With the increasing popularity of AI and information technology in every field, it is not surprising that there is a sharp rise in cybercrimes. From using your credit card for shopping to using open Wi-Fi in a café, anyone can hack your system.
Hence, the employment rate in the field of cybersecurity is quite high. If you are interested in looking for problems, solving issues, and even hacking, then you look for a job as a vulnerability assessor.
As the name suggests, you will be responsible for identifying the weaknesses in the security system and finding solutions for the problem. In this article, we are going to provide you with an in-depth description of how to become a vulnerability assessor.
What Does a Vulnerability Assessor Do?
Apart from looking for trouble by dissecting the system thoroughly, a vulnerability assessor is responsible for many other things. However, their main task involves presenting a vulnerability assessment report to the organization for improvement.
To produce a detailed report, they need to perform a long list of tasks to find the loopholes in the security system of a company. Since even IT experts can miss these blind spots, a vulnerability assessor prioritizes all their findings and offers recommendations to the company.
One of their tasks is to carry out multiple tests to find out flaws in the company’s applications, network, and operating system. Their investigation reveals any vulnerability in the security to prevent hackers from stealing their data.
As cybersecurity leaders, we have to create our message of influence because security is a culture and you need the business to take place and be part of that security culture.
Besides this, they have to conduct various audits for securing the network of the organizations. Along with manual testing, vulnerability assessors can also use different security tools to execute their tasks efficiently. Nessus, one of these tools, saves them a huge chunk of time.
However, such tools can sometimes lead to false negatives if the testing pattern is changed slightly. In such cases, a vulnerability assessor has to slash down the false ones in the report manually.
Apart from this, they are tasked with developing applications and scripts to test for weaknesses too. Next, a vulnerability assessor has to track these weaknesses for a time for metric purposes.
Moreover, they have to offer concrete solutions for the vulnerabilities and provide training to the security department to strengthen the security system as well.
Since this is a very technical job, you need a wide range of crucial skills to assess the security system for vulnerabilities. You have to use your expertise in Information Technology to become a successful vulnerability assessor. Besides hard skills, this job entails you to have a good grip on soft skills too. While you can learn some of these skills beforehand, you can develop the others over time with experience.
Let us take a more in-depth look into all the hard skills required as a vulnerability assessor.
- Experienced with configuring operating systems like Windows, Unix, and Linux
- Fluent in important computer programming languages like C, C#, C++, Java, PHP, ASM, and PERL
- Familiar with finding vulnerabilities using network scanning tools like Nessus, RETINA, Gold Disk, and ACAS
- Knowledgeable about security frameworks used in organizations, including ISO 27001/27002, HIPPA, NIST, and SOX
- Comfortable working with applications based on the web and securing their database
- Well-versed with the critical Metasploit framework
- Knows about all the significant computer hardware and software programs
- Can work with security tools like Appscan and Fortify
- Adept at reverse engineering and vulnerability analysis to find critical flaws
Keeping hard skills aside, a vulnerability assessor has to cultivate many soft skills to work with other cyber teams. Deemed as a team player, they have to communicate with their colleagues, teach the IT teams about security, and write detailed reports too. Hence, they should have the following soft skills to work well as a vulnerability assessor.
- Excellent communication skills to discuss the flaws with the IT team
- Exceptional writing skills to produce a detailed Vulnerability Assessment Report
- Formidable analytical skills to find the blind spots in the system
- Strategic and creative thinking to find solutions to the vulnerabilities
- Attentive to the tiniest of details
- Adapt well to working under stress
- Ability to guide and educate other IT experts on the security flaws
- Flexible enough to multi-task
Since the job requirements for vulnerability assessors vary from one organization to another, there is no set education standard for it. Some interested candidates might have all the required skills and a keen interest in hacking right after school. These individuals can quickly get a junior-level job without earning a bachelor’s degree in the IT field.
Then, they can work their way up by learning the ropes and gaining experience through the IT team. However, many companies require you to have an excellent educational background before joining their cybersecurity team. In such cases, you should opt for a Bachelor’s degree in Cyber Security, Computer Science, or related IT fields. Not only will it boost your resume, but you will also learn critical skills during college. Here, you will get familiar with all the above-mentioned hard skills before even starting your job.
These include getting comfortable with programming languages, configuration, and security tools. Besides this, college allows you to learn soft skills by assigning your group projects. They are crucial in teaching you teamwork, communication skills, and how to guide others.
