Oct 25, 2022

Ethical Hacking Certifications to Boost Your Career

 Ethical hackers play the role of an intruder by attempting to gain access to a computer system or network, application, or data. They do this legally and with authorization from the company as a way to identify vulnerabilities. Working in this field means you need to think like a hacker and use your best offensive cybersecurity skills to help improve the security of your company. 

If you’re interested in a career as an ethical hacker, you might consider earning a certification as a way to:

  • Build new offensive security skills

  • Validate your skills to potential employers

  • Enhance your resume

  • Qualify for new job opportunities

  • Boost your confidence on the job

In this article, we’ll outline four popular certification options for ethical hackers (or aspiring ethical hackers). Learn more about what to expect from each certification exam, and get tips for how to prepare yourself for success.

These four well-respected cybersecurity certifications are particularly relevant for careers in ethical hacking, penetration testing, and other areas of offensive cybersecurity. 

1. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

This ethical hacking certification from the EC-Council ranks among the top cybersecurity certifications companies are hiring for, appearing in nearly 10,000 job search results. The CEH is designed to help you think like a hacker and build skills in penetration testing and attack vectors, detection, and prevention.  

Requirements: To qualify for the CEH exam, you need two years of work experience in information security. You can waive this requirement by completing an official EC-Council training. 

Cost: $950 to $1,199 depending on testing location

Salary: $92,000

2. GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN)

If you’re interested in penetration testing, a task within the umbrella of ethical hacking, then the GPEN certification could be a good fit. Earning your GPEN demonstrates your ability to perform penetration tests with the latest techniques and methodologies. Topics covered include test planning, scoping, and recon; scanning and exploitation; password attacks; and web application pen testing.

Requirements: There are no prerequisites for taking the GPEN exam.

Cost: $1,699

Salary: $104,000

3. CompTIA PenTest+

The PenTest+ exam from CompTIA is unique in that it features both multiple-choice and performance-based questions (questions that test your ability to solve problems in a simulated environment). The exam covers your ability to perform penetration tests in a variety of situations, including cloud, hybrid, web application, onsite, and internet of things (IoT) environments.

Requirements: There are no required prerequisites, but CompTIA recommends that you have three to four years of information security experience, and that you’ve mastered the materials covered in the Network+ and Security+ exams.

Cost: $370

Salary: $88,206 (for penetration tester)

Tip for passing the exam: The PenTest+ exam tests your knowledge in different ways, so it’s a good idea to prepare using a variety of different study resources. Here’s a few resources that come recommended by previous test takers:

4. Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

Another highly sought-after certification for pen testers, ethical hackers, and other offensive-minded security pros, the OSCP tests your ability to breach a series of target machines and produce detailed reports for each attack.

Requirements: There are no formal requirements to sit the exam, though Offensive Security recommends that you be familiar with networking, bash scripting, Perl or Python, and Linux. You may also consider taking the Penetration Testing with Kali course prior to taking the exam.

Cost: From $999

Salary: $96,000

Tip for passing the exam: Practice taking technical notes as you work through boxes or challenges during your preparation. Organize your notes with a table of contents so you can quickly access what you need on test day if you encounter a challenge that looks familiar. It’s also a good idea to prepare a report template for exploits ahead of the exam.


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