Ethical Hacking Salary in the US: All Roles

Ever wondered if a career as an ethical hacker is worth it or what could be the average ethical hacking salary

Along with a slew of benefits that make our lives easier, the digital age has brought with it an equal serving of threats and vulnerabilities. Popularly known as cybercrime, the darker side of the digital revolution is a menace that keeps growing by the day.

As governments and organizations worldwide increase their reliance on technology to collect, analyze, and store sensitive data, cybercriminals reap the benefits through cyberattacks that range from minor data breaches to attacks on a global scale. According to reports, the average cost of a single data breach in 2020 amounted to US$ 3.86 million. As a result, global spending on cyber security is at an all-time high. 

In a scenario where the global incidence of cybercrimes is on a steady rise, ethical hacking offers some respite. So, here’s all that you need to know about what ethical hacking entails and certified ethical hacking salary in the U.S.

What is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking is the authorized practice of dodging system security and gaining access to a computer system or network to identify potential threats and data breaches. Carrying out ethical hacking activities involves mimicking the actions and strategies of malicious attackers so that security vulnerabilities can be identified before a cybercriminal has the chance to exploit them. However, unlike malicious hacking, the ethical hacking process is legal, planned, and approved by the owner or organization of the system or network.

Ethical hackers or “white hats” are security experts investigating the system or network and performing the required assessments. They look for weak points that could be vulnerable to the attack of malicious or “black hat.” Ethical hackers help improve the security status of an organization so that it can better deal with future threats and divert potential attacks. In a nutshell, ethical hacking involves figuring out ways to strengthen the defenses of a system, network, or application.

Job Description of an Ethical Hacker

Before we go into the details of certified ethical hacking salary in the US, it’s essential to understand ethical hacking and its related job titles. An ethical hacker replicates the strategies of a cybercriminal to penetrate a system or network, but legally. However, instead of tampering with the system, ethical hackers report concerns or potential vulnerabilities to amp up the system’s defenses.

Here’s a list of some of the strategies that ethical hackers employ as part of their job:

  • Inspecting security patch installations to ensure that they cannot be meddled with.
  • Studying the vulnerabilities of open ports in an organization’s systems and taking remedial measures. Port scanning tools such as Nessus and Nmap come in handy for this purpose.
  • Employing social engineering methodologies like dumpster diving to examine trash cans and extract critical information for generating an attack.
  • Attempting to evade Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), firewalls, and honeypots.
  • Bypassing and cracking wireless encryption, monitoring networks, hijacking web applications, and web servers.

Certified Ethical Hacking Career Salaries in the United States

A certified ethical hacker is qualified for several job titles. Further, the certified ethical hacking salary in the U.S. will depend on the following factors:

  • Experience/Job title
  • Location
  • Employer

Certified Ethical Hacking Salary Based on Job Title

Job Title Average Salary per year Job Title Average Salary per year
IT Security Specialist US$ 55,921 Information Security Analyst US$ 84,863
Security Engineer US$ 97,691 Penetration Tester US$ 117,721
Intelligence Specialist US$ 49,527 SOC Analyst US$ 109,668
Application Specialist US$ 58,252 Cybersecurity Consultant US$ 94,123

Certified Ethical Hacking Salary Based on Location

Highest paying U.S. cities for an IT Security Specialist:

City Average Salary per year
New York, NY US$ 127,347
Jacksonville, FL US$ 121,769
Washington, DC US$ 119,543
Atlanta, GA US$ 109,788
Fort Meade, MD US$ 108,689

Highest paying U.S. cities for a Security Engineer:

City Average Salary per year
New York, NY US$ 155,885
San Jose, CA US$ 126,398
Orlando, FL US$ 105,171
Houston, TX US$ 101,900
Tampa, FL  US$ 100,300

Highest paying U.S. cities for an Intelligence Specialist:

City Average Salary per year
Fort Belvoir, VA US$ 122,508
Fort Meade, MD US$ 120,361
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH US$ 117,905
Washington, DC US$ 116,515
Quantico, VA US$ 111,179

Highest paying U.S. cities for an Application Specialist:

