How to Become an Ethical Hacker: Training, Certifications, Careers

There's never been a better time to become an ethical hacker. Demand for IT security professionals who can root out security flaws and outwit cyber criminals just keeps growing.

Globally, it's estimated that cyber attacks cause $6 trillion in damage each year. By 2025, that figure could grow to $10.5 trillion.

Ethical hackers are a company's best defense against costly security breaches.

And they are paid very well for their skills. According to PayScale, the average salary for certified ethical hackers in Canada is almost $78,000.

So how can you launch a career in this field? What training and certifications do you need?

This post provides a clear roadmap. We outline the skills and credentials employers want in ethical hackers and training options for complete beginners.

Here's what you need to know.



Ethical hackers deliberately set out to break into their company's computer networks and systems.

Their job is to test security controls and find weaknesses that could be exploited by malicious attackers.

Their work helps the IT team plug security holes and stay one step ahead of the cyber criminals. The ultimate goal is to prevent data theft and improve systems security.

Typically, ethical hackers are responsible for:

☑️ Assessing existing security systems

☑️ Conducting penetration testing on networks, web and mobile applications

☑️ Simulating various types of cyber attacks

☑️ Looking for vulnerabilities that scanners miss

☑️ Writing reports that explain their findings

☑️ Recommending improvements to avoid and mitigate the effects of cyber attacks

☑️ Keeping up with the latest threats and security trends

Ethical hackers can work for any business that uses computer systems to deliver products or services.

Opportunities are commonly found in government, banking, health care, energy, transportation, communications, and other industries.



Ethical hackers must have a thorough understanding of:

☑️ Network, cloud platform, operating system, and web application security

☑️ The fundamentals of various operating systems, such as Linux, Unix, and Windows

☑️ Firewalls

☑️ Penetration testing and network scanning

☑️ Sniffing

☑️ Encryption algorithms

☑️ Programming and scripting

Quality cybersecurity training should cover all these topics and provide a solid foundation for aspiring infosec professionals and ethical hackers (even if you're a total beginner).


what other skills are required?

In addition to technical knowledge, you will need to demonstrate certain soft skills and character traits to become an ethical hacker. 

These are 3 of the most important attributes employers look for when hiring this role:


☑️ High ethical standards

Obviously, you should never break into a network or system unless you are specifically authorized to do so.

You're playing the role of a cyber criminal, but you shouldn't actually become one. Engaging in "black hat" hacking can have serious consequences.


☑️ Creative thinking abilities

This job is all about pushing boundaries. Criminals are constantly coming up with new ways to bypass system security, and you have to stay ahead of them.

That often means using a system in ways it was never intended to be used. You need to think creatively to test the limits of security measures and find the weak points before anyone else does.


☑️ Strong communication skills

Report writing is a major part of this role. You need to document how you were able to hack into a system and what should be done to address the security flaws.

You may also need to work directly with the IT team to help them learn how to avoid attacks. So it's important to be able to express yourself clearly and concisely.



As with many areas of IT, certifications can boost your ability to land ethical hacker jobs.

Some positions require the Certified Ethical Hacker certification from EC-Council. It's a four-hour multiple-choice exam that tests your knowledge of security risks and countermeasures.

You don't need formal training to be eligible for the CEH exam. However, you do need at least two years of work experience in information security.

Here are a few other certifications that are commonly listed in ethical hacker job postings:

☑️ Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

☑️ Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

☑️ Offensive Security Certified Expert (OSCE)

☑️ GIAC Web Application Penetration Tester (GWAPT)

☑️ GIAC Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN)



There are plenty of programs that can help you develop the skills needed to become an ethical hacker.

Some positions call for a 4-year degree in computer science or a related field. But that's not always a firm requirement.

The demand for ethical hackers is so high that many companies are open to hiring candidates who don't have university degrees.

Real, practical skills (and certifications) are often considered more important than degrees.

A short college-level cybersecurity course can help you get a solid grounding in security best practices as well as ethical hacking tools and techniques.

A good diploma program will also prepare you for recognized IT security certifications. That way, you can be ready to hit the ground running shortly after graduation.



Ready to learn more about short, focused training that can help you become an ethical hacker?

Check out the accelerated Cybersecurity diploma program at Herzing College (Toronto and Ottawa campuses).

It takes just 12 months from start to finish and includes comprehensive training in ethical hacking tactics.

The program also prepares students for four different certifications that employers value, including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Click below to get complete details about the Cybersecurity program and chat live with an Admissions Advisor. We're here to help!

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