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The term "ethical hacker" may sound incongruous to many people, but these white hat hackers are vital to the security and survival of many corporations and government agencies. The market demand for these professionals also called penetration testers, is high.

If you want to serve this vital role on a security team, find an ethical hacker certification program and you will be on your way to a challenging, rewarding and necessary career.


And what is an ethical hacker? Well, the role of an ethical hacker is nothing if not multifaceted. You will need to be a master of computer code, network security architecture, cryptography, and also writing—and be able to present your findings to upper management.

You will also need to learn to think like a criminal who wants to crack into a secure system, but with less time and preparation. A criminal hacker can spend as much time as needed to study a system prior to launching an attack. You, on the other hand, might have a week or two to prepare.

Once you have completed your simulated break-in to a client (or employer) system, you will then need to analyze the scenario and write a detailed report. That report will need to include a breakdown of the problem for management, suggestions for improvements and a plan for how to implement these upgrades or other changes.



Prior to your immersion in Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) training, you will need to have at least a bachelor's degree and plenty of experience in a security department. It will be to your benefit to study and practice technical writing, be knowledgeable of managerial and financial concerns within a corporation and have a good working knowledge of system vulnerabilities and the current trends in black hat hacking. You will need well-developed problem-solving skills which can be gained by working in an IT department.


On top of the technical and analytical side of hacking, you will need to know how to manipulate people. Imagine how much easier it will be to break into a server if you are able to gain access to a password. This takes a silver tongue and knowledge not only of technical vulnerabilities but human weaknesses. As an ethical hacker, you will likely be asked to hack into a client's computer without ever having set foot on their corporate campus.


To become a CEH you will need to take a course that will prepare you for the examination. During the course, you will face many real-time scenarios that will test your mettle as a hacker and person. You will have many tools—usually over 2,000 total—at your disposal. While you might not use all of them, you will need to know how to use them and be knowledgeable of all of them.

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The training to become a CEH is a five-day intensive course. For that, you can either travel to an onsite training facility or take your course online. The online courses are conducted live and in real-time, so it is unlikely that you will be able to work during those days. In the training, you will have a laundry list of learning outcomes that will include these items, and more:

  • Denial of Service Attacks
  • Hacking Applications for the Web
  • Mobile Platform Vulnerability
  • Implementing Malware
  • Cryptography
  • Sniffing
  • Hacking Cloud Computers
  • Wireless Network Vulnerabilities
  • How to Evade Firewalls and Honeypots
  • Hijacking Sessions
  • How to Scan Networks

The examination and training are constantly being upgraded to include new technologies, such as cloud computing, that are likely targets of hackers. Since the field is constantly changing, you will want to adopt the attitude of a lifelong learner before you sign up to become a CEH. It might also help to be able to put yourself in the mindset of a criminal. After all, they say to catch a criminal you must think like a criminal.


Once you complete the above steps and get your 'hacker degree' thus becoming a CEH, your career can take a dramatic change. You can take on the role of a penetration tester and work as a security consultant to corporations and government agencies. If you want to work as a government contractor, it will help if you have some military training. It will be even better if your time in the military included any security clearances. Such experience will earn respect and esteem among your clients, but you can still earn those clearances without having served in the military.

The longer you work as a consultant, the more you will be able to charge your clients, making your earnings potential great. You might even grow your consultancy by taking on newer, less-experienced CEHs. Before you know it, you could have a company that needs to hire its own penetration testers.

Not everyone will want to go out on their own and you may prefer to work with an employer to gain experience. With your professional cyber certification, the job market will open up and you may seek work under one of these titles:

If you decide to remain in your current role, your newfound knowledge and skills will be of immense value in assessing, upgrading and evolving your security protocols. You will have what it takes to analyze the problems your system faces and communicate these to the top executives in a language they understand.

Note: Certificate vs Certification

  • Certificate: A certificate is awarded by an educational institution, and signifies that a student has satisfactorily completed a given curriculum. Certificate programs can help students prepare for certification exams.
  • Certification: A certification is generally awarded by a trade group after an individual has met certain professional requirements (e.g. earned a specific degree, worked professionally in a given field for a set amount of time, etc.) and passed a certification exam.

In short, a certificate is evidence that someone has completed an educational program, while a certification denotes that someone has met a certain set of professional criteria and/or passed an exam.

Not all programs offered are designed to meet state educator licensing or advancement requirements; however, it may assist candidates in gaining these approvals in their state of residence depending on those requirements. Contact the state board of education in the applicable state(s) for requirements.


You typically need an undergrad degree to pursue ethical hacking. To find the right cyber security degree program for you, use the Find Schools widget on this page. Simply enter your zip code and request enrollment information. Whether you decide to work for a consulting firm or go out on your own, the training you receive will equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to succeed. Don't wait – start your journey to a successful career in ethical hacking today!

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Cyber Security Certifications