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What Is a Penetration Tester Salary?

What Is a Penetration Tester Salary?

Before discussing the ramifications behind the Penetration Tester salary, we need to examine the growing demand for Penetration testers.

Businesses worldwide, regardless of their sector, scale, or location, acknowledge the crucial importance of penetration testers in protecting their online assets. The job market shows a significant increase in demand for skilled penetration testers.

The Penetration Testing Market, valued at USD 4.25 billion in 2024, is projected to grow to USD 12.76 billion by 2029, with a compound annual growth rate of 24.59% between 2024 and 2029.

The global penetration testing market is expected to experience growth due to the rising number of cyber-attacks and the increasing importance of meeting compliance requirements.

As the frequency and complexity of cyber threats increase, there is a higher demand for skilled penetration testers. However, what implications does this have for individuals already in the field or thinking about joining it? One of their main concerns is: “What is the salary for penetration testers?”

This article discusses the expected salaries for penetration testers in 2024. We will talk about the various factors that impact how much money someone can earn, such as the demand for their skills, their level of experience, and where they are located.

Our goal is to reveal the hidden salaries of professional penetration testers. Understanding these factors is essential for navigating your career path, whether you’re considering a career in penetration testing or seeking to progress within the field.

RELATED: Who Is a Penetration Tester?

Penetration Tester Salary Range in the United States

StateAnnual SalaryMonthly PayWeekly PayHourly Wage
Massachusetts$142,966$11,913$2,749$68.73
Washington$135,768$11,314$2,610$65.27
Colorado$134,344$11,195$2,583$64.59
Delaware$125,860$10,488$2,420$60.51
Illinois$124,592$10,382$2,396$59.90
New York$124,421$10,368$2,392$59.82
Virginia$123,864$10,322$2,382$59.55
Maryland$121,848$10,154$2,343$58.58
Vermont$121,674$10,139$2,339$58.50
Nebraska$119,122$9,926$2,290$57.27
Missouri$118,714$9,892$2,282$57.07
South Carolina$117,757$9,813$2,264$56.61
California$116,601$9,716$2,242$56.06
Alaska$116,575$9,714$2,241$56.05
Oklahoma$115,360$9,613$2,218$55.46
North Carolina$115,327$9,610$2,217$55.45
Oregon$114,871$9,572$2,209$55.23
North Dakota$114,850$9,570$2,208$55.22
Pennsylvania$113,973$9,497$2,191$54.79
Maine$113,728$9,477$2,187$54.68
New Jersey$113,223$9,435$2,177$54.43
Kentucky$112,726$9,393$2,167$54.20
Hawaii$112,719$9,393$2,167$54.19
Wisconsin$111,993$9,332$2,153$53.84
Idaho$111,652$9,304$2,147$53.68
Michigan$111,179$9,264$2,138$53.45
Texas$111,003$9,250$2,134$53.37
New Hampshire$110,915$9,242$2,132$53.32
Nevada$110,227$9,185$2,119$52.99
Wyoming$109,011$9,084$2,096$52.41
South Dakota$108,546$9,045$2,087$52.19
Minnesota$108,014$9,001$2,077$51.93
New Mexico$107,573$8,964$2,068$51.72
Indiana$107,465$8,955$2,066$51.67
Rhode Island$106,399$8,866$2,046$51.15
Arkansas$106,315$8,859$2,044$51.11
Arizona$105,243$8,770$2,023$50.60
Ohio$105,038$8,753$2,019$50.50
Connecticut$103,871$8,655$1,997$49.94
Montana$103,657$8,638$1,993$49.84
Iowa$103,158$8,596$1,983$49.60
Mississippi$103,057$8,588$1,981$49.55
Alabama$102,363$8,530$1,968$49.21
Tennessee$100,282$8,356$1,928$48.21
Utah$100,281$8,356$1,928$48.21
Kansas$97,033$8,086$1,866$46.65
Georgia$95,359$7,946$1,833$45.85
Louisiana$94,306$7,858$1,813$45.34
West Virginia$88,023$7,335$1,692$42.32
Florida$84,393$7,032$1,622$40.57
Penetration Tester Salary Range

The Growing Demand for Penetration Testers

What Is a Penetration Tester Salary
What Is a Penetration Tester Salary

As of the beginning of 2024, around 5.5 million individuals are working in cybersecurity positions globally. The largest cybersecurity workforce in the world is found in the United States, with an estimated 1.33 million individuals.

