How to Start a Career in Ethical Hacking

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As per the 2018 HackerOne report, internet users are already facing over 166,000 registered hackers. [1] With stringent cyber laws, governments and various organizations are trying to make the internet a healthy place for its users. Now, the decision is yours, do you want to make a positive change in our world?

Ethical hackers are those professionals who choose hacking methods to serve a greater purpose in the world with a good intent to benefit others. This guide is for those:

  • With basic or no knowledge of ethical hacking
  • With limited experience and waiting for an opportunity in ethical hacking

This guide will lead you through the beginner knowledge of ethical hacking, later acquiring expertise in the domain. One of the important requirements to become an ethical hacker would be your desire and intent to make a difference in the world.

If you want to try your hand at cybersecurity, then you must know that it is a vast industry with numerous domains such as application security, network security, and digital forensics which is sometimes further classified into other branches. So, you should be aware of your interest before you take your first step toward the industry. But if you have already made up your mind to become an ethical hacker, then stay with us.

Reasons to Choose Ethical Hacking as Career

Ethical hackers always have a handful of roles and responsibilities to deal with. An ethical hacker not only safeguards the data and network of an organization but is also responsible for taking preventive measures to avoid a security breach via penetration testing or any other method. It does possess a great career scope. And, the salary package is another fascinating aspect of it. However, if you are still unsure of pursuing ethical hacking as a career, then the listed reasons will serve as food for thought.

1. Scope for Career with Amazing Salary Trends

The updated 2019 report by PayScale suggests the average salary of a certified ethical hacker is to be $90k. The top employers of these certified hackers include:

  • Booz, Allen, and Hamilton
  • S. Army
  • S. Air Force
  • General Dynamics Information Technology Inc. [2]

The scope for this career route is broadening with each passing year. It has been evidently noticed that government agencies (military, law enforcement department, and national intelligence departments) and private organizations both are hiring cybersecurity experts, though IT firms are primary recruiters of ethical hackers, usually under the title of a penetration tester, security analyst, cybersecurity engineer, network security administrator, and a few others. Apart from that, service providers like airlines, hotels, and financial institutions are also hiring certified ethical hackers to protect their sensitive data. [2]

2. Growing Job Market for Certified Ethical Hackers

Joblift, a UK-based job search platform, reported in 2018 that there are around 3240 job vacancies for ethical hackers. The report analyzed data for the past 24 months and declared that these job vacancies are increasing at an average of 4% per month. Another interesting calculation of the same platform mentions that 7 of every 10 job vacancies are looking for candidates with accredited credentials. [3]

3. Perfect Way to Enter Other Domains of Cybersecurity

An ethical hacker possesses thorough knowledge of network security, application security, information security, and a lot more. There are organizations looking for professionals with specialized knowledge making it convenient for certified ethical hackers to take up other cybersecurity jobs, too, such as:

  1. Network administrator/manager
  2. Security investigator
  3. Penetration tester
  4. Web security administrator/manager
  5. Data security analyst/specialist
  6. Computer/digital forensics investigator
  7. IT security administrator/consultant/manager
  8. Network defense technicians

The list doesn’t end here. These are just a few of the professional profiles that an ethical hacker can easily fit into.

Guide to Becoming Certified Ethical Hacker

Follow the listed steps to establish yourself as a certified ethical hacker.

Step 1—Understanding Ethical Hacking

Ethical hacking can be defined as a simple approach of defending the system and network security of an organization by exploiting its existing vulnerabilities and weaknesses and strengthening them with appropriate countermeasures. Ethical hackers follow the same methods and techniques of a malicious hacker for finding vulnerabilities, which will later be fixed. Unlike black hat hackers, ethical hackers offer their services only when they are lawfully and legitimately employed to do so. These hired professionals report all their findings to the management board of the firm.

Step 2—Skills Required to Start Your Career as an Ethical Hacker

Pursuing a career in ethical hacking demands an ever-evolving attitude. You will be required to update your knowledge with the continuously changing trend. Plus, you need to have a sound technical knowledge of certain scripting or coding programming languages (such as HTML, JSP, ASP, C/C++, Java, Python, or any other strong computer language). You can consider these two points as the mandatory prerequisites for learning ethical hacking to the core.

The below-listed skills are revealed by Joblift in their survey of 2018.

  • 70% job vacancies look for candidates holding accredited certifications
  • 25% of job vacancies are subjected to candidates with the knowledge of programming languages
  • 22% of job vacancies are meant for those candidates who can security check

Employers also look for soft skills, which include confidence, passion, communication skills, flexibility, and innovative nature of a candidate before hiring him/her as an ethical hacker. [3]

Step 3—Ways to Acquire the Required Skills

To acquire the required skills, you need to go through our three-step process to become a certified ethical hacker.

Certified Network Defender

An ethical hacker needs to have extensive knowledge of network security. You need to have a thorough understanding of how a network operates, various network security controls, protocols, topologies, intricate nature of network traffic, firewall configuration, vulnerability scanning of a network, and a lot more. For that deep understanding, EC-Council offers you a comprehensive skill-based program which is not only designed after intense job market research but is also recognized by the Department of Defense. This Certified Network Defender program will take you to a step closer to your target.

Certified Ethical Hacker

This is another important step in your journey. The Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH) program will start by helping you learn the fundamentals of ethical hacking. Then gradually build concepts like footprinting, network scanning, system hacking, sniffing, session hijacking, web servers and web applications hacking, and many other major subject matters. This program always gets updated as per the market demand of the contemporary world. For instance, our updated C|EH program includes IoT hacking, cloud computing, vulnerability analysis, and much more. With that, to adapt professional ethical hacking skills, you will be exposed to real-time scenarios in a virtual environment.

C|EH Practical

C|EH practical program is designed to test your ethical hacking skills on every possible level. It is a 6-h practical exam which tests your ethical hacking techniques. This credential ensures that you have a detailed understanding of all the major aspects of ethical hacking.

Other Important Tips

1. Practice and Self-Learning

You should understand the importance of practicing your gained technical knowledge and learning other trending ethical-hacking-related skills. The evolution of your knowledge is one of the most required steps that you need to take. You can do this by reading articles, watching videos, and interacting with experts.

2. Think Out of the Box

Innovation is the key to stand out from the crowd. You need not follow the same path as other ethical hackers do.

3. Look for More Information

All the information is just a click away. If you find some subject matter difficult or interesting, then try learning more about it. These days, the internet is the key to all your queries.


  1. https://www.hackerone.com/sites/default/files/2018-01/2018_Hacker_Report.pdf
  2. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Certified_Ethical_Hacker_(CEH)/Salary
  3. https://joblift.co.uk/Press/ethical-hackers
Editor's Note:
Reviewed by William Yurek, Founder/President, Inspired Hacking Solutions, LLC and Vince Peeler, Sr. Manager, Cyber Intelligence Services at UnitedHealth Group
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