Penetrating testing is a legal and structured approach used for the security evaluation of an organization. It is commonly known as Pen testing, which allows to safely assess the security posture by safely exploiting the vulnerabilities of the IT infrastructures such as operating systems, security flaws within services and applications, devices, and configurations. It helps ensure that the organizations are well-equipped with defensive mechanisms and adherence to security policies. 

Such testing is conducted manually or via automated technologies to identify the exploitable areas and help build effective strategies and prioritize remediation approaches to have a well-controlled environment that safeguards all the organizational infrastructures and the end-users of the applications or services of these organizations. 

With the rapid incidence of cyber-attacks, penetration testers are among the highest paid professionals in the IT industry, with an expected growth rate of 31 percent as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. As per the reports, penetration tester employment is projected to be growing much faster than the average of most job roles in the IT industry. Thus, aspirants need to gain expertise about penetration testing skills from top-tier universities and organizations through various online courses and deep dive into an exciting and future-proof career of immense growth potential.


Related reading: 10 Best Online Cybersecurity Courses


1. Penetration Testing, Incident Response and Forensics by IBM – Coursera

Penetration Testing, Incident Response and Forensics by IBM – Coursera

This course is available on Coursera. In this training program, the learners will provide the necessary background to gain cybersecurity skills and understand various phases of pen-testing. Furthermore, the learners will explore the concepts of gathering data for the testing and the popular testing tools that are available today. In addition, the topics on incident response, documentations to collect, and the components of incident response policy are covered in-depth.

There is also a provision of hands-on sessions for learning scripting for system analysis. By the end of the course, the learners will be well-equipped to know penetration testing tools, incident response tools and techniques, digital forensics, and digital evidence and scripting languages. 

The course curriculum includes:

  • Penetration Testing
  • Incident Response
  • Digital Forensics
  • Introduction to Scripting

Instructor: IBM Global Subject Matter Experts

Level: Beginner

Duration: 17 hours

User Review: 4.6/5

No. of Reviews: 863

Price: Free Enrollment (Additional charges for certification may apply)

2. Cybersecurity Fundamentals by New York University – edX

This certification program is a Micro Bachelors specialization offered on the edX platform. In this course, the learners can cover core cybersecurity components such as information security, network security, and penetration testing.

Furthermore, the learners will be exposed to Python scripting for system analysis and gain hands-on experience with various tools that professionals use and defense mechanisms organizations employ. 

In addition, the concepts on various complexities in defending business systems, cyber threats, risk assessment, intrusion detection, and vulnerability management are some of the advanced topics covered in-depth. The learning content and materials provided in the course also help prepare for the CompTIA’s Security+ Certification exam. 

The key takeaways from the course are:

  • Ethical security mindset.
  • Implementing various security design principles.
  • Access control and reference monitors.
  • Applying security policies in operating systems.
  • Basic analysis for secured systems.
  • Virtualization and the impact on security and efficiency.
  • Implementing methodologies for penetration testing.
  • Identifying vulnerabilities, score their risk, and explain mitigations.
  • Responsible disclosure findings in a professional report can recreate the exploit, explain the impact to the target, and prioritize each finding.
  • Enumerate target hosts, domains, exposures, and attack surface.
  • Identify flaws and vulnerabilities in applications, websites, networks, systems, protocols, and configurations using manual techniques and assistive tools.
  • Reverse engineering compiled applications to discover exploitable weaknesses.
  • Writing new exploits to test various vulnerabilities on clients, against servers, and to escalate privileges.
  • Demonstrate the fundamentals of secure network design.
  • Understand the issues involved with providing secure networks.
  • Cryptography analysis is required for secure communications, authorization, and authorization.
  • Securing networks.
  • The course curriculum includes:
  • Information Security: Authentication and Access Control
  • Information Security Advanced Topics
  • Introduction to Network Security
  • Network Security Protocols
  • Network Security Advanced Topics
  • Penetration Testing: Discovering Vulnerabilities
  • Penetration Testing: Exploitation
  • Penetration Testing: Post Exploitation

Instructor: Justin Cappos and Aspen Olmsted

Level: Beginner/ Intermediate

Duration: 1 year

User Review: NA

No. of Reviews: NA

Price: $1506.7

3. Ethical Hacker Nanodegree Program – Udacity

The online learning program is offered on Udacity. The course covers a wide range of topics on ethical hacking systems and how to find the vulnerabilities and weaknesses in various applications and services, and systems. In addition, the learners will understand the design and execution of a penetration testing plan and report the pen test findings with valid evidence. 

The learners will also gain the programming skills required to conduct software testing and learn scripting languages to perform the tests efficiently. There are prerequisites for the course that requires a basic understanding of Linux file structure and commands, networking basics, working knowledge of any programming knowledge, familiarity with operating systems, and basics of encryption. 

The course curriculum includes:

  • Introduction to Ethical Hacking
  • Penetration Testing and Red Teaming Operations

Instructor: Sagar Bansal and Paul Oyelakin

Level: Advanced

Duration: 2 months

User Review: NA

No. of Reviews: NA

Price: $310/Month/$528 for 2-Month Access

4. Website Hacking, Penetration Testing, and Bug Bounty Hunting – Udemy

Website Hacking, Penetration Testing, and Bug Bounty Hunting – Udemy

This is a comprehensive course on website penetration testing. It is available on Udemy. The learners will explore web application hacking concepts and discover bugs such as black-hat hackers and more. 

The training follows a practical approach and provides sufficient exposure to testing tools and techniques, different security components in websites, and understanding how to discover, exploit and mitigate common security vulnerabilities under web application testing.