It also emphasizes a significant chance for people who have the necessary skills. Forecasts suggest that there could be a shortage of up to 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs worldwide by the year 2025 due to a lack of qualified professionals in the field.

The heightened need for penetration testers isn’t just due to rising cyber threats. It also arises from the urgent requirement for businesses to proactively detect vulnerabilities and address them before malicious actors can exploit them.

The worldwide transition to digital activities has increased this necessity due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has also broadened the opportunities for cybercriminals to launch attacks.

The worldwide nature of this need indicates that penetration testers have opportunities across various regions and industries. 

Organizations across various industries, such as financial services, healthcare, retail, and government, are in need of skilled individuals who can effectively navigate the intricate cyber landscape and safeguard their operations against cyber threats.

The high demand makes penetration testing more than just a temporary job but a career with lasting opportunities and security.

Understanding Penetration Tester Salaries

Work & Study Cybersecurity

Various factors impact the salary of a penetration tester, highlighting the intricacy and significance of their position within the cybersecurity field. Salaries have adapted to meet the high demand for professionals in this field, providing attractive compensation for individuals who possess the necessary skills to succeed in this competitive industry.

An overview of the worldwide scene shows a notable difference in salaries for penetration testers, depending on factors like location. For instance, in the United States, the average salary for a penetration tester is a remarkable $116,452 (USD).

In comparison to the United Kingdom’s median salary of £61,021 (GBR), India’s median salary is ₹18,19,269 (INR). Europe has its own variety of salaries, with a median income of €73,912 (EUR), highlighting the worldwide need for these abilities and their importance in various economies.

In order to provide perspective, it is helpful to compare these numbers with the typical wages of other positions in the field of cybersecurity. Cyber Security Analysts may earn from $55,000 to $116,000, while System Administrators can expect to make between $46,000 to $90,000, and Information Technology Managers can earn anywhere from $56,000 to $134,000.

At the top range, Security Architects earn salaries starting at $131,000. These contrasts showcase the competitive aspect of penetration testing salaries and underscore the importance organizations attribute to experts who can proactively detect and address security risks.

Nevertheless, the monetary remuneration for penetration testers goes beyond just basic salaries. Numerous individuals in the industry can anticipate extra advantages and privileges, such as bonuses and incentive schemes, as well as comprehensive health coverage and chances for career growth.

These additional benefits make penetration testing even more appealing as a career path, providing more than just monetary incentives.

READ ALSO: Ethical Hacking: A Comprehensive Guide

Factors Influencing Pentester Salaries

Penetration Tester Job Responsibilities
Penetration Tester Job Responsibilities

The earning potential of a penetration tester is not a fixed marker but varies widely based on several key factors. Understanding these can help professionals navigate their career paths strategically to maximize their salary potential. Here’s a closer look at these determining factors:

1. Experience and Skill

Experience is a prime mover in the salary equation. Entry-level penetration testers, typically with 1-3 years of experience, start on a different scale compared to their mid-level (3-7 years) or senior-level (8+ years) counterparts. The depth and breadth of experience and a proven track record of handling complex security challenges significantly enhance one’s earning potential. Moreover, the skill set that a penetration tester develops over the years, including familiarity with various tools, technologies, and methodologies, also plays a crucial role in salary determination.

2. Education and Certifications

While hands-on experience is invaluable, formal education and certifications serve as benchmarks of a professional’s knowledge and dedication to their craft. Employers often look for candidates with relevant degrees and certifications as indicators of competency. Certifications like the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), and others are highly regarded within the industry. As penetration testers progress in their careers and accumulate advanced certifications, they can demand higher salaries reflecting their specialized skills and knowledge.

