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A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Penetration Tester in 2024

A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Penetration Tester in 2024

Penetration helps identify vulnerabilities within an organization’s security system before getting exploited by real cyber-attackers

Hacking computer systems, uninformed money transfers, controlled camera security, and all that is just the beginning of a cyber threat pandora box unraveling. Hackers can do that and much more. Hackers are just criminals. But their counterpart, ethical hackers do the same thing, i.e. hack an organization’s security systems, but not with the intent to cause harm but to find vulnerabilities. In recent years, ethical hacking has become a quite popular cybersecurity career choice. In this comprehensive guide, we discuss how you can get into this career path in 2024.

What is a Penetration Tester or Ethical Hacker?

Penetration testers popularly known as ethical hackers are skilled cybersecurity professionals who use their expertise and knowledge to breach an organization’s security systems in a controlled manner. The purpose of this kind of security breach or cyber-attack is to identify loopholes within the organization and rectify them before an actual cyber-attack happens.

With the ever-increasing growth of cyber-crimes, the demand for ethical hackers is soaring than ever. These professionals have access to a huge range of opportunities. They can work for a company, offer their services as a freelancer, or work for organizations providing dedicated penetration testing services to their clients on an enterprise level.

Here are some major roles and responsibilities of the penetration testers:

  • Threat analysis and organizational reports generation
  • Check the current security systems and provide recommendation
  • Conduct Penetration testing over software, networks, and other hackable infrastructure
  • Identify and report vulnerabilities at the earliest to avoid future damage
  • Upgrade themselves with the latest tools and technologies of the trade

Perks of becoming a penetration tester

  • No work from the office all the time- They can work on-site, or from home
  • Higher salaries than the average salaries of jobs in the same category
  • Allows working on your own schedule as you often choose a suitable time to hack the networks and systems

Penetration Tester’s Skills to Master in 2024

There are some core foundational cybersecurity skills that every aspiring penetration tester must master before they start their journey in this career path.

  1. Programming languages: Proficiency in programming languages such as Python, Perl, Ruby, etc. is needed and it is a must-have skill for all penetration testers as it allows them to navigate various programs, tools, and software to perform penetration testing
  2. Networking and Operating Systems: Must have a strong understanding of networking principles, protocols, and tools. Should know about TCP/IP, DNS, DHCP, etc. Apart from these familiarity with various operating systems like Linux, Windows, macOS, etc. is essential.
  3. Security Assessment Tools: Knowledge of a variety of security assessment tools such as vulnerability scanners, network sniffers, and penetration testing frameworks is recommended.
  4. Reverse Engineering: The ability to reverse engineer malware, software, and scripts can provide valuable insights into their functionality and vulnerabilities.
  5. Cryptography: Understanding cryptographic algorithms and techniques can help in analyzing encrypted data and identifying potential weaknesses in encryption schemes.

Apart from these candidates must be good at:

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Methodology and planning
  • Reporting and communication
  • Zeal to upgrade themselves with the latest tools and technologies and progress professionally

How to Become a Penetration Tester or Ethical Hacker?

Earn relevant qualification

Employers look out for relevant bachelor's or master's degrees in the candidate, preferably in the field of computer science, mathematics, cybersecurity, or information technology.

Gain Industry-relevant skills

There are several online and offline courses to learn the required cybersecurity skills. You can go for some widely recognized penetration testing or cybersecurity certification programs to enhance and validate your skills.

Practical Experience

Once you have graduated, try to gain relevant experience in the field of cybersecurity. You can start working in any entry-level position, try internships, participate in competitions, etc. Ensure you have a strong portfolio of practical experience that will add value to your resume.

Smart Networking

Participate in online forums, attend cybersecurity professional meetups, stay active on your professional social profiles like LinkedIn, and grow your network with other professionals in this domain. It will help you find the right opportunity at the right time.

Start Job hunt

Apply in job portals, company websites, LinkedIn, etc. The future of cybersecurity is very bright. There will be several opportunities coming your way. So, ensure you are future-ready to grab every offer that comes to you.

A Glance at Penetration Tester Job Outlook

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there will be around 3.5 million vacant cybersecurity jobs globally with 770,000 unfilled jobs in the US alone. Moreover, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook of information security analysts (penetration testers come under this category) is expected to grow by 35%. So, we can imagine the number of job opportunities we can see in this domain in the coming years.

Considering the salary structure, Indeed mentions penetration testers in the United States earn a national average salary of $123,330. And if you have the right cybersecurity certification under your belt, the same can go even higher.


Penetration testers’ job is a fulfilling yet challenging job role. They must perform several tasks responsibly to ensure an organization’s security system and its capability to mitigate all kinds of cybersecurity threats.

Following the above-mentioned path, gain relevant qualifications and skills, build a strong portfolio with practical experience, and begin your journey in the cybersecurity career to become a successful penetration tester in 2024.