best penetration testing certifications

A Comprehensive Review Of The Best Penetration Testing Certifications

This guide provides an overview of the best penetration testing certifications available for cybersecurity professionals. From entry-level certifications like CompTIA PenTest+ to advanced certifications like Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) and GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN), with this guide,  IT Exams will help you choose the right certification to advance your career in the field. What […]

April 17, 2023

This guide provides an overview of the best penetration testing certifications available for cybersecurity professionals. From entry-level certifications like CompTIA PenTest+ to advanced certifications like Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) and GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN), with this guide,  IT Exams will help you choose the right certification to advance your career in the field.

What Is A Pen Testing Certification?

best penetration testing certifications

A penetration tester, often known as an ethical hacker, is a security specialist who can assist organizations in detecting security flaws before malevolent attackers exploit them.

Certification in penetration testing trains testers for real-world tasks. Each candidate must finish the required courses and pass an exam in order to be certified. This exam assesses the candidate’s understanding of fundamental information security concepts as well as the most recent penetration testing technique.

There are a number of top penetration testing certifications. Most certifications necessitate some prior knowledge of system administration and networking. Advanced techniques like operating system vulnerabilities and client-side assaults are the subject of the finest penetration tester certifications.

The Importance Of A Penetration Testing Certification

best penetration testing certifications

A penetration testing certification boosts credibility and confirms a candidate’s ability level for persons already working as penetration testers or considering a career in the area.

Some service providers who claim to perform penetration testing are actually merely giving an automated vulnerability scan. Certification can help clients verify that a penetration testing service includes a comprehensive manual inspection of the client’s systems by a certified professional.

While businesses frequently engage certified penetration testers for specific projects, they can also build an in-house penetration testing team. The early costs are hefty, but the long-term advantages are significant. As opposed to external services, having an internal penetration testing team offers more frequent testing, faster response times, and lower testing expenses. However, enterprises must consider that in-house penetration testers will need to be recertified, which can be time-consuming and costly.

Another possibility is for organizations to train in-house workers in penetration testing techniques even if they do not intend to utilize them full-time. Employees in IT, security, development, or even leaders such as a chief information security officer (CISO) might benefit from pen-testing certification since it allows them to gain hands-on experience with critical systems.

Types of Pen Testers Certifications

best penetration testing certifications

Penetration testers can obtain a variety of qualifications. Some certificates, or sections within pentest certifications, specialize in a specific area of penetration testing, such as:

  • Mobile security testing
  • Penetration testing of web applications
  • Testing for cloud penetration
  • Penetrating the network

Penetration testing certifications can also be divided into three levels: entry-level, intermediate-level, and expert-level. Beginner and intermediate credentials are appropriate for those who are new to penetration testing, while expert-level certifications are appropriate for seasoned certified penetration testers who want to refresh or enhance their skills.

Here are some examples of certifications appropriate for each level:

  • Beginner—GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN) Certification;
  • Intermediate—Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CompTIA PenTest+ Expert—Licensed Penetration Tester
  • Master (LPT) Certification; and Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) Certification

10 Best Penetration Testing Certifications For Security Professionals

Below is the list of the top penetration testing certifications that may significantly beneficial for both beginners and executives in the Cyber Security field. Let’s explore!

1. C-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

best penetration testing certifications

  • Intermediate level
  • Provided by: EC-Council
  • Validity period: 3 years
  • Cost: $1,199

The International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) ranks first in the list of the best penetration testing certifications. It describes itself as the “world’s largest cybersecurity technical certification body.” Their Certified Ethical Hacker certification is a thorough certification that teaches you to think like a hacker. The certification is valid for three years.

Candidates must either undergo formal training or be authorized through an application process to be eligible for the four-hour certification exam. You must also have two years of experience in the field of information security. The official CEH training program consists of 20 modules covering several security domains and over 300 attack technologies. The application offers over 140 laboratories that simulate real-world settings as well as access to over 2,200 commonly used hacking tools.

The program’s objectives are to assist you in:

  • Develop an ethical hacking approach.
  • Understand complex security principles
  • Discover how to scan, hack, test, and safeguard a company’s information systems.

