12 Best Penetration Testing Courses & Certificates for 2023

Akansha RukhaiyarAkansha Rukhaiyar | 11 minute read | November 7, 2022
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Whether it’s healthcare or banking, every industry that deals with sensitive, personal information has to be ready for cyberattacks. And one of the main ways that organizations prepare for these sorts of attacks is by using penetration testers—in-house cybersecurity experts who simulate a cyberattack to find a system’s faults before actual hackers do. 

While it’s clear that penetration testers are in increasingly high demand, the path to becoming a penetration tester isn’t as clear-cut. One of the most common ways to become a penetration tester is through an online course or certificate. But even this path is murky, given the sheer number of courses available. 

That’s why we’ve compiled this guide. Below, we’ll detail the twelve best penetration testing courses and certificates, and give you the information you’ll need to pick the course that’s right for you. 

What Is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing is the process of simulating a cyber attack (such as a spoofing attack) to expose vulnerabilities. These ethical hackers, as they’re often called, mimic the strategies of threat actors to find security weaknesses in network devices, applications, and operating systems. 

Best Penetration Testing Courses and Certificates

Penetration testing is a niche area of cybersecurity. Choose from these courses to get started.

Cybersecurity Bootcamp – Springboard

best penetration testing course Cybersecurity Bootcamp on Springboard

Rating

Course Report: 4.64

SwitchUp: 4.68

CareerKarma: 4.65

Average: 4.65

Prerequisites

This is a foundational-to-advanced course, so go ahead and choose this, even if you have no prior knowledge in cybersecurity. However, you do need to complete a soft skills assessment before enrolling in the course.

Overview

Springboard’s Cybersecurity Bootcamp encompasses everything you need to know to become a cybersecurity professional. This part-time online course spans 380 teaching hours, with 35 mini-projects throughout the course and a capstone project at the end. Since the hours are flexible, even those with full-time jobs can pursue this course.

Each student has a career coach and industry mentor to guide them through the job placement process. If you don’t land a job within six months of completion of the bootcamp, you’ll receive a full refund.

Best For

Those looking for 1:1 support even after completion of the course and want to break into penetration testing by first nailing down the fundamentals of cybersecurity.

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Duration 

It’s a 6-month program with a recommended study time of 15-20 hours per week.

Price

The tuition fee is $11,340. You get a discount if you pay upfront, or you can also opt for flexible payment plans like month-to-month, deferred plans, or loans.

Website Hacking / Penetration Testing – Udemy

best penetration testing course Website Hacking Penetration Testing on Udemy

Rating

Udemy: 4.6 (based on 15,800 ratings on the course website)

CareerKarma: 4

SwitchUp: 4.6

Average: 4.4

Prerequisites: 

For this course, you’ll need to already possess some basic IT skills.

Overview

Udemy’s course spans over ninety videos devoted to website hacking and detecting bugs, from beginner concepts to advanced modules. Discovering blind spots and knowing how to scrape websites for sensitive information will prepare you for becoming a bounty hunter (another term for a penetration tester).

Best For

Those who want to learn from an active industry expert. The course creator is an ethical hacker with a company that provides penetration testing services and cybersecurity training.

Duration 

There is no fixed duration. The course content spans over 10 hours, so you may be able to complete it within a couple of weeks.

Price

This course costs $42.5, with a 30-day money-back guarantee and lifetime access to all the material.

Enterprise Penetration Testing – SANS Institute

best penetration testing course Enterprise Penetration Testing - SANS Institute

Rating

N/A

Prerequisites

For this course, you’ll need basic knowledge of Windows and Linus and a working knowledge of TCP/IP.

Overview

SANS Institute offers a hybrid course on penetration testing. You will receive virtual machines equipped with the requisite ethical hacking tools, hacking challenges, recordings, cheat sheets, and worksheets. The course consists of around thirty lab exercises and covers the techniques and tools penetration testers use in large organizations. You will also conduct an end-to-end penetration test against a sample organization. 

