Penetration testing, as a discipline, is critical in the general security strategy of an organization.
The goal of a penetration test— also known as a pen test—is to uncover all potential ways to get into a computer system in order to find security flaws before hackers can get in. Penetration testers are primarily demanded in industries that deal with large amounts of sensitive, personal, classified, or proprietary data.
What Is a Penetration Tester?
Penetration testers, or so-called ethical hackers, are hired by network system owners and web-based service providers to look for weaknesses that malicious hackers could exploit.
They use various tools and approaches—some of their own creation—to replicate real cyberattacks, leaving no room for doubt in their quest to find flaws in security protocols of networks, systems, and web-based applications.
The purpose of a pentester is to provide the greatest possible information security, thereby staying one jump ahead of the hacker and shutting the vulnerability. Thus resulting in the information and systems safeguarding that would otherwise be coming under attack.
Some pen-testers hold in-house positions, functioning as internal cybersecurity or information technology team members. Others work for particular companies that offer penetration-testing services to customers.
Since pen-testers frequently work on highly confidential and time-sensitive projects, they must be trustworthy and remain calm under pressure. Penetration testers should have the ability to think on their feet and the discipline to document, record, and report on assignments.
This profession requires exceptional problem-solving skills, determination, attention to detail, and an eagerness to continually stay up-to-date with the latest trends in the field. To be successful, ethical hackers must have obtained a high level of expertise in each of these attributes.
Other necessary skills include:
- Knowledge of specific computer languages
- Knowledge of standard pen test and application security tools
It is worth noting that education, certifications, position level, and location affect the salary that a pentester earns. Applicants with advanced degrees and industry-standard certificates tend to attract offers with higher wages. The same pattern can be seen in higher-level occupations. That means that junior and entry-level employees typically earn less than senior team members and team leaders.
Based on data from Indeed, the average salary for a penetration tester is $118,597 per year.
How To Become a Penetration Tester?
The role of a penetration tester requires great responsibility. This means these professionals need to be interested in cybersecurity and prepared to learn continuously. Professional penetration testers work in a variety of settings, companies, and sectors. The standard path to becoming a penetration tester is divided into various stages. Let’s take a closer look at what those stages are.
In recent years, employers are seeking candidates with a bachelor’s degree in the various disciplines of cybersecurity. An undergraduate degree in cybersecurity, computer science, engineering, information technology, or in a related subject usually suffices to begin a pen testing career. However, if you have your eye on an advanced position, then you are required to obtain a master’s degree.
Even though pen testers’ technical skills, knowledge, professional expertise, and work experience are what advances their career, formal educational credentials remain a vital aspect of a penetration testing professional’s future success.
Penetration testing certificates offer a way to equip you with formal knowledge and show practical ability. Some common professional certifications could give you a great push in your career and are often sought after by employers. This will provide any prospective employer proof that you have the necessary knowledge on a particular area and know how to apply it.
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In any career, becoming an expert in a specific field is a good idea, but penetration testers can stand out in various ways. Pen testers will be recognized within peer groups if they are active and recognized in cybersecurity disciplines (such as computer systems and networks).
Before transitioning to a pentester position, market experts usually recommend a minimum of one year of professional experience in lower-level IT, network security, and information assurance roles. To break into the cybersecurity industry and get a good foundation for this profession, an aspiring pen tester can start and build their skills by working—always focusing on the security side of each discipline—in professions such as:
- Security administration
- Network administration
- Network engineering
- System administrator
- Web app programming
Emerging professionals often gain the knowledge and experience needed to transfer into penetration testing roles after 1-4 years of experience in the aforementioned fields.
If you like challenges and solving problems, becoming a penetration tester might just be for you. Start building your penetration testing career by enrolling in our Bachelor of Science in Information Technology program or advance in the cybersecurity field with our Master of Science in Cyber Security program.