2. EC-Council Licensed Penetration Tester (LPT) Master

  • Expert level
  • Provided by: EC-Council
  • Validity period: 3 years
  • Cost: $250

Ranked second in this list of best penetration testing certifications is Licensed Penetration Tester Master. This is an EC-Council certification at the expert level (in comparison, CEH is considered core, or novice). Unlike the CEH certification, there are no predetermined eligibility criteria for candidates for LPT Master. Every three years, recertification is required.

According to the EC-Council, the goal of the LPT Master is “to differentiate experts from novices in penetration testing.” As a result, the exam lasts 18 hours. Here’s a rundown of the exam:

  • In real-life scenarios involving a hardened infrastructure, you proceed through three separate stages, each with three challenges. Each level consists of a six-hour exam.
    You only have a limited amount of time to deal with a multi-layered network design with defense-in-depth controls.
  • You must make numerous options about which attacks and tactics to employ as you navigate the network and web applications in an attempt to exfiltrate data.

3. Infosec Institute Certified Penetration Tester (CPT)

best penetration testing certifications

The Infosec certification is a well-known industry organization that provides a variety of certifications. Certified Penetration Tester is a two-hour exam aimed to demonstrate pen-testing working knowledge and skills.

CPT is divided into nine domains:

  • Methodologies for pen testing
  • Attacks on network protocols
  • Reconfiguration of the network
  • Identifying Vulnerabilities
  • Windows flaws
  • Exploits for Unix and Linux
  • Rootkits and covert channels weaknesses in wireless security
  • Vulnerabilities in web applications

CPT, like other Infosec Institute certifications, is valid for four years.

4. Certified Expert Penetration Tester (CEPT)

Certified Professional Penetration Tester is another Infosec Institute certification that indicates professional competence in the field of pentesting. Certified penetration testers, according to the Infosec Institute, are “people who are highly skilled in methods of evaluating the security of computer systems, networks, and software by simulating attacks by a malicious user.”

“The process involves an active analysis of the system for any potential vulnerabilities that may result from poor or improper system configuration, known or unknown hardware or software flaws, or operational weaknesses in process or technical countermeasures,” according to the definition. An adept penetration tester should also be able to identify and exploit unexpected vulnerabilities in targeted software and systems.”

The two-hour CEPT exam, like the CPT, has nine domains. However, the majority of these domains differ from the CPT ones. The CEPT domains are as follows:

  • Methodologies for pen-testing
  • Attacks on networks
  • Reconfiguration of the network
  • Shellcode in Windows
  • Unix and Linux shellcode
  • Reverse-engineering
  • Memory corruption and buffer overflow flaws
  • Exploit development for Windows architecture
  • Exploit development for the Linux and Unix platforms

5. Certified Mobile and Web Application Penetration Tester (CMWAPT)

best penetration testing certifications

Certified Mobile and Web Application Penetration Tester cover eight domains unique to mobile operating systems and web applications. The two-hour exam covers the following topics:

  • Pentesting procedure and approach for mobile and online applications
  • Vulnerabilities in web applications
  • Attacks on web applications
  • App components for Android
  • Attacks on Android apps
  • IoS app components
  • App-based IoS attacks
  • Principles of secure coding

6. Certified Red Team Operations Professional (CRTOP)

Red Teams are comparable to pen testing in that they require a larger-scale strategy including more people who dig far deeper than regular pen-testers. For those who want to demonstrate their ability to conduct a full Red Team assessment, Infosec Institute provides the Certified Red Team Operations Professional certification.

The two-hour exam covers the following topics:

  • The Red Team Assessment methodology’s roles and responsibilities for Red Teams
  • Tools and strategies for physical recon
  • Tools and strategies for digital recon
  • Identification and mapping of vulnerabilities
  • Social manipulation
  • Reporting of Red Team Assessment

7. CompTIA PenTest+

best penetration testing certifications

  • Intermediate level
  • Comptia provides this service.
  • Validity period: 3 years
  • Cost: $381

There are rumors that the 7th candidate in the list of the best penetration testing certifications is the easiest pentesting certification. CompTIA’s PenTest+ certification is new to pen testing, but it’s well-known in the industry for a variety of other IT and security credentials. According to CompTIA, PenTest+ is intended to measure “the most recent penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, and management skills that IT professionals require to run a successful, responsible penetration testing program.”