Best For

This course is ideal for those who have worked as penetration testers and ethical hackers and want to upskill. Forensic specialists and incident responders who want insight into hacking strategies can also benefit from this course. This is also recommended for those who want the GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN) certification.

Duration

Depending on which mode of instruction you choose, you can cover the course in four months (OnDemand pre-recorded sessions), at your pace (live online class with flexible schedules), or in-person over six days.

Price

The course’s price depends on the instruction medium you choose. They all fall in the $8000-8500 range.

Penetration Testing, Incident Response and Forensics – IBM on Coursera

best penetration testing course Penetration Testing, Incident Response and Forensics on Coursera

Rating

4.6/5 (Coursera – based on 1,537 ratings)

Prerequisites

None

Overview

This online professional certificate program can be completed as part of IBM’s Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate.

Through this course, you can learn about:

  • Python and Java
  • Different stages of penetration testing
  • How to collect data for penetration testing
  • Documenting bug hunting and review

You will also go over the basics of scripting and digital evidence.

Since this course is by IBM, you will be eligible for the Penetration Testing, Incident Response, and Forensics IBM digital badge.

Best For

This course is suited for beginners who want to learn just the basics of penetration testing at their own pace. The course has plenty of additional links and resources for beginners to get comfortable with the topic.

Duration

The modules put together will take about seventeen hours to complete. You need to enroll in this as part of either the Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate or the Security Analyst Fundamentals Specializations, so you have the choice of completing it within one, three, or six months.

Price

Since this module is a part of the above courses, the cost will be between $35-$145. You can also audit it for free.

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Penetration Testing – Virtual Hacking Labs

best penetration testing course Penetration Testing on Virtual Hacking Labs

Rating

N/A

Prerequisites

None

Overview

This course uses a combination of core concepts and demonstrations that are easy for beginners to follow. You’ll learn about the basics of penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, web applications, and password attacks. You can also buy access to the lab dashboard for a process-oriented approach.

You will get plenty of hands-on experience exploring the various aspects of penetration testing in real-life scenarios.

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Best For

Those who want a comprehensive handbook that includes everything about the course. This course has a 400+ page pdf with all the training material.

Duration

Depending on the package you buy, you will get material that you can complete in a week, a month, three months, or six months.

Price

The course can cost anywhere between $99-$449, depending on the duration of access.

Penetration Testing Bootcamp – Hackersploit

best penetration testing course Penetration Testing Bootcamp - Hackersploit

Rating

N/A

Prerequisites

None

Overview

In this course, you’ll learn essential cybersecurity terms, methodologies, information-gathering techniques, network scanning, attack vectors, firewall detection, and attack strategies. The videos are excellent step-by-step practical tutorials.

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Best For

This course is great for those who want to self-learn without any time limit or additional support. Since there is no interaction per se or time limit, those with self-discipline and initiative can complete this course.

Duration

All the videos are hosted on YouTube and are free to access for an unlimited amount of time.

Price

Free

Penetration Testing – Discovering Vulnerabilities (NYU on edX)

best penetration testing course Penetration Testing - Discovering Vulnerabilities NYU on edX

Rating

N/A

Prerequisites

You’ll need a background in computer science fundamentals to enroll, but you can do this by completing other courses that are part of this program.

Overview

This self-paced course is the seventh of a nine-part Cybersecurity Fundamentals MicroBachelors Program. It covers identifying potentially vulnerable areas and how to breach them and analyzing vulnerability scanning results. The course is divided into these phases of penetration testing:

  1. Scoping and outlining vulnerability test logistics, objectives, and legal implications
  2. Reconnaissance or gathering of intelligence on the target organization
  3. Threat modeling and vulnerability scans to plan attack methods for privilege escalation attacks and advanced password attacks

Best For

This course is great for those who want to take the CompTIA Security+ certification exam, since the syllabus of this course overlaps with that of the certification. You will also get a discount on the CompTIA Security+ exam upon completing this course.

