Technology has become a large part of the day-to-day operations of most businesses and government agencies. As a result, the security of data has become a priority for these organizations.
Ethical hacking involves identifying vulnerabilities and working to prevent malicious hackers from penetrating and obtaining sensitive information. In the U.S., the average salary for an Ethical Hacker is $101,750 a year.
Still, that rate can vary widely depending on factors like certifications, education, experience, and additional skills. Below, we'll take a closer look at how these factors influence an Ethical Hacker's salary and job opportunities.
Experience plays a huge role in an Ethical Hacker's salary. While many jobs in ethical hacking don't require a specific degree, many do require a substantial amount of job-related experience.
According to PayScale, an Ethical Hacker with less than one year of experience can expect to earn around $67,000 a year. Someone with a bit more experience, at 1-4 years, can expect about $81,000 per year.
Mid-career Ethical Hackers who've worked for 5-9 years earn an average of $100,000 annually. Finally, the highly experienced 10-19-year-long Ethical Hackers take in about $115,000 annually.
As an Ethical Hacker, with every year you work, your pay will increase as you learn new skills and techniques along the way. As an Ethical Hacker solves more problems and helps find new ways to protect an organization, their value within the company increases accordingly.
Ethical hacking jobs in the United States vary depending on the region you're working in. Just as with other jobs, when the cost of living is higher in a particular area, the pay rate generally increases to match.
For example, an Ethical Hacker working in New York City can earn 10.7% higher than the national average at $112,637, while someone in San Antonio, Texas, could earn 23.7% less at $78,652.
Some areas, like California, vary greatly even when their towns are only a short distance from each other. If you work in San Jose, you could make 27% over the average annual salary. But, if you live just a few hours south in Los Angeles, you'll be making closer to 2% higher than average.
Having a job as an Ethical Hacker can involve many responsibilities that often get categorized under different job titles. Along with the factors above, your job title may influence your salary. Here are a few examples of the different pay scales for Certified Ethical Hackers:
- Network Security Analyst: $41,362 - $106,823
- Penetration Tester: $50,845 - $127,714
- Cyber Security Analyst: $48,086 - $118,991
- Forensics Computer Analyst: $42,684 - $118,616
- Information Security Manager: $73,241 - $153,163
- Security Engineer: $56,017 - $132,536
- Information Security Analyst: $48,522 - $107,004
Each of these positions has different requirements and responsibilities, so your salary can vary greatly depending on your specific role.
There are many paths you could take to become an Ethical Hacker. Every company has its own criteria for what they're looking for and what certifications (if any) they want you to have. But, if you want to stand out in a job interview and end up in a higher salary bracket, specific training will help.
Certifications related to ethical hacking that can give you an edge in the job market include:
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
- GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)
Knowledge is key to getting the salary you want, so taking courses related to ethical hacking can boost your resume and show your value to an employer. Ethical Hackers have many technical skills under their belt, such as:
How to become an Ethical Hacker
Employers' top desires, especially with tech-related jobs, are knowledge and experience. To get started on your path toward ethical hacking, check out our introduction to cybersecurity. Then, start learning the programming languages Ethical Hackers use in courses like:
Even a new hire working in ethical hacking can make a solid yearly salary — one that's sure to go up as the years pass and the need for Ethical Hackers increases. So get started with the learning process now to start making money (and make a difference) as you protect organizations from cyber threats.