Moreover, as part of your degree, you will be required to take part in vital internships to gain IT experience. This will give you an edge over other candidates. If you are planning to join government jobs or senior-level positions, you are even required to pursue a Master’s degree in Computer Science or even an MS.
While some companies might require a Bachelor’s degree, others might be more interested in your prior experience. Again, this job requirement varies from one place to another.
Usually, most companies require a minimum of two to three years of experience working in cybersecurity to get an entry-level job. Since these depend on the type of job and difficulty, some companies might hire you with just an IT-related degree.
On the other hand, most senior-level posts require about six to 12 years of experience. For example, a top vulnerability assessor should have worked with forensics, incident response, or malware teams to learn all the necessary skills.
Apart from gaining technical expertise through a good education background and gaining experience in cybersecurity, there is another way to get an edge over your colleagues. Yes, we are talking about earning critical certifications to give a boost to your resume.
While some jobs might not require any extra training, most companies list down penetration testing certifications and CISSP as a job requirement. As such, these are responsible for teaching you essential skills that are not covered in your Bachelor’s degree. One of these certifications, called the Vulnerability Assessment Certification, is quite specific for your job as a vulnerability assessor.
You can get this certification from Mile2, an IT security company that is famous for offering accredited certifications for cybersecurity. Before we go on to listing all the major certifications, keep in mind that different organizations have different requirements. Instead of wasting your time and money on pursuing useless certificates, make sure to check for those required by your job. Some of the most popular certifications have been listed below for your benefit.
- CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker
- CEPT: Certified Expert Penetration Tester
- CPT: Certified Penetration Tester
- OSCP: Offensive Security Certified Professional
- GPEN: GIAC Certified Penetration Tester
- CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- CVA: Certified Vulnerability Assessor
- GCIH: GIAC Certified Incident Handler
Career Path for a Vulnerability Assessor
As discussed in the above section, a vulnerability assessor has a very specialized job. You have to commit to years of hard work to achieve the experience and skills to excel at your job.
Fortunately, with the rise in cybercrime all over the world, there is no shortage of employment in the technical field of cybersecurity. If you have been quite interested in hacking since high school, as most candidates are, you can follow a successful career as a vulnerability assessor.
The career path to becoming a vulnerability assessor depends on your experience, education, as well as certifications. While some of you might be working in cybersecurity already, some of you could still be studying.
Besides this, vulnerability assessors can work as part-time consultants to a company, allowing them to pursue multiple jobs at once. As a result, they can follow other roles in cybersecurity.
Under the broad umbrella of a Security Consultant, a vulnerability assessor can work as the following.
- Vulnerability Assessment Analyst
- Cyber Assessor
- Security Control Assessor
- Vulnerability Researcher
- Security Assessor
- Software Assurance Assessor
All these jobs require a similar bachelor’s degree in computer science or cybersecurity, with set years of experience to enhance their resume.
Putting all the information mentioned above aside, you should also know that you can secure a job based on different positions. Your experience, education, and knowledge decide your career stages, that is, whether you get an entry-level, middle-level, or senior-level role in cybersecurity.
We have listed all the jobs you can apply for under each career stage of cybersecurity. Keep in mind that a vulnerability assessor can switch between different roles by earning related certifications and getting experience in each sector.
Hence, you can choose any career path that you desire to reach your desired goal.
You need a minimum of two to three years of experience working in cybersecurity to one of the following entry-level jobs. However, these requirements might differ from one company to another.
- Junior vulnerability assessor
- System administrator
- Penetration tester
- Vulnerability Assessor
- Vulnerability Assessment Analyst
To put it simply, you need almost six to 12 years of experience along with multiple certifications and a Master’s Degree to secure any of the following jobs.
- Vulnerability Assessment Analyst
- Cyber threat analyst
Expected Salary for a Vulnerability Assessor
Since it is a very specialized job, the average salary of a vulnerability assessor varies quite a lot. Keeping in mind that different companies require different levels of expertise, these figures might alter from state to state.
For senior-level positions, however, the salary is almost more than $80k. According to BLS, the median salary of a vulnerability assessor analyst is around $87,000, with the top 10% earning more than $137,000.
If you have always loved the idea of hacking and possess a creative mind, then you can excel as a vulnerability assessor in your career. This job demands quite a lot of technical expertise, specialization, and dedication to complete a long list of responsibilities.
Since it has a variable career path too, you have the benefit of switching to this role amidst another job in cybersecurity. With the right education, experience, and skills, you can turn your hacking hobby into a career.