Duration

The course can take about five weeks to complete, with 8-10 hours per week of study.

Price

The fee is $166, with unlimited access to course materials.

PEN-200 | Penetration Testing Course And OSCP Certification – Offensive Security

best penetration testing course PEN-200 Penetration Testing Course And OSCP Certification on Offensive Security

Rating

N/A

Prerequisites

You’ll need an intermediate understanding of TCP/IP networking and Python scripting, in addition to familiarity with Windows and Linux, to enroll in this course.

Overview

This self-paced certification is part of one of the most recognized cybersecurity certifications, OSCP, which has a proctored 24-hour exam. You’ll get access to OSCP exam machines and training from those who contributed towards Kali Linux. And you’ll get an 850-page study material booklet and access to student communities and virtual lab environments.

Best For

Professionals who have already been in the cybersecurity field—such as network administrators, penetration testers, and infosec professionals—can benefit from this course.

Duration 

It’s a self-paced course with over 17+ hours of video.

Price

This course costs $1499, with additional subscription packages costing $2499 and $5499 for exam attempts and lab access.

Penetration Testing 10-Day Training Boot Camp – INFOSEC

best penetration testing course Penetration Testing 10-Day Training Boot Camp on INFOSEC

Rating

4.7 (based on 8.755 ratings on the course website)

Prerequisites

You need to have a detailed grasp of Windows OS, Linux, and TCP/IP protocols to enroll.

Overview

This online bootcamp prepares you for multiple cybersecurity certifications, such as:

  • CompTIA PentTest+
  • Certified Penetration Tester (CPT)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Certified Expert Penetration Tester (CEPT)

On day one, you’ll learn about security testing methodologies, planning and scoping, legal considerations, and ethical hacking methodologies. By the end of the course, you should be able to breach web apps and do network reconnaissance.

Related Read: 7 Free Sources To Learn Ethical Hacking From Scratch

Best For

This course is best for those with some cybersecurity field experience or who want to work at organizations that require the abovementioned certifications as part of their job roles.

Duration

10 days, with one year of access to all course material

Price

The course costs $9640.

Penetration Testing – Pluralsight

best penetration testing course Penetration Testing - Pluralsight

Rating

Capterra: 4.6

TrustRadius: 4.1

G2: 4.6

Average: 4.4

Prerequisites

None

Overview

This series of courses spans up to five hours, during which you’ll learn some of the skills needed to become a security expert, application analyst, vulnerability analyst, or penetration tester. The course is structured in a way that you get to observe a penetration test from beginning to end. You will also learn about specialized cyber attacks and how to adapt to specific environments.

Best For

If you’re looking to dip your toe into penetration testing before fully committing, then this course is for you. Alternatively, this course may be helpful for professionals looking to brush up on the basics.

Duration

The course videos span five hours.

Price

You get one year of access to the entire course library, including this course, for $179.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

best penetration testing course Certified Ethical Hacker on CEH

Rating

N/A

Prerequisites

To enroll in this course, you’ll need to know the fundamentals of cybersecurity, which you can learn with their free Cybersecurity Essentials Series.

Overview

This 20-module course covers the foundations of ethical hacking so that you can comfortably pass the ethical hacking certification exam. You will learn how to scan wireless networks, analyze potential vulnerabilities, recognize malware threats, and hack into networks. This course also covers cloud networks and ethical hacking tools. You get access to over 3500 penetration testing tools.

Best For

Those looking to get CEH certified and have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of IT and networking concepts. The course is application based and will not go into conceptual enumeration.

Duration

The course lasts five days.

Price

Assuming you are taking the course to obtain the certification, the package can cost you anywhere between $950 and $1119.

CompTIA PenTest+

best penetration testing course CompTIA PenTest+

Rating

N/A

Prerequisites

The course has no requirements, but some security experience is recommended before you opt for the certification exam

Overview

The CompTIA+ course and certification focus on vulnerability management and penetration testing across cloud and hybrid environments. The course is self-paced and interactive, so you can customize your learning plan. You will learn about planning and scoping, information gathering, and how to perform attacks.

