Penetration tester salary
For some, aiming for one of the most glamorous or cool jobs is their cup of tea. For many in information security, that’s being a penetration tester. Much like in many well-known action movies, you’ll get to hack into computer systems for a legitimate purpose.
The question remains: How much can you expect to earn as a pentester? This article will address how much you can make as a pentester, what factors you can expect to impact your salary, and tips to boost your salary if you are hungry to earn more.
What is a penetration tester?
Pentesters use an array of ethical hacking, general hacking knowledge and other information security skills to test computers, information systems, networks and IT systems for exploitable vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit. After finding these vulnerabilities, they simulate real-life cyberattacks with various tools and methods. Simply put, pentesters get paid to hack legally to improve organizational information security.
Penetration tester national average salary
Aside from being one of the most attractive information security roles, the salary you can expect as a national average is also appealing. While there is not one settled national average salary for pentesters, we can calculate what would be the most accurate national average salary. Below are the national average salaries for pentesters from some of the leading job salary reporting websites:
We can calculate an overall average salary based on these five projections for the pentester average salary. This calculation gives us a value of $112,700. This average salary is 13% higher than the national average salary in the United States of $97,962, which means that for those looking to boost their average salary as well as work in one of the most interesting areas of information security, becoming a pentester may be a good change for you.
The most important thing to remember here is that this figure is a median and does not represent your earning potential for the lifespan of this role, as it can vary significantly based on many factors. Below, we will explore different factors that can affect how much you can earn as a pentester.
The largest factor affecting a pentester salary is your professional pentesting experience. There aren’t statistics we can use to calculate how much you will make per job experience level. But, based on the calculation made above for the average pentester salary, you can expect your experience level to directly correlate to how much you can earn as a pentester.
Another impactful factor in this role’s salary is what skills you possess as a pentester. A broader skill set will reap bigger rewards in your salary, which is clearly shown in the numbers themselves. For example, a pentester with black-box testing skills can expect to earn 14% more than if he/she did not. Less on-point skills, including encryption, will only boost your pentester salary by 4%.
Certifications are a great way to upgrade your skills. There are different options for pentester certifications, but some are better than others. The most on-point pentesting certification is the Certified Ethical Hacker certification or CEH.
Where you live has a major impact on your pentester salary, which is sometimes counterintuitive. Pentesters in Washington, D.C. can expect an increase of 15% over the national average, those in Austin, TX can expect a 17% increase, Seattle pentesters get 7.3% more than the national average and in San Francisco, you will take home an extra 11.7%. Lastly, pentesters in New York City can expect an average salary 12% higher than the national average.
Pentester salary summary
Pentesting is a cool information security role rewarded handsomely compared to the national average of all jobs in the United States. This healthy figure can be bolstered by factors such as experience, skills and even the metropolitan area you live in.
Not all jobs have a pay rate that matches their “cool” levels, but given that pentesting is a role with excellent pay, it should appeal to any ethical hacker/hacking enthusiast.
If you want to earn the PenTest+ certification, please visit the Infosec PenTest+ hub for exam objectives, FAQs and more useful information related to this pentester cert. And to learn more about the penetration tester career path, visit our penetration tester hub.