How to Become a Penetration Tester
When cyber criminals strike, it’s penetration testers who come to the rescue. Using their hacking skills and information technology know–how, these cyber security heroes are responsible for protecting businesses and organisations from damaging cyber attacks. But there simply aren’t enough of them.
Fancy putting your computer skills to good use? Then read on, as we explore the skills, qualifications and experience you’ll need to become a penetration tester.
What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Penetration Tester?
Bachelor’s degree/postgraduate route
If you have a degree in computer science, computer engineering or cyber security you could apply for a graduate trainee penetration tester role. While these jobs are becoming more widely available you can still expect to face plenty of competition, and many job descriptions mention a preference for applicants with a postgraduate qualification.
Studying cyber security at postgraduate level will increase your chances of getting a trainee ethical hacking job without needing several years of industry experience. Once you’re working your employer will pay for you to complete extra industry ethical hacking course training, such as the Certified Penetration Tester certification courses.
Professional certification route
If you want to become a penetration tester but you don’t have a computer-related degree, you’ll need a combination of work experience and industry qualifications. This route entails starting your cyber security career with an entry-level role in systems administration, IT development or IT support. Your employer should provide funding for professional certifications so that you can study while you work, but self-study is also an option.
Professional certifications for penetration testers
Penetration testers are also known as ethical hackers or white hat hackers because they use their hacking skills for good.
Skill Set Required for a Penetration Tester
Communication skills (spoken and written)
Attention to detail
Knowledge of relevant programming languages
The ability to think strategically
What Does a Penetration Tester Do?
Using their knowledge of hacking methodologies, computer systems, web applications and software, penetration testers test out the cyber defences of businesses to make sure that they can fend off real-world cyber attacks. With the help of penetration testing tools they simulate attacks, identify security issues and recommend improvements.
Typical Duties for a Penetration Tester
Popular Career Pathways for Penetration Testers
Once you’ve gained 3-5 years of experience as a professional penetration tester, you’ll be able to progress to the role of a senior penetration tester. You could then become a lead cyber security specialist, a scrutiny consultant or a security architect. Alternatively, you might prefer to move into self-employment or consultancy work.
If you’re female and interested in pen testing we recommend checking out some of the schemes aimed at encouraging more women to join science and the cyber security industry. Websites worth visiting include WISE (Women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and Girl Geeks.
IT security is big news and UK businesses are increasingly investing in penetration testing to protect valuable data from new threats. So if you’re tech-savvy with a desire to learn, why not join the fight against cyber criminals by signing up to one of our cyber security courses? Your country needs you!