3. Geographic Location

Salaries for penetration testers can vary significantly based on their geographic location. This variation is due to factors such as the cost of living, local demand for cybersecurity professionals, and regional economic conditions. For instance, penetration testers in areas with a high cost of living and a concentrated tech industry, such as San Francisco or New York, often command higher salaries than those in regions where the tech sector is less pronounced. The advent of remote work has started to bridge this gap, offering professionals the flexibility to live in regions with a lower cost of living while working for employers in high-paying locales.

4. Specialization

The field of penetration testing encompasses a range of specializations, each with its unique demands and salary potential. Specialists in areas of high demand and complexity, such as web application testing, network security, or red team operations, can often command higher salaries. Therefore, the choice of specialization can significantly impact a penetration tester’s career trajectory and salary potential, with niche areas of expertise often rewarded with premium compensation.

Career Progression and Salary Growth

Career Progression and Salary Growth
Career Progression and Salary Growth

Various stages mark the career journey of a penetration tester, each offering new challenges, responsibilities, and, importantly, salary increments. Understanding the typical career progression can help professionals set realistic expectations and goals for their career and salary growth.

1. Entry-Level

At the entry point, penetration testers often start with basic responsibilities, focusing on learning the ropes under the guidance of more experienced colleagues. With 1-3 years of experience and possibly holding entry-level certifications like the Pentest+ or CEH, these professionals can expect starting salaries around $76,042 in the United States. This phase is crucial for foundational skill-building and gaining practical experience in diverse security environments.

2. Mid-Level

As penetration testers move into mid-level positions, typically between 3 to 7 years of experience, they take on more significant responsibilities. This may include leading testing activities, designing security strategies, and mentoring junior staff. Holding advanced certifications such as the OSCP, CRTO, or GPEN becomes a valuable asset at this stage. Mid-level penetration testers can expect salaries of around $108,860, reflecting their expanded team expertise and leadership.

3. Senior-Level

Reaching senior-level status with over 8 years of experience marks a significant milestone in a penetration tester’s career. These individuals may assume leadership roles, manage comprehensive testing engagements, and contribute to strategic security decisions. Specializations in high-demand areas of penetration testing can further enhance earning potential. Senior-level penetration testers enjoy salaries averaging $133,759, with the opportunity to exceed $200,000, particularly for those in high-demand specializations or leadership positions.

3. Benefits and Perks

Beyond base salaries, penetration testers often receive a comprehensive benefits package that can include performance bonuses, annual bonuses, health insurance, retirement plans, and opportunities for professional development. These benefits enhance the overall compensation package and contribute to job satisfaction and career longevity.

4. The Road Ahead

Career advancement in penetration testing does not follow a one-size-fits-all trajectory. Professionals can navigate their path by specializing in areas of interest, pursuing advanced certifications, and seeking out leadership opportunities. The cybersecurity landscape is dynamic, and adapting to new challenges and continuously refining one’s skill set is crucial for long-term career success and salary growth.

ALSO SEE: Top 10 Essential Cybersecurity Skills for 2024

The Future of Penetration Testing Careers

Penetration Tester Salary
Penetration Tester Salary

The cybersecurity landscape is perpetually in flux, driven by evolving technology, advancing threats, and changing business practices. This constant state of change suggests a bright future for penetration testing careers, with professionals poised to play an even more critical role in the digital age. 

As companies continue to digitize their operations and the Internet of Things (IoT) expands, the attack surface for potential cyber threats widens, necessitating robust security measures and skilled professionals to enforce them.

Job Growth and Future Prospects

The demand for penetration testers is expected to grow, driven by the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks. This growth is in traditional tech hubs and across a diverse range of industries and locations globally. 

The shift towards cloud computing, the proliferation of mobile devices, and the integration of cybersecurity into non-traditional sectors such as manufacturing and healthcare are expanding the career opportunities for penetration testers.

In addition to job security and the promise of continual demand, the field of penetration testing offers professionals the chance to stay at the forefront of technology and cybersecurity practices. It’s a career that challenges individuals to think critically and creatively and offers the satisfaction of protecting sensitive data and systems from malicious actors.

Evolving Specializations

As technology advances, new areas of specialization within penetration testing are emerging. Areas such as cloud security, IoT security, and mobile application testing are becoming increasingly important. 

Professionals willing to dive into these new frontiers can expect to be highly sought after, with opportunities to command higher salaries and lead the development of new security methodologies.

