How To Become A Hacker (Course, Skills, & Salary)

How To Become A Hacker

Hacking is typically associated with unethical individuals who seek to breach computer networks stealing sensitive personal, company, or government information in the process. However, some people put their hacking skills to good work. These are ethical hackers, and you can become one if interested.

You can turn hacking into a lucrative career helping companies assess their computer systems and networks. However, you need a specific set of skills and experience to achieve this. Moreover, you must adopt particular strategies to land an ethical hacking gig.

Find out how to become a hacker in this post.

Who Is a Certified Ethical Hacker?

A certified ethical hacker is an ICT professional specializing in assessing computer systems security and identifying any vulnerabilities malicious hackers can exploit. These professionals utilize the same knowledge and skills used by unethical hackers to test these vulnerabilities.

Besides uncovering loopholes, ethical hackers implement corrective and preventative measures to reinforce the security of the client’s network. Without cybercrime on a high today, services provided by certified ethical hackers are increasingly becoming vital.

Below are the typical tasks performed by ethical hackers:

  • Watch out for security breaches on a network
  • Test, monitor, and upgrade the network, software, and hardware security
  • Develop and implement information technology security practices
  • Simulate cyberattacks on software, networks, and hardware
  • Investigate security breaches that happened in the past

Is Certified Ethical Hacker Worth It?

Certifications are pretty important for people working in cybersecurity. Therefore, Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification is worth it for penetration testers, current or aspiring ethical hackers, or individuals working in the cybersecurity domain. While this certification alone will not land you your dream job, below are the benefits of getting it.

1. Job Security

The severity and rate of cyberattacks make CEH certification attractive to employers and guarantee you long-term employment. It is cost-effective for businesses to hire cybersecurity specialists than incur the cost of cyberattacks. Small businesses typically spend an average amount of $ 690 000 to clean up after being hacked, while mid-market companies spend more than a million dollars.

2. Raises Your Salary

You will see a bump in your paycheck and even secure a more lucrative position after getting a CEH certification. This is the quickest way ethical hackers can take to make more money. On average, a certified ethical hacker is paid about $97 000, with the amount going up to $155 000.

3. It Is a DOD Compliance Requirement

You must be certified if you want to work in the Department of Defence (DoD). Information Assurance personnel at DoD must be certified in order to handle the security systems and sensitive information.

CEH certification meets DoD’s requirements for the roles of CSSP Auditor, CSSP Analyst, CSSP Incident Reporter, and CSSP Infrastructure Support.

What To Study To Become A Hacker?

A majority of colleges and universities do not offer hacking or ethical hacking majors. Therefore, students in ethical hacking careers usually pick a computer-based program to prepare them. Below are the top majors taken by people interested in ethical hacking.

Computer Science this broad field of study encompasses studying computational systems and computers. It also covers security but will not be the main education focus.  

Cybersecurity- this course focuses on computer systems and network security. However, the curriculum includes information technology and computer science coursework such as operating systems and programming.

Computer Engineering- take this course if practically applying math and science principles to design cybersecurity systems interests you. Computer engineering is electrical engineering’s subdiscipline.

Key Skills an Ethical Hacker Must Possess

Besides the qualifications needed to do the job, you also need the personality and technical skills essential for this job.

Personality Skills

  • The confidence and competence to take on and fight various challenges
  • Problem-solving capabilities
  • The enthusiasm to explore
  • Instant thinking
  • The dedication to ensure the infrastructure keeps working

Technical Skills

  • Intense operating systems knowledge
  • Hardware knowledge
  • Knowledge about Microsoft and Linux servers
  • Deep understanding of the past, current, and upcoming software
  • Deep Microsoft and Citrix exchange knowledge

How To Become Ethical Hacker After 12th

You can take different paths after completing your 12th to become an ethical hacker. While you can have a career in ethical hacking without a formal education, certification is an added advantage that equips you with skills and credibility to outshine other professionals in a similar line of work.

