5 Steps to Becoming an Ethical Hacker

Our world is changing – fast. The advent of technology has made millions of traditional jobs obsolete, but there’s a flip side. 

Our data-driven, interconnected world has given rise to millions of new job openings and career opportunities; cybersecurity is one of those industries flourishing.

According to a Cybersecurity Ventures report, there will be 3.5 million open jobs in the Cybersecurity industry by 2021. There is currently an enormous gap in the market. Companies, governments, and businesses large and small are starving for skilled, motivated cyber professionals and Ethical Hackers to protect their data from the ever-growing cybercrime threat.

For many people, a move to a career in ethical hacking (also known as penetration testing, or pen testing) is an attractive proposition. Whether they be new students, IT professionals with some experience, or midlife career changers, becoming an ethical hacker opens many personal and professional benefits:

  • A challenging, fast-paced career at the cutting edge of technology
  • Exposure to the latest IT systems and methodologies
  • A meaningful way to give back to the world every day
  • Thousands of open jobs at prestigious employers, locally and internationally
  • Excellent compensation and benefits
  • Opportunities for advancement, and much more

The benefits are clear. The hard part is how to make the idea of an ethical hacking career into reality. Here are the five steps you should take when considering how to become an ethical hacker:

Step 1: Assess Yourself

Learning how to become an ethical hacker starts with knowing whether it’s the right career move.

So, consider this: Do you fit the profile of an ethical hacker? Do you have the experience and temperament for the exciting pace of ethical hacking?

Many people transition up to ethical hacking from previous IT positions, such as programming, coding, and system specialists. As a more advanced branch of cybersecurity, ethical hacking does require some IT knowledge. However, you don’t necessarily need to be a computer geek to make it a career. Some ethical hackers came from different backgrounds altogether, such as liberal arts and law.

Apart from technical aptitude, there are other essential qualities to bring to the table as an ethical hacker. The ideal ethical hacker is highly analytical, a problem solver, and a creative thinker. By nature, ethical hackers are curious and investigative. They thrive in the face of challenges and think out of the box. 

Does this sound like you? Answering “yes” to this question is the first stage in the journey of how to become an ethical hacker.

Step 2: Become Educated About Education

If you’ve decided that you’re a good fit for a career as an ethical hacker, the next step is to investigate all the options for cybersecurity education available to you.

A significant advantage of transitioning to ethical hacking is that you do not need to invest in a four-year college degree. There is a range of hands-on cybersecurity programs that provide the education you need to qualify for excellent jobs quickly.

The courses available will depend on multiple variables. Where you live, how much time and resources you want to invest in your ethical hacking education, and whether you prefer online or classroom-based learning are things to consider before getting started.

Step 3: Get Credentialed

Over the past 10 to 20 years, the cybersecurity industry has outpaced the output of skilled, educated cyber professionals. This means that people with few or no credentials took many ethical hacking jobs, and whose entire cyber education consisted of on-the-job learning.

The industry has since become more strict and eventually implemented education standards and certifications to qualify candidates as trained cybersecurity and ethical hacking professionals.

Today, if you want to move to an ethical hacking career, you’ve got to have the right training that leads to the proper credentials.

Getting credentialed means enrolling for a hands-on, practical pen testing course to prep you to pass the industry exams, such as the OSCP (Offensive Security Certified Professional) and the CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) exams of the EC-Council.

Make sure to choose a training program that provides real-world lab simulations, and a teaching staff made up of industry professionals.

Step 4: Build Your Network

As the cybersecurity industry grows, local networks of cyber professionals are growing, too. Ethical hacking students need to become a part of the cyber ecosystem in their local community. 

Networking helps build connections with colleagues, employers, and educators, and it will help you stay updated with new developments and career opportunities that are close to home.

You can build your professional cyber network by learning pen testing in your local area, like a college or institute that provides in-classroom training. This way, you will connect face-to-face with teachers, students, and professionals in the local industry.

You can also join a pen testing class or course that offers networking opportunities, such as social events and job fairs, and whose teaching staff come from within the local cyber ecosystem. It’s not just about the program – a career in ethical hacking is easier when you are part of a networking team.

Step 5: Hunt for the Right Job

Now that you’ve finished your courses, completed certification exams, and built a network of like-minded professionals, it’s time to get out there and search for the right ethical hacking job.

With so many job openings available in the US and worldwide, your ideal ethical hacking position is within reach. It’s merely a matter of getting the right career guidance and job search support. 

Some ethical hacking bootcamps offer graduate services, including career counseling, interview coaching, assistance with building a LinkedIn profile, and internship placement services.

On your search for the right ethical hacking program, make sure it includes these added extras that can be a real advantage in helping you kickstart your ethical hacking career.

Looking to switch your career path? Be a part of the growing cybersecurity field and put your education to work in less than one year! Schedule your free consultation with our Admissions Advisors today.

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