How Much Can You Make as an Ethical Hacker

IEEE Computer Society Team
Published 12/24/2021
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Ethical HackerThe threat of cyberattacks is, unfortunately, what can happen to any business with internet access. While purely malicious or exploratory hacking attempts still happen, cyber attackers, today are out to make tax-free income. Due to the low risk of getting caught, many more criminals are getting into the hacking business.

With an army of potential attackers out there, any business that depends only on traditional cybersecurity technologies to keep its systems and data safe is at risk. It takes a more proactive approach to prevent attackers from breaching a network and stealing data. That is why ethical hackers are in demand.



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What Ethical Hackers Do

Ethical hackers take the proactive approach to protect networks and systems by using the same tactics a cyber attacker would use to steal data—but identify flaws and vulnerabilities. Instead of hoping that legacy security tools remain up to date with current cyberattack techniques and waiting for an actual attack to test the effectiveness of these tools, they launch their limited attacks on a network or system to ensure everything is ready when the real thing happens.


Ethical Hacker Salaries

A few factors determine how much an ethical hacker will get paid. The most common differentiator is experience. Here is how ethical hackers are paid on average based on experience level according to PayScale:

  • Entry Level: $67,000
  • Junior Level (1-4 years): $81,000
  • Mid Level (4-10 years): $110,000
  • Senior Level (10+ years): $115,000

Your location also factors into the salary of an ethical hacker, with big cities, remote cities, and those on the coasts paying above the average salary level. According to ZipRecruiter, cities in California, Alaska, and Virginia have the highest pay for ethical hacking careers, with the average being over $144,000 in Santa Clara, California.

Another factor that could affect the salary of an ethical hacker is the job title, which can vary for even the same type of role. Some roles may not consist of full-time ethical hacking tasks, and others will require a specialized application of ethical hacking techniques. Here are some average salaries based on the job titles from Indeed:

  • Penetration Tester: $112,198
  • Security Engineer: $103,670
  • Information Security Analyst: $82,785
  • Security Analyst: $82,093
  • IT Security Specialist: $55,029


The Ethical Hacker’s Career Path

The typical ethical hacker role requires that a candidate have a bachelor’s degree or above in computer science, information systems, or a related field. With the right experience, employers will often overlook this educational requirement.

Ethical hackers also should have programming experience. While many tools allow white hat hackers to test networks and systems without writing code, the ability to write custom code gives them more flexibility when attempting to exploit unique systems.

A few technical certifications can make candidates stand out among their peers by showing that they have demonstrated the skills necessary for the job. A well-known one is Certified Ethical Hacker, endorsing the applicant’s knowledge in ethical hacking from a vendor-neutral point of view.

Another common certification for ethical hackers is Certified Penetration Tester. CompTIA and other technical associations also provide cybersecurity certifications that can further validate an ethical hacker’s knowledge of network and software security.


To Sum It All Up

Ethical hackers are in demand and will continue to be as long as cyber attackers still exist. With cybercrime being as profitable as it is, these attackers are not going away. And businesses will pay the right candidate well to take the proactive approach to protect their network and data. An ethical hacking career path is perfect for anyone who loves technology and is interested in how modern cybersecurity works.