Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
In the summer of 2018, tech industry association CompTIA expanded the cybersecurity section of its widely respected portfolio of professional IT credentials by adding a certification for penetration testers. It's taken a couple of years, but CompTIA PenTest+ climbed onto our Salary Survey 75 list for the first time with the 2022 Salary Survey, landing at No. 32.
Here’s what the salary picture looks like for PenTest+ holders who responded to the Salary Survey:
All U.S. Respondents
Average Annual Salary: $114,840
Median Annual Salary: $100,000
How satisfied are you with your current salary?
Completely Satisfied: 6.2 percent
Very Satisfied: 40.6 percent
Satisfied: 31.3 percent
Not Very Satisfied: 18.8 percent
Not At All Satisfied: 3.1 percent
All Non-U.S. Respondents
Average Annual Salary: $72,060
Median Annual Salary: $65,630
How satisfied are you with your current salary?
Completely Satisfied: 5.9 percent
Very Satisfied: 23.5 percent
Satisfied: 29.4 percent
Not Very Satisfied: 35.3 percent
Not At All Satisfied: 5.9 percent
CompTIA’s long-lived IT certification program has a global footprint, and some of that breadth is reflected in this year’s pool of PenTest+ holders: only 65.3 percent are U.S. residents. We also heard from credential holders in 14 other countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Bulgaria, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Romania, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.
The information security sector of the wider IT universe is largely dominated by male professionals, and that holds true here as well: 90.6 percent of PenTest+ holders who responded to the survey are men, with 5.8 percent who are women, and 3.6 percent who are trasngender women. The survey pool of PenTest+ holders is a surprisingly youthful bunch, with 80 percent of those surveyed younger than 45, either between the ages of 35 and 44 (59.3 percent), between the ages of 25 and 34 (16.3 percent), or between the ages of 19 and 24 (4.1 percent). Most of the PenTest+ “senior citizens” are youngish as well, with a further 12.2 percent of respondents between the ages of 45 and 54, and just 8 percent either between the ages of 55 and 64 (6.1 percent) or between 65 and 74 (2 percent).
More than 90 percent of PenTest+ holders who responded to the survey have an educational background that includes time spent at a college or university. The highest level of formal education completed by most PenTest+ holders is either a bachelor’s degree (36.7 percent of respondents), master’s degree (40.8 percent), associate’s degree (6.1 percent), or doctorate (8.2 percent). The outliers are the 4.1 percent of those surveyed who completed some level of technical training after high school, the 2 percent who exited the realm of formal education after completing high school, and the 2 percent who are currently in school.
A strong 92.4 percent of PenTest+ holders who responded to the survey are employed full-time, with the remaining 8 percent either holding part-time positions (2 percent) or out of work (5.6 percent). Among those who have full-time jobs, most have either a standard 40-hour work week (30.6 percent of respondents) or put in between 41 and 50 hours per week (also 30.6 percent). The remaining roughly one-third of respondents are divided between those who work more than 50 hours per week (14.3 percent), those who put in between 31 and 39 hours per week (18.4 percent), those who put in between 20 and 30 hours per week (4.2 percent), and those who have the luxury of cramming their full-time work schedule into fewer than 20 hours per week (1.9 percent).
Like most other information security professionals, CompTIA-certified penetration testers appear to have been at least somewhat impacted by the appearance and spread of COVID-19. A notable 37 percent of respondents either put in 40 hours per week from home (12.2 percent) or more than 40 hours per week from home (22.4 percent). About 30 percent of respondents work some (if not all) of their hours outside a traditional workplace, with 8.2 percent of those surveyed at home between 31 and 39 hours per week, 8.2 percent at home between 21 and 30 hours per week, and 14.3 percent at home between 10 and 20 hours per week. The balance of PenTest+ holders who responded to the survey — 34.7 percent — are more tied to a traditional office setting, working from home fewer than 10 hours per week.
In terms of workplace standing, the largest single group of PenTest+ holders we heard from are employed at the senior specialist level (27.7 percent). The rest, in descending order, are either senior managers (24.1 percent of respondents), directors (12.1 percent), managers (12 percent), specialists (10.3 percent), executives (5.6 percent), or rank-and-file employees (5.2 percent).
A notable 36.2 percent of PenTest+ holders who responded to the survey are IT veterans, having worked in a role that directly utilizes one or more of their certified skills for more than a decade. The rest have been plying their certified skills for either between zero years (1 to 11 months) and 2 years (6.9 percent of those surveyed), between 3 and 5 years (29.3 percent), between 6 and 8 years (13.8 percent), or between 9 and 10 years (also 13.8 percent).
Finally, here’s the view of PenTest+ holders on key questions from the survey about how certification impacts job performance:
At my current job I use skills learned or enhanced through certification:
Several times a day: 37.9 percent
Several times a week: 39.7 percent
Several times a month: 15.5 percent
Occasionally: 5.2 percent
Rarely: 1.7 percent
Since becoming certified, I feel there is greater demand for my skills.
Strongly agree: 37.9 percent
Agree: 39.7 percent
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 13.8 percent
Disagree: 3.4 percent
Strongly Disagree: 5.2 percent
Becoming certified has increased my problem-solving skills.
Strongly agree: 27.6 percent
Agree: 38 percent
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 22.4 percent
Disagree: 10.3 percent
Strongly Disagree: 1.7 percent
Becoming certified has increased my workplace productivity.
Strongly agree: 25.9 percent
Agree: 41.4 percent
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 24.1 percent
Disagree: 8.6 percent
Strongly Disagree: [No responses]