penetration testing.

In all scenarios, CompTIA PenTest+ can serve as a springboard for cybersecurity careers, ensuring pen testing professionals are better prepared to solve a wide variety of issues when securing and defending networks in today's complicated business computing landscape.

Jobs That Require or Benefit from a CompTIA PenTest+ Certification

Aspiring to an intermediate-level point for your cybersecurity career, as well as your aspirations and how much work you’re willing to put into growing your career, have great impact on how much you can make in any job. Security is no exception. Here are a few common job titles that use CompTIA PenTest+:

  • Penetration tester
  • Vulnerability tester
  • Security analyst (II)
  • Vulnerability assessment analyst
  • Network security operations
  • Application security vulnerability

The job roles covered by CompTIA PenTest+ are categorized under Information Security Analysts by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of jobs in this category is expected to grow by more than 31 percent by 2029. The median pay in 2019 was $99,730.

The Reality of Mean Salary Percentiles

When researching salaries and aiming your career at specific job titles, remember that you may see a range of salaries for one particular job because some companies and geographies will pay more than others. Companies that pay more may also demand more, in terms of experience or responsibilities. The result is a range of possible salaries for any particular job title and the reality of mean salary percentiles.

Let’s look at the information security analysts position as an example. While the above median salary gives you a sense of where the majority of salaries fall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also gives percentiles that show the highest and lowest salaries for that job title:

  • Information security analysts 90th percentile: $158,860
  • Information security analysts 75th percentile: $128,640
  • Information security analysts 50th percentile: $99,730
  • Information security analysts 25th percentile: $75,450

Five Ways to Boost Your Pay

The pay you can expect from a particular IT job can vary significantly from the median pay depending on a number of factors that may benefit your role for a certain position. Here are five ways that can help increase your pay:

  1. Prior Experience: Reducing training time and having expertise that goes beyond your job description may increase your value to an employer. Similarly, prior related job experience provides trust and builds expectations on the side of an employer that can benefit the numbers on your paycheck.
  2. Additional Training and Certifications: If CompTIA PenTest+ isn’t your first certification and if you can showcase additional completed training, you may expand the reach of your certifications and qualify for jobs that you otherwise would not, and subsequently become candidate for a higher-paying position. Review CompTIA’s stackable certifications to find out how you can build your IT career path with CompTIA certifications. CompTIA AITP also offers access to training for IT professionals.
  3. Commitment: Becoming certified is your first step to your career. Staying certified is even more important and can show employers that you’re committed to your job and that you’re in-sync with a rapidly evolving industry.
  4. Regional Differences: The pay for a job in one location may be vastly different than what is offered in another. For example, a security analyst working in New York City, on average, will make about 29 percent, or $38,750 more than a security analyst in Dallas.
  5. Industry Variations: Keep in mind that some industries may have, in their details, different expectations for certain job titles than others and offer different pay as a result.

The Personal Factor

Don’t underestimate your personal impact on the pay that you can expect from your job. In addition to the pay boosters discussed above, there are a few more key things that can give you the best shot at landing that first job and making a case for the pay you’re looking for:

  • Networking: Connecting with IT professionals and building your professional network is incredibly important to starting and advancing your career. Be active on social networks such as LinkedIn, engage in newsgroups and forums, and get involved in local IT groups, such as CompTIA IT Pro Membership. CompTIA IT Pro Membership not only offers training and job tools, but also access to local chapters that enable you to be in touch with what’s going on in your community.
  • Be Up to Date: Make sure that you’re proficient in new technologies. Spend time on IT websites, subscribe to newsletters or even contribute to blogs.
  • Soft Skills: Your communication skills can greatly influence your ability to land a job. Having an overall positive attitude, managing your time effectively, solving problems, showing self-confidence, coping with pressure and having a strong work ethic all prove that you’re an employee worth investing in.

Ready for a Career in Penetration Testing?