City Average Salary per year
New York, NY US$ 86,756
Tampa, FL US$ 79,406
Dallas, TX US$ 74,951
Houston, TX US$ 74,608
Boston, MA US$ 66,586

Highest paying U.S. cities for an Information Security Analyst:

City Average Salary per year
Washington, DC US$ 125,284
Atlanta, GA US$ 102,592
New York, NY US$ 99,500
Irvine, CA US$ 97,856
Boston, MA US$ 92,443

Highest paying U.S. cities for a Penetration Tester:

City Average Salary per year
New York, NY US$ 140,162
Washington, DC US$ 137,858
Chicago, IL US$ 131,324
Alexandria, VA US$ 134,616
Sterling, VA US$ 128,053

Highest paying U.S. cities for a SOC Analyst:

City Average Salary per year
Washington, DC US$ 158,014
Houston, TX US$ 120,396
Springfield, VA US$ 105,124
Dallas, TX US$ 93,983
New York, NY US$ 83,462

Highest paying U.S. cities for a Cybersecurity Consultant:

City Average Salary per year
Atlanta, GA US$ 160,738
Los Angeles, CA US$ 124,000
New York, NY US$ 121,037
Washington, DC US$ 115,092
Austin, TX US$ 90,325

Certified Ethical Hacking Salary Based on Employer

Job Title Company Average Salary per year
IT Security Specialist Target US$ 154,000
FM Global US$ 148,000
ACI Federal US$ 147,282
Dunson and Associates US$ 144,172
Avanade US$ 143,549
Security Engineer Facebook US$ 173,094
DISYS US$ 163,213
MindPoint Group, LLC US$ 159, 813
MoneyGram US$ 152, 147
eBay US$ 150, 102
Job Title Company Average Salary per year
Intelligent Specialist SM&A US$ 166,572
NASA US$ 130,132
U.S. Department of Energy US$ 125,834
U.S. Department of State US$ 123,414
U.S. Department of Defense US$ 120,210
Job Title Company Average Salary per year
Application Specialist Cedars-Sinai US$ 137,083
Boeing US$ 127,479
NeuroLogica US$ 126,196
Promoveo Health LLC US$ 122,271
Accenture US$ 113,755
Job Title Company Average Salary per year
Information Security Analyst EY US$ 138,946
MindPoint Group, LLC US$ 137,012
Paycom US$ 133,542
Peraton US$ 132,087
UCLA Health US$ 129,341
Job Title Company Average Salary per year
Penetration Tester PG&E US$ 148,000
MindPoint Group, LLC US$ 140,000
Pueo Business Solutions US$ 138,118
FireEye US$ 123,996
Gridiron IT US$ 123,351
Job Title Company Average Salary per year
SOC Analyst MindPoint Group, LLC US$ 178,353
Better.com US$ 158, 600
Spectrum US$ 147,000
Alvarez & Marsal US$ 121,336
Leidos US$ 117,715
Job Title Company Average Salary per year
Cybersecurity Consultant PwC US$ 137,218

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Conclusion

Ethical hacking has become commonplace in the Information Security market. Any organization or business that provides an online service or is heavily reliant on digital technologies should consider ethical hacking to be a critical investment. Such organizations need ethical hackers to fire up the security of their systems and networks as a precaution to skirt potential data breaches. From banking and finance to healthcare and governments, ethical hackers are needed everywhere. No doubt, there can be no better time to explore cyber security careers.

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Is ethical hacking illegal?

Ethical hacking is completely legal, pre-planned, and approved. It is one of the fastest-growing and highest-paying professions in the IT sector today. As an ethical hacker one can work in a security firm, an organization, or as an independent security consultant.

What do hackers study?

With the right skills and knowledge, a career as an ethical hacker can be quite promising. Critical ethical hacking skills include computer networking skills, programming skills, LINUX skills, reverse engineering, database skills, cryptography skills, basic hardware knowledge, and problem-solving skills.

What programming languages do ethical hackers study?

Ethical hackings require programming languages such as Python, JavaScript, C, SQL, C++, PHP, Ruby, Java, and Perl.

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