Ethical Hacker: Job Description, Requirements & Salary

Ethical hackers are trained hackers who use their skills to identify security problems with computer networks. This article explores their typical duties as well as the education and skills needed to succeed in this career field.

Career Definition of an Ethical Hacker

Ethical hackers are cyber security professionals who are capable of breeching security systems. They conduct tests on computer networks and try to hack into the networks to access information without authorization. The purpose of this is to identify weaknesses in the security systems that are in place and help determine how to improve Internet security.

The primary objective of an ethical hacker is to ensure that the computer systems they work with are safe and cannot be accessed without authorization. They need to be aware of new software and hardware that can improve computer security since they play a key role in determining the security needs of their employer or clients. When they attempt to hack into the system, they produce reports detailing their attempts and the conclusions they've reached about the effectiveness of the security systems that are in place.

Educational Requirements Bachelor's degree and certification
Job Skills Analytical skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, customer service skills, attention to detail, problem-solving skills
Median Salary (2017)* $95,000
Job Outlook (2016-2026)** 28% (information security analysts)

Sources: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

In order to become an ethical hacker it's necessary to have a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as computer science. Ethical hackers need to have computer programming experience and familiarity with a range of different programming languages. It's common for employers to require ethical hackers to have Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification and other recognized certifications, such as CompTIA, that prepare them to work as experts in cyber security.

Required Skills

Ethical hackers need to have strong analytical skills because their work involves reviewing a lot of data to identify potential issues with computer network security. Their work can involve consulting with clients, explaining their findings to managers or clients, and collaborating with other professionals who are involved with information security. They therefore need to have excellent customer service skills and strong interpersonal skills. Communication skills are also important so that they can effectively explain their test results to clients and coworkers. Exceptional problem-solving skills and attention to detail are fundamental since ethical hackers need to be thorough in their attempts to breech the security systems in place. They must also develop new and often innovative strategies that enable them to identify problems with the security systems they work on.

Career Outlook and Salary

As of 2017, PayScale.com reported that ethical hackers earned a median income of $95,000 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that information security analysts, which includes ethical hackers, can expect to see jobs increase by 28% from 2016 to 2026. This is four times the national average job growth rate for the same time period, which is 7%.

Related Careers

Ethical hackers spend most of their time working on computers and must be capable of writing computer programming code. Those interested in this career field may be interested in the other occupations linked to here that involve writing computer code, protecting data stored on computer networks and creating secure computer networks.

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