lines of codes with lock icon at the center How to Learn Ethical Hacking

Learn Ethical Hacking: Courses, Certifications, Careers, and Salaries

You may hear the term “hacker” and think of bad guys in the movies who steal money and codes using computers. But there are good hackers too. An ethical hacker is different from a malicious hacker in that their mission isn’t about stealing but protecting. The main goal of ethical hackers is to protect information and people, not to destroy them. 

If you want to be an ethical hacker, you don’t have to wear a mask. Read on to find out what you need to learn to start protecting systems from hackers.

What Is Ethical Hacking and Why Is It Important?

Ethical hacking, also known as penetration testing, is a lawful act of breaking into the information system to discover security vulnerabilities within the network. Potential threats are holes in the system where attackers can enter. Ethical hacking prevents malicious hackers from stealing or disrupting confidential data and protects the organization from future attacks.

Cybercriminals are now some of the worst enemies of every business. Illegal hacking not only destroys information but can ruin people’s lives as well. Severe damage from a cyberattack can cause big companies to completely stop their operation and sometimes spend billions of dollars to recover. Aside from that, it also destroys customers’ trust and ruins the company’s reputation.

If an organization doesn’t implement security practices like ethical hacking, they are more prone to data breaches and malware. Ethical hackers evaluate possible threats and create solutions that can eliminate those threats. In that way, the organization can protect its assets as well as its employees and clients from the damage of cyberattacks. 

Ethical Hacking in Context: Types of Hackers

Several types of hacking are represented by different colors to emphasize their different roles. Below, we’ll give you the top three types of hackers and a glimpse of what they do. 

  1. White hat hackers. Also known as ethical hackers, white hats help organizations strengthen their information security and prevent their systems from being compromised. A white hat hacker bypasses security protocols without violating the cyber law to identify security flaws and create plans on how to eradicate them. 
  1. Black hat hackers. Black hats are bad hackers. They illegally access systems to steal money, destroy computer networks and disclose confidential information. Some of the most common attacks they are involved in are malware, Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS), man-in-the-middle, and phishing attacks. 
  1. Grey hat hackers. Grey hat hackers are in a neutral position between white and black hat hackers. They intrude into the system without the owner’s permission to look for security vulnerabilities. If they find something, they will inform the owner and demand a payment to fix the issue. 

Ethical Hacking Skills: What Should an Ethical Hacker Learn?

Ethical hackers should have a strong understanding of technologies and network security protocols. To be a good hacker, you must be knowledgeable in computer systems and adept at writing programs. Let’s take a look at some essential skills and technical knowledge of an ethical hacker.

Penetration testing

Ethical hackers should know how to perform security tests on networks and computer systems. Penetration testing, often called pentesting, involves in-depth knowledge of programming languages such as Python, Java, C, HTML, and Assembly language. Developing programs will help you identify system errors and create solutions more quickly.

Knowledge of Operating Systems

Kali Linux is the most popular operating system (OS) used in pentesting and security assessments. As an ethical hacker, you should know how to operate Kali Linux and how to use its hacking tools. Most companies also use Linux since it is more secure compared to other operating systems. It is based on the Linux kernel and is an open source.

Skills in Computer Networking

One of the most fundamental skills of an ethical hacker is networking. Networking refers to the interconnection of devices used in sending and receiving data. Strong skills in computer networks such as TCP/IP Network, web technologies, and the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model will help ethical hackers monitor and identify malicious threats within the network.

Hardware Knowledge

Hardware devices such as computers, switches, storage devices, and servers are used in networking. Knowledge about these physical components will provide you with an understanding of how the computer network works and operates. You should learn how these devices are connected and what security measures you can impose to protect the network. 

Skills in Database Management

Protecting the database which stores confidential information is vital in cyber security. To prevent any unauthorized access, you must have strong skills in handling database engines such as MySQL, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and MongoDB. There are plenty of courses available where you can learn database management

How to Learn Ethical Hacking from Scratch: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you know the essential skills of an ethical hacker, you can start deciding whether learning ethical hacking for a job as a penetration tester would be the right path for you. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to start preventing cyber attacks by learning ethical hacking.

Step 1: Take a Deep Dive into Ethical Hacking

The first thing you need to do is to familiarize yourself with ethical hacking. Look into the required skills you must have to be a white hat hacker, possible career opportunities, and certified training centers for ethical hacking.

Step 2: Get Updated on the Types of Cyber-Threats

Attackers are becoming more complex and creative in innovating new forms of cyberattacks. It is important to know the tactics and means of conducting this type of attack to successfully protect against them. Some of the common types of these are malware, computer viruses, eavesdropping, phishing, and SQL injection.

Step 3: Develop your Programming Skills

Ethical hacking involves developing computer programs and operating application software. If you don’t have previous experience in coding, there are lots of practical ways to learn popular programming languages required such as Python and HTML.

Step 4: Learn Linux Operating Systems

You must learn Linux programming and commands since most companies use Linux operating systems. Knowledge of Kali Linux is also important in penetration testing. You can find Linux coding bootcamps that will provide you with a thorough and intensive education and earn you a certificate. Certificates in Linux are valued highly by employers.

