Penetration Tester Salary – Before We Get Into The Topic , let’s Learn Some Basic Of This Topic
Penetration testers assist corporations and organizations in identifying and repairing security flaws in their digital assets and computer networks. Some work in-house for permanent companies, as members of internal cybersecurity or information technology (IT) teams. Others work for specialist companies that offer penetration-testing services to customers.
Penetration testers are hired in greater numbers by industries that deal with large amounts of sensitive, personal, classified, or proprietary data. Some employers place a higher value on a candidate’s knowledge and experience than on their academic credentials. Employers are increasingly looking for candidates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science, information technology, cybersecurity, or a related field.
The field attracts people who are curious, ethical and have advanced technological skills. Penetration testers are classified as “information security analysts” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Between 2018 and 2028, the BLS predicts a 32 percent growth in demand for information security analysts, with a median income of approximately $100,000 in 2019.
What Does a Penetration Tester Do?
Other job titles for penetration testers include “ethical hacker” and “assurance validator.” These terms reflect a penetration tester’s (or “pen tester’s”) primary responsibilities: to seek out, identify, and attempt to exploit existing flaws in digital systems and computing networks. Websites, data storage systems, and other IT assets are examples of these systems and networks.
Many individuals mix up vulnerability testing and penetration testing. In reality, there are significant disparities between this two cybersecurity expertise. During the design and setup phases of a security program, vulnerability testers seek for defects and weaknesses. Professional penetration testers are trained to look for vulnerabilities and weaknesses in live systems.
Cyberattacks and other security breaches are simulated by penetration testing teams to get access to sensitive, private, or proprietary information. They combine existing hacking tools and tactics with their own creations. During a simulated attack, pen testers document their actions to generate detailed reports indicating how they managed to bypass established security protocols, and to what degree.
Penetration testing teams add value to their employers by assisting them in avoiding the public relations fallout and loss of consumer confidence that come with actual hacks and cyberattacks. They also assist enterprises and organizations in improving their digital security measures while staying within budget constraints.
The next sections look at critical soft and hard penetration tester skills.
Key Soft Skills for Penetration Testers
- Hackers and cybercriminals are always changing their strategies and techniques, while technology is always evolving. Professional penetration testers must keep up with the newest advancements on both fronts.
- A Focus on Teamwork: Penetration testers frequently work in groups, with junior members taking on lower-level responsibilities while reporting to senior ones.
- Strong Verbal Communication: Team members must communicate their findings in simple, easy-to-understand language that can be understood by persons without sophisticated technical knowledge or abilities.
- Report Writing: Penetration testers need strong writing skills because one of their responsibilities is to provide reports for management and executive teams to review.
Key Hard Skills for Penetration Testers
- Deep Exploitation and Vulnerability Knowledge: Most businesses prefer applicants who have a thorough understanding of vulnerabilities and exploits that goes beyond automated procedures.
- Scripting and/or Coding: Testers with good scripting and/or coding skills can save a lot of time on individual tests. As a result, they are more valuable to employers.
- Operating System Mastery: Penetration testers must have a thorough understanding of the operating systems they are attempting to hack or breach to execute their exams.
- Networking and Network Protocols are well-understood: Understanding how hackers and cybercriminals operate necessitates a working knowledge of networking and network protocols such as TCP/IP, UDP, ARP, DNS, and DHCP.
A Day in the Life of a Penetration Tester
The majority of a pen tester’s time is spent doing assessments and executing tests. Internal or external assets may be the focus of these responsibilities, and testers might work on-site or remotely.
The tester or testing team decides on a strategy for the project at hand in the morning and sets up the necessary equipment. In other situations, this entails gathering so-called “open-source intelligence,” or OSINT, which real-world hackers use to get over security barriers and launch attacks.
Teams do the tests they designed in the morning in the afternoon. Teams may split up into smaller groups, with one group acting as hostile outside hackers and another group acting as inside cybersecurity specialists entrusted with preventing them.
Other responsibilities include running simulations to examine other areas of internal risk. For example, penetration testing teams may use phishing scams or other phony breaches to target specific employees to determine what kind of answers they get and how those responses affect existing security processes.