PenTest+, like other CompTIA examinations, is a mix of multiple-choice and hands-on, performance-based questions. The exam covers five fundamental areas:

  • Planning and scoping are critical components of compliance-based assessments and planning.
  • Working with Bash, Python, PowerShell, and Ruby scripts as pen-testing tools
  • Information gathering and vulnerability detection: In preparation for exploitation, perform a vulnerability scan and analyze the results.
  • Exploits and attacks: Exploiting many types of networks, apps, and vulnerabilities
  • Communication and reporting: Reporting and advising mitigation strategies based on best practices

8. Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) Penetration Tester (GPEN)

  • Level: Novice
  • GIAC provides this service.
  • Validity period: 4 years
  • Cost: $2,499

The GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN) certificate is one of GIAC’s pentesting credentials. GIAC, a subsidiary of SANS, is regarded as a prominent authority for a range of certifications. GPEN focuses on pentesting methodology and best practices, as well as pentesting legal issues. The certification is valid for four years.

Candidates must demonstrate knowledge in the following areas throughout the three-hour exam:

  • Advanced password attacks
  • Password hashes with advanced algorithms
  • Fundamentals of exploitation
  • Exploitation and escalation
  • Metasploit framework transferring files containing exploits
  • Password heists
  • Password hashes and formats
  • Pentesting preparation
  • Windows penetration testing PowerShell
  • Recon
  • Scanning and host identification
  • Scan for vulnerabilities
  • Injections into web applications
  • Reconfiguring a web application XSS and CSRF threats

9. GIAC Exploit Researcher and Advanced Penetration Tester (GXPN)

best penetration testing certifications

  • Expert level
  • GIAC provides this service.
  • Validity period: 4 years
  • Cost: $2,499

When compared to GPEN, the GIAC Exploit Researcher and Advanced Penetration Tester certificate requires no specific training or practical experience to take the test. You must demonstrate your ability to perform advanced pentesting and simulate advanced attackers in identifying serious security weaknesses. Candidates must also show how these security weaknesses translate into economic threats.

The exam covers topics such as network access, advanced fuzzing techniques, exploiting clients and networks, identifying common crypto vulnerabilities, manipulating networks, and employing shellcode and Python scripts.

10. Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

  • Expert level
  • Provided by: Offensive Security
  • Validity period: 4 years
  • Cost: $2,499—$5,499

Offensive Security is a pentesting training and pen testing certification company. The Offensive Security Certified Professional credential indicates a thorough grasp and practical application of pentesting.

Unlike most other certifications, OSCP is entirely hands-on and can only be acquired by enrolling in Offensive Security’s “Penetration Testing with Kali Linux” course. Following completion of the course, applicants complete a 24-hour exam that simulates a real-world scenario. The exam consists of a virtual network with several targets with different operating systems and settings; applicants must research the network, identify vulnerabilities, execute attacks, and finally deliver a pentesting report.

How Do Pen Testers Obtain Certification?

best penetration testing certifications

A few well-known universities provide cybersecurity certificates that can be achieved by completing courses and passing exams. Some institutions are better known inside their own country or continent, while others are recognized globally. EC-Council, Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC), CompTIA, Offensive Security, and the Information Assurance Certification Review Board (IACRB) are the most well-known of these organizations.

Basic approaches like vulnerability scanning and analysis, finding security issues, and guiding complete vulnerability assessments are covered in entry-level penetration testing tests. While entry-level examinations do demand extensive knowledge, they are often thought to be easy to clear if the tester has even a tiny bit of experience working in an infosec profession.

Advanced-level certifications cover sophisticated fuzzing techniques, the ability to discover technical security defects that can lead to business concerns, and the ability to identify attack vectors that can lead to vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure components. Prerequisites exist for advanced-level certification tests. They typically necessitate years of hands-on experience in the field of information security, making them far more difficult to pass.

How Often Must They Be Updated?

Cybersecurity credentials are normally valid for two or three years.

These finest certification examinations are updated on a regular basis and are identified by version numbers. For example, the current version of the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is CEH v11.

TIP: A pen tester’s CEH certification may not provide an accurate picture of their abilities. They may not be informed on the most recent tools or risks if their CEH is version 5.

Organizations and recruiting managers can usually confirm the most recent version of certification by visiting the institution’s website.

