How To Get Started As A Pentester: Career Path Guide

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To get started as a pentester is essential in any company because they simulate cyberattacks on the system and networks. These official Penetration tests help pinpoint vulnerabilities before hackers have a chance to take advantage of them, which ultimately keeps your data safe from falling prey.

There are many different types of careers in the cybersecurity field. One potential career option is that as a penetration tester, you could be on hand to verify whether or not software development and programs have been designed correctly and don’t contain any vulnerabilities which might put their users at risk from hackers looking for easy targets.

What does a pentester do?

As a penetration tester, you’ll take an active and offensive role in cybersecurity by conducting virtual attacks on your company’s existing programs and systems.

These Penetration tests would use various hacking tools to find any gaps and holes that hackers could use throughout this process, all while documenting everything we do along with our findings, ensuring no vulnerabilities are left unnoticed.

You will also be able to create detailed reports to management about what was achieved during each attack detailing the success rate at breaching security protocols which would give them valuable information for future safeguarding efforts.

How to get started as a pentester?

Penetration testers live for the thrill of finding vulnerabilities in the system and network security. Unfortunately, it takes more than interest to get started on this rewarding career path, and there are many steps before being able to become one.

Our next section will explore what recruiters look at when deciding who gets hired and how YOU can impress them enough so they call your name first out loud or behind closed doors.

Acquire the skills in computer systems

Penetration testing finds vulnerabilities in networks, programs, and security systems. IT professionals with a solid understanding of these technologies can create Penetration tests for these flaws, helping hackers avoid them easily when trying out new attacks on networks or computers.

Penetration testing skills needed for this kind of job may include:

  • Application and network security
  • Program languages
  • Threat modeling
  • macOS Windows and Linux operating systems environments
  • Security and assessment tools
  • Penetration test management skills
  • Technical documentation
  • Remote access tools

Get education

One of the best approaches to start honing your penetration tester skills is enrolling in a specialized training program or course. These learning environments will help you learn multiple aspects while having more structure than just sitting with books daily for hours.

The IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate is a great way to learn cybersecurity while you work or manage other responsibilities. This full-time program includes units on penetration testing and digital response that can be completed online, so it’s easy to fit this certificate into any schedule.

Get certification

Cybersecurity certifications are crucial for showing that you possess all the skills in this industry.

A variety of more specific cybersecurity certification options, such as penetration testing and ethical hacking, can help expand your opportunities beyond just being hired on general terms.

They demonstrate specific knowledge about how certain tools work best when it comes time to protect data from outside threats or vulnerabilities within an organization’s network perimeter.

Most common and solid certifications include:

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate
  • GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN)
  • Certified Penetration Tester (CPT)
  • CompTIA Penetration Testers+

You generally need to pass an exam to earn any of these certifications, besides earning a resume-boosting credential for your skillset and developing them in the process.

Get practice and experience in penetration testing

There are many ways to gain experience as a penetration tester outside the workplace. Training programs for this position often include the latest penetration testing in virtual and simulated environments, which can help you prepare and give you an opportunity that isn’t available at your average job site or school lab.

Bug bounty programs are the perfect approach to gain experience and make your resume unique. In these, companies typically offer rewards and bonuses for finds of security holes or gaps in their code, an excellent opportunity not only as it tests skills but networking too.

You can find lists on sites like Bugcrowd (a popular one) and HackerOne, where they introduce new professionals daily.

Start an internship

You can’t become one of the best penetration testers out there if you don’t have any IT experience. To get started, consider starting your career in network penetration testing or computer systems administration roles where it will be easy to build up vital skills for this field that needs expertise with both technical knowledge and non-technical factors like analyzing data sets.

Search for the right job

When you’re ready to get your foot in the door of cybersecurity and Penetration testing jobs, be sure not just limit yourself by using regular sites like LinkedIn or Indeed. Other sites out there specialize in this type of work, such as Dice and CyberSecJobs, which can help find more opportunities for penetration testers like yourself.

Penetration testers’ responsibilities

Some of the most common tasks and responsibilities you might have as a penetration tester include:

Perform tests for potential threats

Test applications, network devices, and cloud infrastructures to simulate social engineering attacks.

The goal is not just to find a vulnerability but to understand how it works and use that knowledge for future attacks. This includes learning about different pen-testing methodologies to create more effective tests on your own or with clients’ projects in mind.

Review and analyze potential risks

Valuable human resources are being wasted on security tasks that could be automated. Review code for vulnerabilities, reverse engineer malware and spam and document your findings, so you don’t have to repeat yourself ad-nauseam when talking about compliance issues.

get started as a pentester

Perform automation and mitigate vulnerabilities

Automating standard penetration testing techniques to improve efficiency is an excellent way for IT teams and engineers. The reports written by these professionals will become more technical, with relevant executive insights across the organization; they’re perfect when you need an overview of how things work.

Mitigate vulnerabilities with a comprehensive and engaging communication plan that includes technical staff members and executives from leadership positions to validate any potential improvements in security measures.

Give feedback and support

Penetration testers are professionals who use their skills to help other IT staff members maintain a safe network environment. They do this by providing support for penetration testing, analyzing the results of those tests, and assisting with any necessary remediation efforts where everything comes back clean or there is no threat present at all.

Where do penetration testers work?

Penetration testers work in three environments:

Security firm

Working for a security firm is an excellent way to broaden your skill set. You’ll be able to work on different tests, depending upon the needs and requirements of each organization you’re hired by.


In-house penetration testers are often in the perfect position to find security vulnerabilities that would otherwise go unnoticed. They have intimate knowledge of how companies operate and can ensure their findings won’t impact production because they work directly for them.


Though the pay is lower than it would be as an employee, a penetration tester who chooses to work on their own has more flexibility in terms of when and where they can perform penetration testing. However, there’s always competition for this type of business since so many others look at doing the same.

Why start a penetration testing career?

There’s a shortage of cyber security specialists; you can get in on the action by becoming one. You’ll use your hacking skills for a good while working to protect organizations from digital criminals, making this an extremely lucrative career path with plenty of opportunities for success!


According to recent reports, the average penetration tester in the United States makes $102,405 annually. Your salary will be based on various factors, including location, experience, and education.

Some industries can offer better salaries and benefits than others, such as financial services or military contracting, which can vary depending upon company policies. It is usually more lucrative for those looking into these fields since they’re in-demand jobs with good compensation packages that offer benefits like health insurance coverage after only two months’ employment.


The United States Statistics projects a 33% job rise for information security experts, including penetration testers, is expected from 2020 to 2030. This rate is much higher than average occupations across America.

Career paths

As a penetration tester, few jobs can match your excitement and adrenaline levels as soon as another tough challenge arises, but don’t forget to take time for yourself too.

You may move up through different ranks based on how well-rounded your skills are in this field, from beginner Penetration Test Lead to CEO position, where they oversee employees who do similar work you do at their company.

Even greater heights than these examples show possible because leaders sometimes start as good hackers before becoming world-renowned experts elsewhere.


So, you want to be a penetration tester? It’s a great career choice with many opportunities for growth and advancement. But where do you start? How do you become a penetration tester? We hope our guide has given you some ideas on how to get started in your cybersecurity career.

If you have any questions, or need help getting started, don’t hesitate to contact our experts. They would love to hear from you and help you take the necessary steps on your penetration testing journey. Thanks for reading.

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