Penetration Tester Salary Guide – How Much Can You Expect to Earn as a Pen Tester?

Penetration testers, also referred to as pen testers, are professionals who protect organizations’ data and information systems from cyber-attacks. Large, medium, and small entities, especially those that handle personal/sensitive information hire pen testers to safeguard their data. But what is the penetration tester’s salary?

Learn the salary range of these professionals, the highest paying cities and states, and compare penetration testers’ salaries with other specialists in the cybersecurity field.

What Is the National Average Annual Salary of a Penetration Tester?

The penetration tester’s average annual salary is around $88,800. Assuming that the pen tester works five days a week and eight hours a day, this is approximately $7,400 per month, $1,707.67 per week, and $42.69 per hour.

However, the pen tester’s salary is not fixed as it varies from one location to another and the level of experience. If you have many years of experience, your salary will be higher than that of inexperienced testers.

What Is the National Annual Starting Salary of a Penetration Tester?

In the United States, the annual entry-level salary of a pen tester is $70,200, which is about $33.75 per hour. The penetration tester earns $1350 per week and $5,850 per month.

The annual starting salary of a penetration tester differs significantly, and the compensation amount varies from one organization to another and the area of specialization. It also differs with the level of education, meaning penetration testers with higher degrees earn more. In addition, there are more opportunities for experienced pen testers than those with zero experience.

What Are the National Average Earnings of a Penetration Tester Based on Years of Experience?

Experience is one of the significant factors that affect your salary range. Penetration testers with many years of experience earn more than entry-level pen testers.

Penetration testers with less than one year of experience earn an annual average of $70,200. In contrast, testers with one to five years of experience get average pay of up to $88,000 or more, depending on the company’s size.

Mid-level penetration testers with five to nine years of experience pocket an average annual salary of $110,000. Pen testers with ten to nineteen years of working experience have an average pay of $123,100.

Penetration testers with over 20 years of experience earn more than $136,000. Some of the experienced testers can earn up to $158,000 annually.

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Highest Paying Cities for Penetration Testers

Cities do not offer the same salary range for penetration testers. Some US cities pay penetration testers higher salaries above the national average pay. However, most places that offer high salaries have high costs of living.

Among the cities that pay a lot to penetration testers include Dallas, New York, Washington, and Chicago.

A pen tester earns up to $136,700 per year in Dallas, TX. In New York, a penetration tester gets a salary of $136,100 per year, while in Washington, DC, a tester takes home $128,350 annually.

Chicago, IL, is another city where penetration testers earn a higher pay of $112,450 per year. A pen tester in Alexandria, VA, pockets $125,800 annually. In Phoenix, AZ, a penetration tester is paid $112,990 yearly.

In San Francisco, CA, a pen tester earns $112,440 per year, while in Norfolk, VA, these professionals get a salary of $108,240 annually.

Charlotte, NC, is not left behind as a penetration tester in this city earns up to $92,000 per year.

Below is a recap of these salaries (annual).

  • Dallas – $136,700
  • New York – $136,100
  • Washington – $128,350
  • Alexandria – $125,800
  • Phoenix – $112,990
  • San Francisco – $112,440
  • Norfolk – $108,240
  • Charlotte – $92,000

Comparing a Penetration Tester’s Salary Range With Other Cybersecurity Specialists

How does the salary of penetration testers compare to other specialists in cybersecurity?

Some cybersecurity specialists earn more than the $88,800 paid to pen testers, while others make less.

Here are the salary ranges of different specialists in the cybersecurity field:

  • Cybersecurity analysts earn an average annual salary between $55,000 to $116,000.
  • Security analysts get a pay of $50,000 to $100,000 per year.
  • System administrators make $46,000 to $90,000 yearly.
  • An information security analyst is paid $52,000 to $113,000 annually.
  • Security engineers pocket $65,000 to $140,000 per year.
  • Information technology managers get between $56,000 to $134,000 annually.
  • Software engineers get a pay of $64,000 to $130,000 per year.
  • Senior software engineers earn $89,000 to $162,000 yearly.
  • An information security manager pockets $82,000 to $155,000 per year.

How Do I Advance My Career and Earn More as a Penetration Tester?

With the rampant increase in cybercrime, the demand for penetration testers is rising to help safeguard organizations’ data. As a security specialist, how do you advance your career as a pentester and earn more?

To be a penetration tester, you must have a degree in information technology or computer science that the Center for Academic Excellence recognizes. You also need a certification that is DOD 8570-compliant. Ethical hacking skills might also be necessary.

You can obtain various certificates from EC-Council. EC-Council provides the following globally recognized certifications:

  • Certified ethical hacker
  • Certified network defender
  • EC-Council certified security analyst
  • Licensed penetration tester

These certifications assist job seekers in proving to employers they have both theoretical and practical knowledge to apply in the real world.

If you possess some basic penetration testing skills, you can gain more experience through volunteering or internship. The knowledge gained from either volunteering or internship will be a significant boost in your next job application.

Web attacks are common, and as a penetration tester, you must possess web application hacking skills. You can get multiple resources on the internet that allow you to hack sites legally. By hacking these websites, you learn about different vulnerabilities that make web applications prone to attacks and how you can safeguard the sites from being attacked.

You can also advance your penetration career by enrolling in a cyber security course. Such a course allows you to learn more about protecting data and systems against cyber attacks. The above ways will help you attain your professional goals and eventually earn more as a penetration tester.