Step 5: Earn Certificates

Most employers require cyber security certifications before you are considered qualified for ethical hacking jobs. Completing a certification exam helps potential employers evaluate your expertise in this field. This is a great opportunity for you as well to enhance your technical skills and knowledge of hacking. 

Ethical Hacking Salary Information

According to PayScale, the average salary of an ethical hacker is $80,000. Just like most jobs, salaries will vary depending on work experience. Those who have less than a year of experience in this field can earn an annual salary of $67,147 and those who have 10 to 19 years of experience can earn a salary of up to $114,783 per year.

Other Ethical Hacking Careers and Their Job Outlook

There are many job opportunities for ethical hackers with generous pay. In this section, we will give you some of the most common ethical hacking careers. 

  • Information security analyst. In this role, you will perform penetration testing to find potential threats in the system.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that information security analysts earn an average annual salary of $103,590 and career growth is expected to rise by 33 percent by 2030
  • Penetration tester. Penetration testers secure systems by executing security tests to find weaknesses and vulnerabilities. They innovate the network infrastructure and analyze the efficiency of testing standards and procedures. The average salary of a penetration tester is $88,069 per year, according to PayScale. 
  • Network Security Engineer. This role protects the network from any cyber security threats. They also conduct penetration testing to test and configure systems and devices. PayScale reports that the average annual salary for this job is $90,110.

Best Ethical Hacking Courses and Training

A student typing on a laptop on a table. How to Learn Ethical Hacking
You can learn ethical hacking concepts by enrolling at bootcamps and schools that offer short courses or video content on cyber security.

Ethical hacking is not as simple as what you see in the movies. But the good news is that you don’t have to enroll in a cyber security degree program to learn hacking methods. You can find lots of programs and courses where you can increase your ethical hacking knowledge. 

Best Online Courses to Learn Ethical Hacking

  • Penetration Testing, Incident Response and Forensics by Coursera. In this course, you will learn about penetration testing, which is fundamental in ethical hacking. You will complete this free online course in about 17 hours and will earn a certificate upon completion. 
  • Learn Ethical Hacking from Scratch by Udemy.  This course teaches Kali Linux programming, hacking network security, and many other skills needed to become an ethical hacker. Udemy offers this course that includes 145 lectures and takes approximately 16 hours to complete.
  • Ethical Hacker by Alison. Alison brings you a free online course that will teach you pentesting, network hacking, and internet hacking. To acquire a certificate, you must get a score of 80 percent or above in the course assessment. 

Best Cyber Security Bootcamps to Learn Ethical Hacking

  • Fullstack Academy. This bootcamp has full-time and part-time cyber security courses that teach the essential skills of an ethical hacker such as Kali Linux and computer networks. Both full-time and part-time programs cost $15,980 and students pay an enrollment deposit of $2,000 upon acceptance. 
  • Code Fellows. This school offers ops and cyber security programs that involve hacking techniques, pentesting, system protection, networks, and operating systems. At Code Fellows, you can choose from its courses ranging in price from $99 to $12,000.  Most of its cyber security courses last four to 10 weeks. 
  • Evolve Security Academy. If you can, consider enrolling at Evolve Security Academy. It offers programs that are important to ethical hacking like networking, OSINT and Social Engineering, and Scripting for Security. Most of their programs use ethical hacking tools such as Kali Linux, Python, and AWS. 

Ethical Hacking Professional Certifications

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Most employers will require you to have professional certificates in ethical hacking such as the CEH. To qualify for this certificate, you must have a strong knowledge of computer programming, information security, computer science, or a related field.
  • GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN). This is another ethical hacking certification you need to have. GPEN exams will test your skills in penetration testing using different attacks. To qualify, you must have in-depth skills in operating systems, networking, and cryptography.
  • Certified Penetration Testing Engineer (CPTE). CPTE will teach you how to become an ethical hacker with hands-on penetration testing experience. It also covers expertise and knowledge of exploitation, data collection, and scanning. This certificate may require experience in computer networks, Linux, and Microsoft packages.

Should I Learn Ethical Hacking in 2021?

Yes. Being an ethical hacker will bring you lots of career opportunities. As technological advances continue to evolve, cybercriminals are becoming more creative in their hacking techniques. Their attacks are unpredictable and can affect both large and small businesses. Because of this, the demand for professional hackers continues to increase. 

Learning legal hacking is now made easier. You don’t need to have a degree to learn the skills of an ethical hacker. There are plenty of ethical hacking courses and bootcamps available both online and on-site for cyber security.

How to Learn Ethical Hacking FAQ


What qualifications are needed to become an ethical hacker?

The most common qualification for an ethical hacker is the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). A Bachelor’s Degree in Cyber Security or any other IT field may be required. You may also need to earn other cyber security certifications to increase your skills and qualifications.


What should I study to become an ethical hacker?

You should have strong skills in Kali Linux, computer networks, and computer programming. Adept knowledge in web development as well as in penetration testing is also required.


How can I become an ethical hacker without a bachelor’s degree?

You can learn ethical hacking by enrolling in cyber security bootcamps and schools that offer short programs. They have online and on-site courses where you can learn ethical hacking basics as well as advanced knowledge. 


How much does an ethical hacker make?

The average annual salary of an ethical hacker according to PayScale is $80,000. This may vary depending on work experience in this field. 

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