How to Become a Vulnerability Assessor

| Holland Webb Modified on June 22, 2022

How to Become a Vulnerability Assessor

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A vulnerability assessor helps to determine whether an organization is prepared for or vulnerable to external threats. Becoming a vulnerability assessor usually requires a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, computer science, or a similar subject, along with at least two years of relevant work experience.

June 2022 Payscale data indicates that penetration testers, a similar profession, see a salary jump of $23,000 a year with 4-9 years of experience. Skillful assessors can pursue advancement to leadership roles as information security managers or chief information security officers.

This step-by-step guide covers the process of becoming a vulnerability assessor, including obtaining a degree, finding a first job, and managing career growth opportunities.

What Is a Vulnerability Assessor?

Vulnerability assessors test for security flaws in systems before attacks. They generally perform tasks on computers and networks to determine if they have any exploitable weaknesses.

These professionals also explore ways to prevent cyberattacks. If there's a known method for hackers to compromise websites or networks, vulnerability assessors can suggest ways to prevent cybercriminals from securing the information needed to hack into a site. Once a vulnerability assessor discovers a potential weak spot, they inform their information security manager.

Vulnerability assessors work with information technology directors and other cybersecurity professionals to help maintain data safety. Industries such as transportation, finance, security, and healthcare all need skillful vulnerability assessors.

Education Requirements for Vulnerability Assessors

At minimum, a vulnerability assessor needs an undergraduate degree in information technology, computer science, or a related field. The education requirements for vulnerability assessors may vary depending on the company. Professionals who plan to lead teams, do research, or teach vulnerability assessment should consider pursuing master's degrees or doctoral degrees in information security fields.

Some companies may require years of work experience in addition to an undergraduate degree and IT certifications. For example, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires each tier two vulnerability assessment analyst to hold a bachelor's degree in a related field and six years of relevant experience. An applicant also must hold at least one industry certification to verify skills in vulnerability analysis and troubleshooting.

Unlike a degree, schools do not award certifications. These usually come from industry associations. Certifications validate a professional's practical skills in particular areas of the industry. Typically, associations award certifications after passing exams and accruing professional experience.

While degrees remain the standard for industry employment, a bootcamp can offer a great introduction to cybersecurity. These short-term programs typically last a few weeks or months, with many available remotely.

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Experience Requirements for Vulnerability Assessors

A professional vulnerability assessor generally needs to hold an information technology position for at least two years. In some situations, professionals may need to hold even more experience.

In general, experience requirements align with the level of job difficulty. For example, an entry-level vulnerability assessor position might call for 2-3 years of experience, while a leadership role might demand six-plus years. Employers also expect experience in particular settings, such as financial analysis, cyberaudits, or cybergovernance.

In some cases, experience and certifications may substitute for formal education. Recent experience with databases, queries, and compliance scanning can be particularly valuable.

Internship Opportunities

Internships can provide prospective vulnerability assessors with their first experience in the field. The following opportunities represent a cross-section of related internships:

  • The United Nations offers an internship for data analysts in New York City. Each applicant needs a computer science, data analysis, or statistics degree, along with knowledge of Python.
  • RWJBarnabas Health System in West Orange, New Jersey, hires security analyst interns pursuing degrees in information technology. Interns assist in incident response.
  • Post Holdings in St. Louis, Missouri, offers a year-round internship for cybersecurity students. Interns must possess knowledge of phishing, threat hunting, and DNS filtering.

Required Certifications for Vulnerability Assessors

Vulnerability assessors do not have to hold any particular certification to practice their trade. Employers, however, may expect applicants for assessment jobs to possess certain industry-recognized credentials.

Top certifications for vulnerability assessors include:
Certification Process to Become Certified Content Covered by the Certification

GIAC Enterprise Vulnerability Assessor

A candidate must pass one two-hour, 75-question exam with a minimum score of 71%.

This certification covers scanning and discovery techniques, applied intelligence and threat modeling, and vulnerability assessment methodology.

PenTest+

Each candidate must hold 3-4 years of relevant experience to sit for the test. The PenTest+ exam consists of 85 performance-based and multiple-choice questions. Candidates need network+ or security+ certification or equivalent knowledge.

This credential validates skills in attacks and exploits, tool and code analysis, and information gathering and vulnerability scanning.

Certified Ethical Hacker

A test-taker must pass a 125-question, multiple-choice exam. The association determines a cut score for each exam, which varies from 60%-85%.

This certification verifies a professional's skills in cloud computing, hacking web applications, emerging attack vectors, and malware reverse engineering.

Industry associations offer many other certifications that can help foster career growth. Learn more about these opportunities with the following links.

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How Do I Become a Vulnerability Assessor?

Individuals wondering how to become a vulnerability assessor can start by learning more about the profession. Gaining insight into the daily responsibilities of an assessor can help prospective professionals recognize if it is their ideal career pathway.

Explore undergraduate educational options such as a bachelor's degree in information technology or cybersecurity. Armed with a two-year or four-year degree, new graduates generally need 1-3 years of general technology experience before pursuing vulnerability assessor employment. Organizations may also require industry certifications such as the certified ethical hacker or the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) enterprise vulnerability assessor.