When speaking with penetration testing companies, it’s important to examine the team’s qualifications and how they balance certification updates with in-house talent growth. If the testers who will work on your project have outdated credentials, it may not matter if they have been gaining testing expertise in the real world and growing within the firm.

How Do You Weigh Experience?

best penetration testing certifications

While these certifications are unquestionably significant, selecting a vendor exclusively on credentials is a bad idea. If a pentest team’s credentials appear to be lacking yet they come highly recommended, you can try to judge their experience by inquiring about similar projects this team has worked on, either in your industry or for firms of your size and type.

You can request to see sanitized versions of previous pen test reports. This can provide an indication of the depth of their testing as well as the quality of their reports.

You might inquire about the types of tests they’ve lately worked on in general. One area where you might detect a difference in experience between penetration testers is in their explanation of why. One tester may be able to tell you that they will conduct a specific test using a specific method in search of a specific vulnerability. A skilled tester will be able to explain why that particular method is necessary and why it is preferable to look for that specific vulnerability over others.

In terms of quantifying experience, the raw number of years does matter in some ways. Pen testers that have been engaged in the area for 5+ years will have a depth of perspective and a level of foresight that newer testers will not. This experience may not be visible during the testing process, but it will be evident in the quality of the recommendations for remediation and structural improvement offered once the test is completed.

How To Choose A Certification?

Among those best penetration testing certifications mentioned above, it may be difficult and confusing for some of you to choose. This is merely a sampling of the pen-testing credentials accessible, not an exhaustive list. As with any security certification, you should thoroughly examine all of your options before determining which one is best for you. While your skill level may limit which programs you qualify for, additional variables you should evaluate (apart from cost) are recertification requirements, rigor, and the credentialing body’s industry validation.


best penetration testing certificationsbest penetration testing certifications

Is PenTest better than CEH?

Although each exam has benefits and drawbacks, the CEH is a more well-known, respected, and reliable exam than the PenTest+. While the PenTest+ has some advantages, including a lower price, it still has a long way to go before being considered on par with the CEH.

Is CySA harder than PenTest?

If you have a few years of penetration testing expertise, for example, the PenTest+ will undoubtedly be easier than the CySA+ because the exam is more in line with your past knowledge and experience.

What are the hardest penetration testing certifications?

Some of the most challenging certifications for penetration testing include:

  1. Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP): This certification is offered by Offensive Security and is considered one of the most challenging penetration tester certifications in the field. It requires candidates to pass a 24-hour practical exam where they must identify vulnerabilities, exploit them, and document their findings.
  2. GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN): The GPEN certification, offered by the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC), tests candidates on their ability to identify and exploit network, application, and system-level vulnerabilities.
  3. Certified Expert Penetration Tester (CEPT): The CEPT certification, offered by Mile2, is designed for experienced professionals in the field who have a deep understanding of hacking techniques and security vulnerabilities.

What Is The Simplest Certification For Pentesting?

The CompTIA PenTest+ certification is one example of one of these credentials; it is intended for entry-level penetration testers and focuses on abilities like planning and scoping examinations, carrying out vulnerability assessments, and analyzing and reporting on findings. The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification is an additional choice; it includes subjects including reconnaissance, scanning, enumeration, and vulnerability analysis.

Is Working As A Pentester Stressful?

Pentesting, also known as penetration testing, includes simulating actual cyberattacks on a company’s systems and networks, which may be a hard and high-pressure profession. To find weaknesses and potential attack vectors, the position calls for a high level of technical competence, meticulousness, and innovative thinking.

Final Words

In conclusion, earning a certification in penetration testing is a valuable investment for professionals looking to advance their careers in cybersecurity. Whether you are just starting out or looking to enhance your existing skills, there is a range of penetration tester certifications available to suit your needs and goals.

After carefully weighing your selections, the best penetration testing certifications are those that provide credentials that are respected in the field and match your interests and skill level. Earning one of the difficult and well-respected certifications described in this article, like the OSCP, GPEN, or CEPT, can make you stand out to potential employers and clients. Investing time, energy, and devotion into the process will help you become completely prepared to manage the rigors of a job in penetration testing, regardless of whatever certification you pick.

IT Exams sincerely hopes that our information on the best penetration testing certifications will be useful to you as you look for the certification program that is most compatible with your career goals.