As a result, penetration tester requirements encompass a wide range of responsibilities. Five particularly notable examples are included in the following list.
Penetration Tester Main Responsibilities
- Penetration Tests Should Be Planned and Designed
Penetration testers must create tests and simulations to assess the efficiency of certain security measures that are already in place.
Tests and other simulations are carried out.
Penetration testing teams conduct investigations and document their findings after planning and designing exams.
- Making Recommendations and Reports
Penetration testing teams compile their results into concise reports to deliver to their supervisors and other important decision-makers in the firm. These reports may utilize lay or technical language, depending on the intended audience.
- Recommend security enhancements to management.
Senior penetration testers frequently communicate directly with management-level personnel, describing the level of danger caused by specific vulnerabilities and offering advice on how to address them.
- Improve Organizational Cybersecurity by Collaborating with Other Employees
Employees are educated on steps they can take to improve the organization’s overall level of cybersecurity by penetration testing professionals working with other cybersecurity and IT personnel.
Penetration Tester Salary
The average penetration tester income in the United States is $84,690 per year, according to PayScale data from August 2020. However, several factors, such as experience, influence a professional’s remuneration. The figure below shows the average salary for penetration testers at different phases of their careers.
Salary is also influenced by education; applicants with advanced degrees and industry-standard certifications are more likely to receive offers with higher pay rates. The same trend can be seen in higher-level occupations. Junior and entry-level employees frequently earn less than senior team members and team leaders.
Another important aspect that influences pay is the industry. In the event of a successful cyberattack, some industries, such as financial services and military contracting, face higher levels of risk and potential loss. As a result, they tend to offer their testers more wages to recruit the best and most competent candidates for the job.
Where Can I Work as a Penetration Tester?
Professional penetration testers work in a variety of environments, companies, and sectors. While many people work in typical on-site jobs, the industry also allows for remote employment.
Penetration testing specialists’ important abilities are required by organizations in both the public and private sectors. Healthcare informatics, technology, information security, payment processing, and financial services, defense contracting, and government are among the major areas that employ a considerable number of penetration testers.
A penetration testing specialist’s location might also make a big difference in their profession. Cybersecurity and information security specialists command high wages in many large metropolitan areas, reflecting considerable demand. The table below shows four major cities where penetration testers can expect to earn more than the national average.
When it comes to career planning, keep in mind that pay is only part of the picture. The cost of living and the quality of life are other important factors to consider.
Mississippi, Indiana, Michigan, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Idaho, Tennessee, Kansas, Texas, and Kentucky are the ten states with the lowest average living costs as of 2020 (in order of lowest to highest). The Council for Community and Economic Research also produces a cost-of-living research tool that is updated regularly and is a helpful resource.
Financial services, healthcare, and government are among the major businesses that hire penetration testers. Many firms in the technology sector, as well as enterprises that specialize in information security, hire a huge number of penetration testers.
Financial services occupations include positions with banks, credit card companies, payment processors, and brokerages. Because of the sensitive nature of the information and assets they control, as well as the possible ramifications of successful cyberattacks, these firms prefer to pay relatively highly. Similar tendencies can be found in healthcare and government, however, due to budgetary constraints, public-sector companies tend to spend less.
As part of their quality assurance commitments, many prominent technology businesses employ internal penetration testers. Testing teams are generally assigned to short-term contracts for individual end clients by information security businesses, providing more variety in day-to-day responsibilities. These industries’ pay scales are also on the top end of the scale.
Amazon is a global online retailing behemoth that ranks among the world’s largest and most valuable corporations. Amazon ranks among the top employers of pen testers due to the number of financial transactions that pass through its network and the sensitive nature of the customer information it stores.
Paylocity, which was founded in 1997, is one of the country’s major providers of online payroll services. Paylocity’s services rely significantly on cloud computing, which means the company must continually work to stay one step ahead of hackers and cybercriminals that target their data.
- Business Machines From Around the World (IBM)
IBM is one of the best-paying employers for pen testers, according to PayScale. IBM has been a trusted name in technology for decades, and its branded X-Force Red program provides end clients with a comprehensive set of information security services.
How to Become a Penetration Tester?
