The worldwide cyber security market will reach a volume of $211.7 billion by 2026. And it is no wonder, given the number of high-profile data breaches that have occurred over the past few years (1,862 breaches in 2021, up 68% from 2020). With the increasing importance of cyber security, there is also a growing demand for certified ethical hackers.
Ethical hacking represents the process of identifying and exploiting weaknesses in a computer system or network to test the security of that system. The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is one of the most sought-after certifications. Created by the EC-Council, it certifies an individual’s ability to identify, assess, and mitigate security risks in an organization. CEH-certified professionals are in high demand by employers looking to strengthen their cyber security defenses.
However, the CEH exam is in no way easy. It will require you to put in hard work and dedication, regardless of which study method you choose.
In this article, we will discuss what the CEH exam looks like, job opportunities and salaries for CEH credential holders, and how best to prepare for the exam.
About the CEH exam
The Certified Ethical Hacker exam is a four-hour, 125-question test that covers a wide range of topics related to hacking. The exam curriculum is divided into twenty modules that include everything from footprinting and reconnaissance to social engineering, wireless network hacking, system hacking, and cryptography.
To pass the exam, you will need to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of all topics covered. This includes being able to apply hacking techniques to real-world scenarios.
The 125 questions you will need to answer are all multiple-choice questions. The CEH certification exam doesn’t have a universal passing score – it all depends on what form of the exam you take. Typically, passing scores are between 60 and 85%.
The exam is not easy, but it is certainly achievable with the right amount of effort and preparation.
Let’s explore what kind of job opportunities and salaries CEH credential holders can expect.
Job opportunities for CEH credential holders
The current state of the cybersecurity job market in the United States is that there are around 597,000 job openings. The demand for new ethical hackers is constantly growing as more and more businesses realize the importance of cyber security.
With the CEH certification, you will be qualified for a wide range of positions, including:
- Security analyst
- Security consultant
- Security engineer
- Security auditor
- Penetration tester, and more
PayScale offers the following salary ranges for different security analyst positions:
- Information security analyst: $55k – $122k
- Cyber security analyst: $57k – $125k
- Security analyst: $52k – $105k
- Network security analyst: $60k – $112k
The main duties of a security analyst involve keeping an eye on a business’ systems and networks for any possible threats, as well as investigating any incidents that do occur. They use and maintain an organization’s security tools, firewalls, vulnerability scanners, and similar.
Much like any other type of consultant, security consultants are hired by businesses to provide them with expert advice on a particular issue. In this case, that issue is cyber security.
According to PayScale, the salary ranges for different security consultant positions are as follows:
- Security consultant: $67k – $156k
- IT consultant: $51k – $128k
- Senior security consultant: $83k – $162k
As a security consultant, you will need to assess an organization’s current security posture and make recommendations on how it can be improved. You will also be responsible for helping to implement these changes.
A security engineer is responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining an organization’s security infrastructure. This includes everything from firewalls and intrusion detection systems to physical security measures.
The salary ranges for different security engineer positions are as follows, according to PayScale:
- Information security engineer: $75k – $137k
- Network security engineer: $58k – $130k
- Cyber security engineer: $74k – $147k
- Security engineer: $68k – $139k
Auditors usually work as external consultants. Their job is to assess an organization’s compliance with security-related regulations, standards, and best practices. They also need to identify any weakness in the security posture that could be exploited by attackers.
The salary ranges for different security auditor positions are as follows:
- Senior IT auditor: $80k – $136k
- Information technology (IT) security auditor: $87,429 average salary
- Information systems audit manager: $132,500 average salary
What most people instantly think of when the term ‘ethical hacking’ is mentioned, penetration testers are responsible for trying to break into an organization’s systems and networks to find any weaknesses that malicious hacker groups could exploit.
A pen tester needs to have a good understanding of hacking techniques and tools and how to use them safely. They also need to be able to think like an attacker in order to find any potential vulnerabilities.
The salary range for the penetration testing position in the United States is from $60k to $143k.
Other job opportunities
Of course, the above-mentioned positions are not the only ones that will be open to you with a CEH certification. With this credential, you will also be qualified for positions such as:
- Security administrator
- Security manager, and similar
Don’t forget that your salary doesn’t depend only on the level of skill and experience you have, but also on the geographical location and the type of organization you work for. For example, a security analyst in New York City will most likely earn more than one in a smaller city. Similarly, a security engineer working for a major financial institution will make more than one working for a small company.
In any case, there is no shortage of job opportunities for those with a CEH credential. Now that we’ve established that, let’s move on to how you can actually earn it.
Study methods for the CEH exam
Even though the CEH exam is not the most difficult one out there, it’s still not a walk in the park. In order to pass it, you need to be properly prepared.
There are two main types of CEH training you can go for: self-study or instructor-led.
Both have pros and cons, which we will discuss in more detail below. Which one you will ultimately go for depends on the type of learning you prefer, as well as your budget.
Self-study means that you will be responsible for finding all the materials and resources you need to prepare for the exam. This includes books, online courses, practice exams, etc. Not only that, but you are also responsible for creating your own study plan and sticking to it.
The main advantage of self-study is that it is usually more affordable than instructor-led training. It is also more flexible, as you can study at your own pace and on your schedule, ideal for those who have full-time jobs or other commitments.
However, self-study can also be more challenging, as you need to be very disciplined to stay on track. It is also easy to get overwhelmed with all the different available resources, and it can be hard to know which ones are worth your time.