A degree in an IT-related course is valued in the industry. The common degrees are discussed above, but you can also consider software engineering. In addition, certification courses are also important. The recommended certification courses for ethical hackers are:

  • CEH
  • OSCP
  • SSCP
  • CISA
  • CISM
  • Cyber Security Incident Response for Managers
  • Cyber Security Foundations: Common Malware Attacks and Defense Strategies

How To Become An Ethical Hacker Without A Degree

While a formal education makes the path to becoming an ethical hacker much more straightforward, the lack of a degree does not make this dream unattainable. However, it is more difficult, and you will need to work harder. Here is what you will need to do:

1. Attend A Cybersecurity Boot Camp

Joining a cybersecurity bootcamp will help you learn the ropes of ethical hacking and cybersecurity in general. You will also be able to interact with other people in the industry and share ideas.

2. Learn and Practice Hacking

Using programming tools such as Nmap, Metasploit Framework, and Kali Linux to learn and practice hacking. Spend a considerable amount of time honing the skill because you cannot become an ethical hacker if you cannot hack.

3. Put Your Abilities to Test

Hacking different systems like switches, routers, and firewalls will help you gauge your abilities, uncovering your weaknesses and strengths. This will give you an idea of where to focus your studies more.

4. Perform Penetration Tests

Field experience is vital, so make sure you conduct vulnerability assessments and penetration tests to continue strengthening your skills.

5. Get Certified

Certifications like CEH and CompTIA Security + provide fundamental expertise. The money and time you put into getting certified also shows potential employers that you are serious about cybersecurity.  

6. Network

Interact with other ethical hackers and other people in the cybersecurity industry to learn from them. They will also pick a thing or two from you.

Ethical Hacker Salary

According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary of ethical hackers in the United States is $106 727. However, the amount of money you make will vary based on your geographical location, industry, work experience, certifications, education, and company. For instance, ethical hackers with 0 to 1 years of work experience earn $89 058, while those with 7 to 9 years get $121 620.

How To Become A Hacker For The Government

Make yourself an excellent to work as an ethical hacker in a government institution by taking the following steps:

1. Follow the Right Path To Learn Ethical Hacking

If you are eyeing a job in government as a hacker, then get a degree in a relevant field like cybersecurity. Most universities offer various courses for learners interested in ethical hacking. Ensure you learn details about various operating systems to see any vulnerabilities, work with different software like Nessus and WireShark, and acquire cybersecurity skills.

In addition, learn cryptography and make sure you know how to solve problems. Besides a bachelor’s degree, you can also get a master’s degree (it is not compulsory but a valuable asset).

2. Certifications

Getting certified validates your ethical hacking professional skills, increasing your odds of landing a job in government. There are many certifications you can take. It is important to note that every certification has a focus area and eligibility requirements.

3. Gain Work Experience

Practicing ethical hacking in the real world helps you advance your skills and gain exposure. The proper skills, certification, and work experience put you in an excellent position to become an ethical hacker in the government sector. Therefore, strive to work in a reputable organization before transitioning to a government position.

4. Look for Job Openings

Apply for open positions in government organizations, including the armed forces. In addition, the FBI’s cyber security department employs ethical hackers, so you can consider employment there. However, note that the FBI performs extensive background checks, and you need a clean record to work for this institution.

Other Career Opportunities for Ethical Hackers

Besides working for the government, you can use also offer your hacking skills to other sectors. For example, you can find exciting opportunities at IT companies, international corporations, consultancies, and tech service firms. Alternatively, you can start a cybersecurity company or become a freelance ethical hacker.

When looking for jobs, pay attention to the following position names:

  • Ethical hacker
  • Systems Auditor
  • System Administrator
  • Security Analyst
  • System Security Architect
  • Security Manager
  • Cybersecurity Specialist

Final Remarks

Ethical hacking is the right career for you if you are passionate about keeping the integrity of computer networks and systems and excited about catching cybersecurity vulnerabilities. This career is interesting and offers the prospects of working in various industries. Also, you can become your own boss, which can be lucrative, fulfilling, and exciting.


Tom is a network engineer and a tech consultant. He spends his time solving networking problems while keeping tabs with the latest in the technology field.

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