CompTIA now offers a number of exam training options for CompTIA PenTest+ to fit your particular learning style and schedule, many of which may be used in combination with each other as you prepare for your exam.

There’s a wealth of information to take you from deciding if CompTIA PenTest+ is right for you, all the way to taking your exam. We’re with you every step of the way!


Jobs penetration salary tester

Penetration Tester Salary: What Professionals Who Identify Vulnerabilities Earn and Do

A penetration tester evaluates network security.Protecting information systems and data from cyber attacks is a difficult, complex challenge that organizations large and small face daily. Unfortunately, it’s not hard to find examples of the damage those attacks can do. The 2020 cyber attack on software firm SolarWinds gave hackers access to the IT systems of 18,000 of SolarWinds’ customers, including the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Microsoft and Intel. It was one of the largest cyber attacks that targeted the U.S. government in history and could even alter approaches toward stopping attacks in the future.

One of the best lines of defense against cyber attacks is penetration testing. Penetration testers (commonly known as ethical hackers) must stay on top of a rapidly changing landscape in which new hacks are discovered almost daily. Students who pursue Master of Science in Cyber Security programs must become lifelong learners, as forms of attack and techniques to stop hackers continue to evolve. Knowing about the profession and penetration testers’ salaries is important for anyone interested in a career in cyber security.

Salary for Penetration Testers and Job Outlook

Certified penetration testers can work in almost any industry, in any size organization, or they can take freelance gigs on their own via any number of online freelance marketplaces. Multinational corporations have as much need for penetration testing as small franchises, health care companies, government agencies and even sole proprietorships. The FBI, for example, hires ethical hackers to test its information technology (IT) infrastructure.

As of May 2021, PayScale reports that the median annual penetration tester salary is around $86,000. A host of factors impact the salary, including education, experience, job type and job location. For example, penetration testers with 10 to 20 years of experience in the field can earn more than $120,000 yearly.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for the broader information security analyst field looks promising. The BLS projects 31% job growth for information security analysts between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the projected average growth for all occupations. The rosy projection is predicated on the ever-increasing number of cyber attacks, which can particularly impact organizations such as health care providers, banks and other financial institutions that store highly confidential customer or patient data.

What Does a Penetration Tester Do?

What is penetration testing exactly, and what does a penetration tester do? Penetration testing is one major tool in cyber security, a field that’s generally viewed as a crucial, requisite part of an organization’s IT department. The threat of security breaches by hackers is ever present in the minds of board members and upper management. Just one flaw is all it takes for a hacker to gain access to sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers, credit card data, account information, and even classified corporate or government secrets.

Security measures can be implemented to block attempts to gain access to networks, and software and hardware firewalls may be used to add an extra layer of protection between sensitive databases and the public. However, unless organizations can view their networks through the eyes of real hackers, they’ll never know for sure how secure their systems are.

What a penetration tester does in defending against cyber attacks involves many different tests and techniques, but all of them focus on two broad categories of potential cyber attacks:

  • “Inside” jobs. To thwart threats from within an organization, penetration testing involves tasks such as assessing internal network security and examining code.
  • “Outside” jobs. To combat external threats, penetration testing involves tasks such as assessing external network security, social engineering engagements (for example, penetration testers look for ways in which individuals are coaxed into giving up private information), and red team simulations (for example, testing that attempts to simulate attacks on multiple systems at the same time).

According to the FBI, some of the most common cyber crimes are:

  • A compromise of business email, which the FBI cites as among the cyber crimes that can cause significant financial damage
  • Ransomware attacks in which criminals block access to information systems and demand that victims pay a ransom
  • Phishing and spoofing schemes in which criminals obtain individuals’ sensitive information

How to Become a Penetration Tester

An individual can become a penetration tester and earn a penetration tester’s salary through a variety of avenues. The traditional steps are outlined below.

Obtain a Degree

Individuals who work in information security typically need to have a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as computer science or a related field. Depending on the employer, a master’s degree may also be a requirement. Earning a master’s degree in cyber security can help individuals hone their expertise and develop the skills to advance into leadership positions.