From start to finish, becoming a vulnerability assessor takes 4-7 years. Aspiring assessors should consider the challenges of earning degrees and gaining certifications prior to embarking on this career.

Steps to Becoming a Vulnerability Assessor

  • Earn a relevant degree. A vulnerability assessor needs an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. An associate program usually requires two years — one year completing general education courses and one year in the major.

    A bachelor's degree generally requires four years: two for general education and two focused on the major. Prospective vulnerability assessors who hold bachelor's degrees in unrelated fields can pursue master's degrees in cybersecurity or industry certifications.
  • Gain experience in the field. Many employers expect entry-level vulnerability assessors to hold 1-3 years of experience in information technology, cybersecurity, or computer science. This experience might include time spent as a network administrator, penetration tester, forensics expert, or source code author. Experience can substitute for some educational requirements.
  • Pursue applicable certifications. While vulnerability assessors do not need state licensure, industry certifications can help advance their careers. For example, a cybersecurity expert can earn CompTIA's PenTest+ certification or the certified information systems security professional certification.

    To prepare for certification exams, candidates frequently take courses, pursue online study options, or use a toolbox provided by the organization. Some certifications also require candidates to hold years of relevant experience.
  • Develop up-to-date professional skills. Vulnerability assessors never stop learning. Technology changes so rapidly that these professionals must maintain their cutting-edge knowledge. They can pursue master's degrees in cybersecurity, earn new certifications, or attend industry-related conferences or trade shows.

Should I Become a Vulnerability Assessor?

Think about whether a career as a vulnerability assessor is worthwhile. This career path is not widely pursued, and new professionals may find fewer employers in this field than in other, more conventional cybersecurity jobs.

Nevertheless, virtually all cybersecurity careers offer stable employment, lucrative salaries, and good job security. With experience and education, vulnerability assessors can pursue advancement into higher-paying management roles.

From a personal perspective, career-seekers should consider their ability to tolerate stressful situations. Companies may require vulnerability assessors to handle high-pressure situations on short notice. Still, professionals in this field can enjoy a high-octane job that demands razor-sharp skills and a vigilant approach to security.

The path to becoming a vulnerability assessor can seem long. Prospective vulnerability assessors may want to explore similar professions such as penetration testing before deciding if this is the cybersecurity career for them.

The Job Hunt

To find a job, searchers can use job boards or develop leads through personal connections. Applications can introduce the prospective employer to the job-seeker through resumes/CVs, cover letters, and interviews. Professionals can network to apply for potential positions through job fairs, mentor recommendations, and professional organizations.

Conferences provide opportunities to develop professional networks. Vulnerability assessors can attend conferences such as the official cybersecurity summit, SANS 2022, or women in cybersecurity.

Explore the following links for some of the best job boards and career development resources for vulnerability assessors.

  • Glassdoor: This key resource offers data-derived insights on careers and employers. Vulnerability assessors can review potential employers and search for open jobs.
  • SimplyHired: This database includes millions of job opportunities and opportunities to improve job search skills, such as resume writing, interviewing, and developing professional portfolios.
  • Indeed: With 250 million visitors each month, Indeed is one of the largest job boards in the world. Vulnerability assessors can search through job posts and submit their resumes.
  • ClearanceJobs.Com: Focused exclusively on professionals with U.S. federal government security clearances, this recruiting network provides career development resources for vulnerability assessors.
  • CyberSecurityJobs.Com: This national platform for cybersecurity jobs offers job listings and opportunities to post resumes. Job searchers can click on "vulnerability assessor" for a comprehensive job list.

Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Resources for Future Vulnerability Assessors

Interested in cybersecurity jobs? Discover a career as a vulnerability assessor for information applications and systems. Ready to grow as a cybersecurity specialist? Discover the industry's top-ranked certifications for vulnerability assessors. These certifications focus on practical, career-ready skills. Learn more about the typical duties of a vulnerability assessor in various roles and environments. How much do vulnerability assessors make? Find out salary information and other career data at this resource.

Questions About Vulnerability Assessors


How do you become a vulnerability assessor?

The simplest, most straightforward way to become a vulnerability assessor is to earn a relevant bachelor's degree and then gain professional experience in the field. Certifications in ethical hacking or vulnerability assessment may help accelerate this timeline.

How long does it take to become a vulnerability assessor?

Becoming a vulnerability assessor can take about 5-7 years from start to finish. Earning a bachelor's degree in computer science usually requires four years. Early-stage professionals often spend another 1-3 years in general information technology or cybersecurity roles before pursuing vulnerability assessment jobs.

Do you need a degree to work as a vulnerability assessor?

In general, yes, employers expect vulnerability assessors to hold associate or bachelor's degrees in computer science. This degree should include coursework in shell scripting, app development, mobile systems, and reverse engineering malware. However, some employers may favor experience and skills over degrees.

Which certifications should you have as a vulnerability assessor?

For vulnerability assessors, earning industry certifications can help foster career development. Top certifications for this career include the certified information systems security professional credential from (ISC)² and the enterprise vulnerability assessor from GIAC.


Featured Image: gorodenkoff / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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