November 11, 2022

Penetration Tester: What You Need To Know

Penetration Testers (commonly known as Pen Testers or Ethical Hackers) simulate cyber attacks to identify and report security flaws on computer systems, networks and infrastructure, including internet sites.

Working as a Penetration Tester you can choose to specialise in manipulating a particular type of system, such as:

  • Networks and infrastructures
  • Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems
  • Web/mobile applications
  • SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) control systems
  • Internet of Things (IoTs)
  • Embedded computer systems

Although you will be required to identify problems, working in this type of role you may also have to provide advice on how to minimise risks.

The Requirements 

Working as a Penetration Tester, you’ll be required to:

  • Comprehend complex computer systems and technical cyber security terms
  • Create reports and recommendations from your findings, including the security issues uncovered and level of risk 
  • Work with clients to understand and determine their requirements from the test, for example, the number and type of systems they would like testing
  • Plan and create penetration methods, scripts and tests
  • Comprehend how the weaknesses that you have identified could affect a business if they’re not fixed
  • Advise on methods to fix or lower security risks to systems
  • Carry out remote testing of a company’s network or you’ll carry out onsite testing of their infrastructure to expose weaknesses in security
  • Simulate security breaches to test a system’s relative security
  • Present your findings, risks and conclusions to management 
  • Understand the impact your ‘attack’ will have on the business and its users

The skills required to work as a Penetration Tester

When you work as a Penetration Tester you will need: 

  • In-depth understanding of computer systems and their operation
  • Soft skills are important such as possessing excellent spoken and written communication to explain your methods to a technical and non-technical audience
  • To be able to plan and execute tests while considering client requirements
  • Have attention to detail within your work
  • The ability to think creatively and strategically to penetrate security systems
  • Ethical integrity to be trusted with a high level of confidential information
  • exceptional analytical and problem-solving skills and the persistence to apply different techniques to get the job done
  • To be a team player
  • A strategic business mind to understand the implications of any weaknesses you find
  • Good time management and organisational skills to meet client deadlines

Penetration Tester salaries:

  • For Junior Penetration Testers or Graduates positions starting salaries are between £20,000 and £30,000
  • Once you’ve gained experience you can earn between £40,000 and £65,000, rising to £70,000 for senior and team leader roles. However, it is worth nothing that this figure can be significantly higher depending on the industry you work in
  • If you choose to work as a Freelance Penetration Tester you can expect to earn in the region of £400 to £500 per day

It is worth noting that salaries can vary depending on a range of factors including: your skills, experience and qualifications, where you’re based, the type of employer you work for and the sector you work in.
Career Prospects

Career prospects are good at all levels for people with the right combination of skills, qualifications and experience. When you are starting your career as a Penetration Tester it is imperative to have the relevant professional qualifications. It is beneficial sometimes to have some previous experience working in the industry too.

Once you have been working as a Penetration Tester for around three to five years, you can then progress into a team leader position. From here, and once you have a further two to three years of experience as a team leader, you’ll be a specialist practitioner and will be able to apply for larger-scale project leader and management roles.

With several years’ experience, there is the possibility that you could move into consultancy work or set up as a self-employed Penetration Tester.

Where will I be likely to work?

Once you’re working as a Penetration Tester you may end up working in-house for large companies where system security is a crucial function. Although, it is most common that you’re likely going to work for a security consultancy or risk management organisation – working here you’ll work with external clients where you’ll test the vulnerabilities of a company’s systems. Freelance work is also an option for those seeking a career in penetration testing.

If you would like to find out more about a career as a Penetration Tester – please contact our team of dedicated Course and Career Advisors and we can provide you with a step by step guide of just how to achieve this goal. Contact us today.

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