How to Learn Ethical Hacking and Boost Your Career

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In a digital-first world, cybersecurity and professional hacking are emerging as promising career choices for the savvy IT professional. Job seekers around the world over are considering taking up a certification related to these fields due to its bright prospects, with industry bigwigs like Google paying ethical hackers a whopping $6.5 million in 2019 [1]. But finding cohesive information on the best mediums to learn ethical hacking can be difficult and confusing.

Even the term ‘hacker’ has changed meaning over time. While it was initially associated only with people who illegally stole valuable data for their personal gain, the arrival of ethical hacking expanded that definition. By using their hacking skills for good, professionals could hack or analyze security vulnerabilities for the betterment of an organization’s infrastructure.

If you are someone who has, little to no experience in hacking or are planning to pursue cybersecurity as a career, then this article is for you. Let’s find out everything you need to know about ethical hacking and what it takes to grow as a professional in this field.

Certified Ethical Hacker

Who is a Professional Hacker?

A professional hacker is a penetration tester hired by an organization to test its systems and report vulnerabilities. They are skilled individuals who perform penetration testing to check the effectiveness of the IT infrastructure. They also analyze the internal security vulnerabilities and find ways to strengthen them.

According to PayScale, the average salary of a Certified Ethical Hacker is currently $92,000 in the US [2] and ₹483,875 in India [3], making this one of the best times to learn ethical hacking and consider a career change in this field.

What Does an Ethical Hacker Do?

An ethical hacker uses techniques to bypass a system’s defenses the same way a malicious hacker would do, but an ethical hacker does all this while keeping the organization aware about it. Unlike malicious hackers, they don’t take advantage of security vulnerabilities, but offer solutions for strengthening them.

Ethical hackers are required to research, document, and share their findings with management and the IT Team. Johnny Longs, founder of Hackers for Charity, has well-explained the role of professional hackers in saving the cyber world in the video below:

Skills You Need to Become an Ethical Hacker

While ethical hackers have a varied skillset, some of the must-have skills required for the job include:

  • Networking concepts and computer appliances

A basic understanding of computers, operating systems, and networking is essential for an aspirant who wishes to learn ethical hacking. They should also know the difference between killing a thread vs killing a process, the basics of process injection, and how to enable virtualization in the BIOS. Without an understanding of computer appliances, grasping any further knowledge will be very difficult.

Apart from this, you must understand networking concepts such as OSI Model, TCP/IP Model, IP Addresses, MAC Addresses, Subnetting, Routing & Switching, vLAN, Network Protocols, etc.

  • Knowledge of Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a process used by IT companies to develop high-quality software that prevents breaches and cyberattacks. Understanding it is important as it helps you easily analyze security issues with software without consuming a lot of time.

  • Knowledge of operating systems

As an aspiring ethical hacker, you should have a thorough knowledge of operating systems; know how to use the command line in Windows; and be familiar with the concepts of UAC and DLLs, editing the Windows registry, setting up virtual machines and servers, etc.

As most web servers run on Linux, you ought to know how to gain access in order to check for loopholes. Knowledge of operating systems like Redhat, Ubuntu, and Fedora will assure faster career growth.

  • Proficiency in penetration testing methodologies and tools

As a beginner who is planning to learn ethical hacking and build a career around it, you must know about penetration testing methodologies and tools. Professionals who have a basic understanding of it can easily learn advanced techniques in a course.

Popular penetration testing methodologies and standards

  • Strong coding knowledge

As an aspiring professional ethical hacker, you should have prior knowledge of coding to succeed in this field. The better you are at reading and analyzing code, the stronger will be your future as a professional hacker and pen tester. Ethical hacking courses focus on python, BASH, and C++/C. These languages help professionals understand malicious code and its intention so they can find a way to modify and block it.

  • Fundamentals of cybersecurity

Understanding the fundamentals of cybersecurity is key when pursuing an ethical hacking certification course. Prior knowledge of basics like protecting a device, antivirus use, app protection, password management, etc., will help you excel during the program and succeed in your career.

  • Communication skills

You need to have excellent communication skills since a major part of your job as a professional hacker will involve working with different departments to ensure their systems are free from vulnerabilities. For this, you need to explain the basics of phishing and scams to employees, so they don’t end up sharing their personal information with a scammer.

Hackers also use tricks like social engineering to breach the trust of unsuspecting employees. You can be one step ahead of them by using your communication skills to replicate these tricks and protect any information from leaking out.

Apart from these skills, you must continue updating your knowledge by learning new industry insights and trends. Technology keeps changing and vulnerabilities keep evolving. New case studies pop up regularly, so it is vital to expand your knowledge base post your education.

Learn Ethical Hacking with C|EH

Employers typically check for ethical hacking certifications before hiring a professional hacker. The fastest and most effective approach is to opt for a certification course which is directly mapped to the ethical hacking and penetration testing role.

The Certified Ethical Hacking program (C|EH) by EC-Council is a comprehensive course with a high employability rate and endorsements from top government agencies including the US Federal Government, via the Montgomery GI Bill, and the National Security Agency (NSA).

CEH certification will help build a foundation of trust between you and the employer, providing a launching pad for the rest of your cybersecurity career.

Certified Ethical Hacker


What are professional hackers called?
Professional hackers are also known as ethical hackers, penetration testers, and white hat hackers.

Learn more about ethical hacking

What coding languages are used by hackers?
Understanding of Python, C/C++, Java, Perl and LISP is a must for professional hackers. These languages help the hacker easily find machine and application vulnerabilities.

A guide to choosing the best ethical hacking course

Is being a hacker illegal?
Being a hacker is not illegal. Hacking with malicious intent is considered a cybercrime. It is illegal and can land the individual in trouble.

Learn more: How to start a career in ethical hacking


[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/daveywinder/2020/01/29/google-confirms-it-will-pay-android-pixel-hackers-15-million/?sh=78f70c4b33ab

[2] https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Certified_Ethical_Hacker_(CEH)/Salary

[3] https://www.payscale.com/research/IN/Job=Certified_Ethical_Hacker_(CEH)/Salary

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