Obtain Work Experience

Having previous IT-related work experience is important. For example, experience in computer programming, as a network administrator, or in database security can be critical.

Develop Key Technical Knowledge and Skills

To be an effective penetration tester, individuals need to have knowledge and skills in:

  • Types of security vulnerabilities
  • Coding
  • Operating systems
  • Networking and network protocols, such as TCP/IP and Domain Name System (DNS)
  • Physical security
  • Server equipment
  • Enterprise storage systems

Hone Soft Skills and Abilities

Penetration testers can maximize their effectiveness by demonstrating:

  • Strong oral communication skills
  • Skills in simplifying complex concepts
  • Leadership skills
  • Creativity

Penetration Tester Certification

Certifications can affect penetration testers’ salaries and their career progress. Penetration tester certification programs are available through several different sources. In its article titled “Top 10 Penetration Testing Certifications for Security Professionals,” Infosec Resources lists the most popular and widely accepted certification offerings:

  • EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), a wide-ranging certification that covers various types of attack technology, security domains and hacking tools
  • EC-Council Licensed Penetration Tester (LPT) Master for individuals at the expert level, which tests those individuals’ abilities to address real-life scenarios
  • IACRB Certified Penetration Tester (CPT) focuses on specific penetration testing knowledge and skills in areas such as network protocol attacks and web app vulnerabilities
  • IACRB Certified Expert Penetration Tester (CEPT) is for individuals with expert-level skills and covers topics ranging from memory corruption to Windows shellcode
  • IACRB Certified Mobile and Web App Penetration Tester (CMWAPT) focuses on web apps and mobile operating systems
  • IACRB Certified Red Team Operations Professional (CRTOP) focuses on large-scale, in-depth penetration testing
  • CompTIA PenTest+ focuses on the latest test and assessment skills for penetration testing
  • GIAC Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) Penetration Tester (GPEN) focuses on best practices in penetration testing and the legal matters related to penetration testing
  • GIAC Exploit Researcher and Advanced Penetration Tester (GXPN) focuses on advanced penetration testing techniques and the connection between security flaws and business risks
  • Offensive Security Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), a completely hands-on, comprehensive certification earned by working through a 24-hour scenario from the real world

Charting a Course for a Career Defending Against Cyber Attacks

In a connected world, where everything from smartphones to watches, vehicles, TVs, appliances and even warehouse inventory equipment is on a computer network, having strong cyber security is critical in protecting systems and data. Individuals who aspire to a career defending against cyber attacks (and earning the salary of a penetration tester) can explore the University of North Dakota’s online Master of Science in Cyber Security program to see how it can help them achieve their professional goals. Start on a path to a rewarding career in cyber security today.


Recommended Readings

10 Cyber Security Trends to Look for in 2021

The Cyber Security Talent Shortage

What Is Vulnerability Analysis? Exploring an Important Cyber Security Concept


CSO, “What Is Ethical Hacking? How to Get Paid to Break Into Computers”

FBI, The Cyber Threat

Forbes, “Successful Cybersecurity Training Is Done, Not Discussed”

HP, “How to Get Started in Cyber-Security”

Imperva, Social Engineering

Infosec Resources, “Penetration Testing: Career Path, Salary Info, and More”

Infosec Resources, “Top 10 Penetration Testing Certifications for Security Professionals”

Insider, “The US Is Readying Sanctions Against Russia Over the SolarWinds Cyber Attack. Here’s a Simple Explanation of How the Massive Hack Happened and Why It’s Such a Big Deal”

PayScale, Average Penetration Tester Salary

Rapid7 Global Consulting, Under the Hoodie 2020

The Register, “Penetration Tester Pokes Six Holes in Dell EMC’s RecoverPoint Products”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts

How I Became a Penetration Tester At 21


Similar news:


58 59 60 61 62