Best For

This course is ideal for those who want comprehensive training for the CompTIA+ certification through hybrid learning methods.

Duration

The course includes 40 hours of content.

Price

You can choose from a variety of packages that combine different teaching resources along with exam vouchers. This can cost anywhere between $392 and $977.

How Do You Choose a Penetration Testing Course?

How Do You Choose a Penetration Testing Course
Source: Freepik

How do you know which of these twelve courses is right for you? Consider the following:

Curriculum

Consider skimming through a few short videos on penetration testing to understand what may interest you and what aspect of penetration testing you see yourself working on. Otherwise, go for a course that covers the history and fundamentals of penetration testing.

Career Goals

Setting actionable goals and working backward is an easy way of identifying which penetration testing course is right for you.

Quality and Expertise of Instructors

Check whether the instructor has taught other courses and read reviews about them rather than of the course. And if you can, watch a few videos of the instructors to see if their teaching style is a good fit for you.

Time Commitment

It can be tempting to dive into the course that gets you to your career goals the fastest, but it’s also important to be realistic about how much time you can devote to the course. 

Pricing and Payment Options

Some of these courses entail a significant investment. If that’s the case, make sure you’re picking a course that will help you land a higher-paying job.  

Reputation

Find people who have completed the course and ask for reviews about the course, the instructors, the syllabus, and how it has helped them further their careers. 

Projects and Practical Experience

Whichever course you choose, make sure that you’ll walk away with projects that you can include in a cybersecurity portfolio. Practical experience, with ongoing feedback from instructors, will also give you a glimpse of the kind of work you may get to do in a company.

Making the Most Out of Your Penetration Testing Course

best penetration testing course, Making the Most Out of Your Penetration Testing Course
Source: Freepik

Enrolling in a course can feel like a big step, especially if the course is a stepping stone to transition into an entirely new career. But there are some things you need to consider before your first class comes around.

Are There Any Prerequisites for a Penetration Testing Course?

The beginner courses will require minimal prerequisites. The more advanced certifications and courses will expect you to have a working understanding of operating systems and IT protocols.

What Should You Expect To Learn?

In these courses, you’ll get first-hand experience in running penetration tests on sample target organizations. Some courses will also give you access to the latest penetration tools. Make use of the support team features to clarify any doubts regarding the syllabus.

What Will Your Schedule Look Like?

It depends on the course you pick. Evaluate your time restraints and choose a schedule that you are comfortable with. If your first choice has a schedule you are unsure about, check with the instructors if they can accommodate your needs.

FAQs About Pen Testing Courses

Here are the answers to your more frequently asked questions:

Is Penetration Testing a Good Career?

Cybersecurity attacks are cropping up every second, adding up to about 9 million in costs for data breach recovery. This makes penetration testing an in-demand career. Given how coveted it is, a career in penetration testing is worth investing in.

Do I Need a Degree for Penetration Testing?

No. As long as you can showcase the relevant knowledge and skills by enrolling in courses and bootcamp programs, putting together a portfolio, or showing some practical experience, you can secure your dream job.

Does Penetration Testing Require Coding?

Your job is to find system flaws and vulnerabilities in codes that support malware and phishing attempts. To do so, you need functional knowledge about how codes work and how to find gaps in them, even if you don’t code much on the job.

Since you’re here…Interested in a career in cybersecurity? With or Cybersecurity Bootcamp, you’ll get a job in the industry, or we’ll return your tuition money. Test your skills with our free cybersecurity learning path, and check out our student reviews. We’re a safe bet. 🔒😉

Akansha Rukhaiyar

About Akansha Rukhaiyar

Akansha is a freelance writer for SaaS B2B brands, with a parallel interest in writing for mental health services and education websites. She has worked with globally diverse clients and loves to incorporate The Office references in her writing in the most accessible ways