Furthermore, you won’t have anyone to ask for help when you get stuck or have questions, making the learning process more difficult.
Training with an instructor means having someone to guide you through the material, answer your questions, and give you feedback. This type of CEH certification training is usually more expensive than self-study, but it can also be more effective.
The main advantage of instructor-led training is that it gives you a structured learning experience, which can help you stay on track and avoid getting overwhelmed. It is also easier to get help when you need it, as you can simply ask your instructor.
Furthermore, some people learn better in a classroom setting, as they are more motivated and disciplined when surrounded by other students.
Learning with an instructor can be either in-person or online. It is up to you to decide which type of training you prefer.
However, keep in mind that an in-person instructor-led CEH course is not always an option, as it can be difficult to find classes in your area that fit your schedule.
Study material for the CEH exam
If you opt for instructor-led training, your study material will most likely be provided by the training program.
If you choose self-study, on the other hand, you will need to find the resources you need on your own. Luckily, there are plenty of books and online resources that can help you prepare for the exam.
Here are a few tips that will help you choose the right study material:
- Ask around – Talk to people who have already taken the CEH exam and see what resources they used to prepare for it. They will be able to give you first-hand advice on what worked for them and what didn’t.
- Do your research – Once you have a few ideas of which resources to use, take some time to do your research. Read reviews, compare prices, and ensure that the material is up-to-date and relevant. Keep in mind that you are looking for materials for the latest version of the exam – the CEH v11 exam.
- Be wary of free resources – While there are some great free resources out there, you need to be careful with them. Make sure that they are reliable and come from a reputable source.
Practice exams and sample questions
In addition to study material, practice exams and sample questions can also be very helpful in preparing for the CEH exam. A practice exam will help you get familiar with the exam format and the types of questions you can expect to see on the test.
Sample questions, on the other hand, are a great way to assess your understanding of the material. They will also help you identify any areas you need to focus on before taking the exam.
Practice exams and sample questions are available from a variety of sources, both free and paid. If you’re studying with an instructor, they may also have some material of this type that they can provide you with.
If you’d like to include these in your study process, remember not to start going through practice tests too early. You want to make sure that you have a good understanding of the material first, otherwise, you may just end up memorizing answers rather than learning the content.
How to prepare for the CEH exam
Now that you know what kind of resources are available to help you study for this cybersecurity certification exam, we can move on to discussing how to prepare for it.
Here is an overview of what will make your learning process easier.
Familiarize yourself with the exam content
At the beginning of exam preparation, take some time to familiarize yourself with the exam content. Getting a clear picture of what will be covered on the test will help you focus your studies and make sure you’re not wasting your time on material that won’t be included.
You can find a CEH exam blueprint on the EC-Council website. This will give you an overview of all the topics covered in the exam.
Create a study plan
Once you know what material you need to focus on, it’s time to create a study plan. This will help you stay organized and on track during exam prep.
Your study plan should include a schedule of what you need to study and when. It can also be helpful to set goals for each study session so that you can track your progress and see how much you’re improving.
If you’re taking an instructor-led training course, your program may already have a study plan that they provide to students. If you’re doing self-study, you’ll need to create your own study plan.
There are a few different ways to go about this. You can start by looking at the exam content and breaking it down into smaller sections. Then, you can decide how much time you want to spend on each section and create a schedule accordingly.
Another option is to create a study plan based on the resources you’re using. For example, if you’re going through a training course, you can break down the course into smaller sections and schedule when you want to complete each section.
Either way, the important thing is that you have a plan and stick to it.
Use multiple resources
Don’t just rely on one resource to prepare for the exam. Using multiple resources will help you learn the material more effectively and remember it better.
For example, if you’re using a training course, you can supplement your learning by reading through a study guide or taking practice exams.
If you’re doing self-study, you might want to use a combination of a study guide, practice exams, and sample questions.
The more resources you use, the better your chances of passing the exam.
Don’t forget the fundamentals
As you’re preparing for the exam, don’t forget the fundamentals. This includes things like time management, stress management, and test-taking strategies.
Managing your time and stress levels is especially important when taking a certification exam. The last thing you want is to run out of time or get so nervous that you can’t think straight.
There are a few things you can do to help with this:
- Make sure you give yourself enough time to study. Don’t try to cram everything in at the last minute.
- Create a study schedule that is realistic and doesn’t overload you.
- Take breaks when you need to and make sure you’re getting enough rest.
Test-taking strategies are also important. This includes things like knowing how to pace yourself, how to budget your time, and how to answer questions you’re not sure about.
If you can master these skills, you’ll be in good shape come exam day.
Don’t apply until you’re ready
Every attempt at passing the CEH exam costs money. To avoid wasting money, make sure you’re well-prepared before applying to take the exam.
This means that you should have a good understanding of the material, and you should be confident in your ability to pass.
Certified Ethical Hacker certification holders can hope for a wide range of options and earning potential in terms of job opportunities and salary. There is no time like the present to invest in your future by taking the CEH exam and becoming certified.
With the right preparation, anyone can pass the CEH exam and start down the path to a successful career in cybersecurity. Before you begin studying, decide what study route you’re going to take – self-study or instructor-led training – and create a study plan.
Use multiple resources to prepare for the exam, including a study guide, practice exams, and sample questions. And don’t forget the fundamentals, such as time management, stress management, and test-taking strategies.
Most importantly, don’t apply to take the exam until you’re confident in your ability to pass.