Earn A Penetration Testing Certification: A Step-by-Step Guide

Penetration testing is a proven method used to reveal vulnerabilities in systems, networks, and applications. Pen tests can be manual or automated, but it’s best done by a certified penetration tester. Certification teaches pen testers the techniques, protocols, and tools they need to know to do a thorough job. Here’s what you need to know about earning a penetration testing certification.

Do I Need a Degree to Be a Pen Tester?

No degree is required to offer penetration testing services. In fact, most employers prioritize hands-on knowledge and skills above a degree, but a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field (like computer science, cybersecurity, or IT) can be helpful.

If you’d like to become a pen tester or continue offering competitive penetration testing services, becoming certified is a quick and effective method of gaining relevant knowledge and showcasing your skills to potential employers.

Penetration Testing Certification Options

While pen testers are not required to hold a certification, earning one can help you stand out in the resume stack and even help you earn more for your services. Fortunately, there are countless certification options on the market, but that can also make selecting the right program a bit difficult.

Unlike some other professional certifications, there is no accrediting body for penetration testing courses. This means any company or organization can offer a penetration testing course and issue a certificate upon completion, but the actual value of that certificate will be solely based on the quality of the course you choose.

Lastly, the way in which you earn your certification depends on the provider of the course. For instance, the Information Assurance Certification Review Board (IACRB) allows you to complete their exam at a training partner’s location. They can also set up an on-site proctor if you have a group of 10 people or more looking to take the exam. Of course, if you’re employed by a member organization, you can take it online.

The Best Penetration Testing Certifications

If you’re looking for the right penetration testing certification to advance your career, consider these top choices from trusted organizations.

Certified Ethical Hacker by EC-Council

The International Council of E-Commerce Consultants, or EC-Council, is the closest thing to a recognized authority in the world of penetration testing. The EC-Council calls itself the largest cybersecurity technical certification body in the world, so they offer a variety of courses for those in the field, including a Certified Ethical Hacker course. This comprehensive certification will teach you how to “think like a hacker” and use modern penetration testing techniques and tools.

The course includes 20 modules that cover over 300 attack technologies and 140 simulations of hacking scenarios. You’ll also gain access to 2,200 hacking tools. Once you complete the course, the certification can be displayed for up to three years. After three years, you’ll need to take the course again to continue using the title of a Certified Ethical Hacker.

Licensed Penetration Tester by EC-Council

If you’re looking for an expert-level certification, EC-Council also offers an expert-level course that will earn you the title of Licensed Penetration Tester. Compare that to the title of Certified Ethical Hacker, which is considered a core or entry-level course. 

This course is extensive, with the exam alone taking 18 hours to complete. The final exam is broken down into three parts, each one more difficult than the last, giving you six hours at each level as you gain entrance into multi-layer hardened infrastructure. Just like the CEH title, you’ll need to recertify every three years to maintain the title of Licensed Penetration Tester Master. 

The Best Penetration Testing Certifications

The IACRB, offers a number of relevant certifications including a two-hour exam that will earn you the title of Certified Penetration Tester. During this exam, you’ll demonstrate your working knowledge as an ethical hacker across nine domains, including methodologies, network protocol attacks, OS exploits, wireless security flaws, and more.

Unlike the EC-Council’s certifications, which last for three years, all the certifications from the IACRB last for four years. When comparing IACRB’s course to the entry-level course offered by EC-Council, you’ll find that the IACRB has much less in the way of material and is more focused on offering an exam to those who are already prepared to take it.

GPEN Certification by GIAC

The GIAC Penetration Tester credential, abbreviated as GPEN, is offered by the well-trusted Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC), which is part of SANS. Aside from being a leading authority in certifications, GIAC’s certification also stands out thanks to its focus on best practices and proven methodologies, while also exploring the legal considerations of penetration testing.

To earn the certifications, participants need to complete a three-hour exam, which covers the fundamentals of exploitation, escalation tactics, advanced attacks, vulnerability scanning, and more. Like the IACRB’s certification, this certification will be valid for four years. 

Discover The Benefits of Advanced Pen Testing

Are you looking to learn more about advanced penetration testing services and the benefits they hold in the modern cybersecurity era? Reach out to Locus today to start making the most of the latest tactics, techniques, and talent.