How to become a hacker
Despite what you might think, not all computer hackers are bad. In fact, some companies even hire people to hack into their computer networks to expose weaknesses, vulnerabilities and security holes. This is considered "ethical hacking," and you can make a career out of it if you're good at it. Here's everything you need to know to become a hacker.
What a hacker does
What you do in this career depends entirely which kind of hacker you are. If you're a hacker who's an information security analyst, your day-to-day tasks might include:
- Monitoring computer networks and systems for security breaches
- Making security recommendations
- Creating security policies for a company, such as a disaster recovery plan
- Researching cyberthreats
If you're a hacker whose specialty is computer programming, then you might:
- Write computer software with programs such as C++ and Java
- Check applications for bugs and rewrite code if there are any
- Help design programs
You can also be an ethical hacker apart from being an information security analyst or computer scientist, as long as you fit the definition of an ethical hacker. Which is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, "A person who hacks into a computer network in order to test or evaluate its security, rather than with malicious or criminal intent." In this vein, you might also see the job of an ethical hacker referred to as a "white-hat hacker" or a "penetration tester."
How to become a hacker
You can take courses or earn certifications in ethical hacking, such as those offered at EC-Council, but there aren't really hacking degrees.
Many who want to become hackers go the route of information security analysts or computer programmers, which means they earn a degree in a relevant field and then either intern or gain experience through an entry-level job. Bachelor's degrees related to hacking might include:
- Computer science
- Computer programming
- Information security
- Computer information systems
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Salary and job growth of hackers
Whether you become a hacker via a career as a computer programmer or information security analyst potential might determine your salary and job growth.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer programmers in the U.S. earned a mean annual wage of $80,930 in May 2013, with employment of computer programmers expected to grow by 18 percent between 2012 and 2022 — 7 percent faster than the average for all occupations combined. And as of May 2013, information security analysts earned a mean annual wage of $91,210, with employment expected to grow by 37 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is more than three times as fast as the average for all occupations.
No matter which route you take, ethical hackers serve a vital role to the computer and business world. It can be a great job to pursue if you're interested in both computers and public service. For more information and a complete list of sources, please see the infographic below.
Certified Ethical Hacker, EC-Council,
Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Computer Programmers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Information Security Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Computer Programmers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
Information Security Analysts, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,