Moreover, the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning in cybersecurity presents both challenges and opportunities for penetration testers. These technologies are being used to automate certain aspects of cybersecurity, but they also require skilled professionals to develop, manage, and oversee them, ensuring that security measures keep pace with technological advancements.

MORE: The MGM Cyber Attack: Everything you Need to Know

Conclusion

The career path of a penetration tester is marked by continual learning, adaptation, and growth. With cyber threats becoming more advanced and pervasive, the need for skilled penetration testers is more critical than ever. For those in the field, this presents an opportunity for stable and lucrative careers and meaningful work in protecting digital infrastructures.

Looking ahead, penetration testers who are proactive in developing their skills, specializing in emerging areas of cybersecurity, and staying abreast of technological advancements will find themselves well-positioned for success. The future of penetration testing careers is not just promising; it’s essential to organizations’ digital security worldwide.

FAQ

Do Penetration Testers make good money?

Yes, penetration testers do make good money. With the penetration testing market rapidly growing and the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals outpacing supply, salaries in this field are quite competitive. As mentioned, the average salary for a penetration tester varies significantly depending on factors like geographical location, experience, education, and specialization. For example, the median salary in the United States can reach upwards of $116,452, with senior-level and specialized penetration testers potentially earning significantly more. This financial compensation reflects the high value and demand for their skills in the current job market.

Is penetration testing a good career?

Penetration testing can be an excellent career for individuals passionate about cybersecurity, problem-solving, and continuous learning. It offers the opportunity to work on various projects, technologies, and industries, ensuring that the work remains challenging and engaging. The field also presents a clear path for career advancement, from entry-level positions to senior roles with increased responsibility and salary potential. Additionally, the demand for penetration testers is expected to continue growing, offering job security and opportunities for advancement. For those interested in making a tangible impact on organizational security and staying at the forefront of technology, penetration testing is a rewarding career choice.

Is Penetration Tester a stressful job?

Like many roles in the field of cybersecurity, penetration testing can be stressful at times. The job involves identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in systems before malicious actors can, which can sometimes mean working under tight deadlines or dealing with complex and evolving threats. The responsibility of ensuring the security of sensitive data and systems can also add to the pressure of the role. However, many professionals find the challenges and problem-solving aspects of the job to be highly rewarding. Effective time management, continuous skill development, and a supportive work environment can help mitigate stress in this role.

Is Pentesting well paid?

Pentesting, or penetration testing, is indeed well paid, reflecting the specialized skills, knowledge, and expertise required to perform the job. The compensation for penetration testers is competitive, with salaries varying based on experience, qualifications, and location but generally falling within the upper echelon of IT and cybersecurity roles. The growing awareness of cybersecurity threats and the increasing importance of proactive security measures have driven demand for pen testers, further bolstering salary figures. Additionally, penetration testers often receive comprehensive benefits packages, including bonuses, professional development opportunities, and other perks, making it a financially rewarding career path.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your cybersecurity journey? You can do that with an expert beside you to guide you through without having to stress much. Schedule a one-on-one consultation with Tolulope Michael, a cybersecurity professional with over a decade of field experience. This will allow you to gain personalized insights and guidance tailored to your career goals.

Visit tolumichael.com now to book your session. This is your opportunity to embark on your cybersecurity career with confidence.

Tolulope Michael

Tolulope Michael

Tolulope Michael is a multiple six-figure career coach, internationally recognised cybersecurity specialist, author and inspirational speaker. Tolulope has dedicated about 10 years of his life to guiding aspiring cybersecurity professionals towards a fulfilling career and a life of abundance. As the founder, cybersecurity expert, and lead coach of Excelmindcyber, Tolulope teaches students and professionals how to become sought-after cybersecurity experts, earning multiple six figures and having the flexibility to work remotely in roles they prefer. He is a highly accomplished cybersecurity instructor with over 6 years of experience in the field. He is not only well-versed in the latest security techniques and technologies but also a master at imparting this knowledge to others. His passion and dedication to the field is evident in the success of his students, many of whom have gone on to secure jobs in cyber security through his program "The Ultimate Cyber Security Program".

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