The traditional path to becoming a penetration tester is divided into various stages that begin throughout a candidate’s high school years. Individuals with the required aptitudes frequently discover and explore their interest in computer science and information technology at this time, developing fundamental technical abilities and functional working knowledge of operating systems, scripting, coding, and programming.
Aspirants can then pursue degrees in computer science, computer engineering, information technology, or cybersecurity. Education and experience are both required for entry-level penetration testers, with a bachelor’s degree increasingly acting as the minimal level of education. Professional certificates in specific fields can also be beneficial.
Candidates then work in lower-level IT professions, such as system or network security and administration, to hone their penetration tester skills. Emerging professionals often have the knowledge and skills needed to secure their first testing jobs after 1-4 years of work in these fields.
Steps to Becoming a Penetration Tester
- A bachelor’s degree in computer science or engineering, cybersecurity, or information technology is usually sufficient to start a pen testing profession.
- Build Experience: Penetration testers typically get experience by working for at least a year in entry-level IT, network management, or network administration positions.
- Obtain Professional Certificates: Many respected organizations provide voluntary credentialing programs that lead to sought-after professional certifications in ethical hacking, security analysis, pen testing, and other related topics.
- Transition to Penetration Testing: Candidates can often transition into penetration testing positions after completing the preceding steps.
Penetration Tester Requirements
The subsections that follow describe how to meet the standards of employers for penetration testing jobs.
Education Requirements for Penetration Testers
Technical abilities, expertise, professional proficiencies, and work experience are valued more by employers employing pen testers than formal educational credentials. Education, on the other hand, remains a critical component of a penetration tester’s future success, with a bachelor’s degree often serving as the entry-level education requirement.
Information security and cybersecurity degree programs are particularly valuable, but generalist areas such as computer science and computer engineering can also help students develop well-rounded, adaptable skill sets. In their later years, many generalist programs allow students to declare a specialization, and cybersecurity is one of the most popular and widely available specialties.
Aspiring penetration testers can combine higher education with laser-focused skill specialties with master’s degrees. These two aspects work together to provide greater overall earning potential and prospects for promotion.
A doctorate is also an option, albeit doctoral degrees are rarely pursued by working professionals. Ph.D. degrees are more appealing to those who want to work in research or higher education, however, some practitioners use them to sell themselves to companies looking for the most informed and qualified specialists.
License and Certification Requirements for Penetration Testers
Although licenses are not required for pen testers, several reputable organizations provide optional certification programs that look nice on resumes. Here are several examples:
PenTest+ The PenTest+ test, which is offered by CompTIA, consists of up to 85 questions in multiple-choice and applied formats. Entry-level penetration testing employment is available after passing this intermediate-level exam.
Ethical Hacker Certification The CEH title, which is administered by the respected EC-Council, is one of the most prominent and sought-after professional certifications in the information security business. Passing the certification exam necessitates a thorough understanding of current malware and hacking techniques.
Penetration Tester with GIAC Certification Penetration tester abilities, documentation, ethics, and legal issues are all covered in the three-hour GPEN exam. This test is administered by the Global Information Assurance Certification organization.
Required Experience for Penetration Testers
Before transferring into this demanding and specialized discipline, many pen testers have extensive experience in lower-level IT, network security, and information assurance roles. Network administrator, network engineer, security administrator, and system administrator are examples of job titles that might help ambitious candidates develop relevant abilities.
A minimum of one year of professional expertise in such fields is usually recommended by technology job market experts. Candidates who spend more time in preparation jobs, on the other hand, tend to develop deeper, more diverse skill sets and knowledge bases.
In the perspective of many employers, experience and knowledge rates higher than formal educational credentials. Candidates with the technical abilities and knowledge to achieve in-demand professional certifications can become pen testers without a formal degree.
Penetration Tester Upward Mobility
Penetration testers frequently collaborate with junior and senior associates in teams. Junior team members are usually focused on supporting tasks and functions, whilst senior leaders are in charge of establishing and organizing testing processes.
A pen tester’s normal career path is progressing from junior to senior positions as they gain experience. Pen testers, on the other hand, can branch out into other areas once they’ve mastered their craft, such as: