Pretty much every organization you can think of — from banks to retailers to government agencies — relies on digital technology to perform their daily operations and manage their sensitive data. As a result, cybersecurity has become a top priority for companies.
That’s why many companies turn to Ethical Hackers, who help find and address security vulnerabilities that malicious hackers might use to gain unauthorized access to systems and information. Every company wants to keep their systems secure, so Ethical Hackers are in high demand, and the field is often fairly lucrative. In the U.S., the average salary for an Ethical Hacker is $104,454 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 relevant 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 up to four years of experience can expect about $81,000 per year.
Mid-career Ethical Hackers who’ve worked for five to nine years earn an average of $90,000 annually. Finally, Ethical Hackers with over 10 years of experience take in about $112,000 annually on average.
As an Ethical Hacker, with every year you work, your pay will likely 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 averages $92,500, while someone in San Antonio, Texas, earns around $60,000.
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 around $103,500. But if you live just a few hours south in Los Angeles, you’ll likely be making closer to $81,347.
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
Check out our free course Introduction to Ethical Hacking to explore the field and what it entails in greater detail. Then, try our Introduction to Cybersecurity course to learn more about common cyber threats and how to prevent them. You can also start learning the programming languages Ethical Hackers use in courses like:
And once you’ve built the right skills, read our article on how to (legally) get some hacking experience.