Additionally, the learners will cover advanced topics such as bypassing security, escalating privileges, accessing databases, and server-related information for pen tests. The participants will master a wide range of topics such as:

The course curriculum includes:

  • Introduction
  • Creating a Penetration Testing Lab
  • Linux
  • Website Basics
  • Information Gathering
  • File Upload Vulnerabilities
  • Code Execution Vulnerabilities
  • Local file Inclusion and Remove File Inclusion
  • Remote File Inclusion
  • SQL Injection Vulnerabilities: SQLi Login pages, Extracting Data from Database, Advanced Exploitation
  • XSS Vulnerabilities
  • Insecure Session Management
  • Brute Force and Directory Attacks
  • Automatic Discovery of Vulnerabilities
  • Post Exploitation

Instructor: Zaid Sabih and Z Security

Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Duration: 10 hours 4 minutes

User Review: 4.6/5

No. of Reviews: 12,494

Price: $69.6

5. Ethical Hacking: An Introduction by Coventry University – FutureLearn

This course is offered by Coventry University in collaboration with the Institute of Coding. It is offered on the Futurelearn platform. The course begins with the introductory concepts on ethical hacking, legal aspects of penetration testing, penetration testing methodologies, and practical sessions for hacking exercises. Besides, the learners will deep dive into standard penetration testing approaches and perform simple vulnerability attacks on a targeted system. The prerequisites include basic knowledge of computer science.

Instructor: Daniel Goldsmith, Christo Panchev, and Antal Goldschmidt

Level: Beginner

Duration: 2 weeks

User Review: 4.4/5

No. of Reviews: 34

Price: Free Enrollment with upgraded Access: $74, and unlimited Access: $279.9/yr

6. Cybersecurity Basics IBM – edX

Cybersecurity Basics IBM – edX

The online program is available on edX. This training program builds a solid foundation of the basics of cybersecurity. From cybersecurity history to exploring various cybersecurity threats are covered in detail. Moreover, the course provides essential concepts on the tools that are required to prevent an attack.

In addition, the learners will delve into penetration testing concepts in cybersecurity and the role of cryptography and its uses. In addition, the learners will cover the functions and types of firewalls, and different types of cybersecurity attack models, including the primary components of confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

The course contents are:

  • History of Cybersecurity
  • A Brief Overview of Types of Actors and Their Motives
  • Key Security Concepts
  • An Overview of Key Security Tools and Penetration Testing

Instructor: Coreen Ryskamp

Level: Beginner

Duration: 4 weeks

User Review: NA

No. of Reviews: NA

Price: Free Enrollment ($150 for an optional upgrade for certification)

7. Certified Ethical Hacking Course by EC Council – Simplilearn

This certification course is offered on Simplilearn and is accredited by EC Council. In this program, the learners will cover the advanced processes in Ethical hacking, advanced penetration testing concepts for network security, and system penetration techniques.

There are numerous hands-on training sessions, and the course contents strictly follow the latest contents that are in line with the industry-recognized certificate exam by EC Council for a cybersecurity career.

Additionally, the learners will cover the topics of Trojan backdoors and countermeasures, IDS firewalls and honeypots, advanced hacking techniques and concepts, network packet analysis, mobile and web technology testing, and advanced log management.

The course contents are:

  • Introduction to Ethical Hacking
  • Footprinting and Reconnaissance
  • Scanning Networks
  • Enumeration
  • Vulnerability Analysis
  • System Hacking
  • Malware Threats
  • Sniffing
  • Social Engineering
  • Denial-of-Service
  • Session Hijacking
  • Evading IDS, Firewalls, and Honeypots
  • Hacking Web Servers
  • Hacking Web Applications
  • SQL Injection
  • Hacking Wireless Networks
  • Hacking Mobile Platforms
  • IoT Hacking
  • Cloud Computing
  • Cryptography

Instructor: Dean Pompilio and Bipin Kulkarni

Level: Advanced

Duration: 90 days online Access

User Review: 4.6/5

No. of Reviews: 2661

Price: $544

8. Become a CompTIA Certified Penetration Tester – LinkedIn Learning

Become a CompTIA Certified Penetration Tester – LinkedIn Learning

CompTIA PenTest is one of the most widely recognized exams that highlights professionals’ testing and vulnerability assessment skills and is highly regarded in the industry. This learning path is available on LinkedIn Learning that includes various courses from the essentials to the advanced concepts. The topics covered in the entire program include best practices, recommended strategies, testing environment, device testing, and cloud-based testing. In addition, the learners will have sufficient exposure to the concepts that can help them clear the CompTIA exam successfully. 

The course contents are:

  • Planning and Scoping
  • Survey the Target
  • Select your Attacks I and II
  • Selecting the Pen Testing Tools
  • Using Scripting in Pen Testing
  • Reporting and Communication

Instructor: Michael Solomon

Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Duration: 11 hours

User Review: NA

No. of Reviews: NA

Price: 1-Month Free Trial (Charges may apply after trial. Prices available on Sign-Up)

9. Web Application Penetration Testing Fundamentals – Pluralsight

The course is available on Pluralsight. This tutorial builds the foundational skills of the learners with concepts on web applications, their frameworks, and how to perform a successful web application penetration test. The learners will begin from the pre-engagement of the test to prepare the tests. Next, the techniques for pen testing various web applications and web servers are covered with hands-on sessions. 

Finally, the learners will discover the types of attacks on applications, user inputs, logic flaws in the development of applications and have a solid understanding of the basic framework for web application security assessment. 

The course contents are:

  • The Principles of a Web Application Penetration Test
  • Pre-Engagement and Footprinting
  • Attacking User Controls
  • Attacking Application Inputs
  • Common Attack Methods
  • Discovering Logic Flaws
  • Reporting
  • Summary

Instructor: Mike Woolard

Level: Intermediate

Duration:2 hours 37 minutes

User Review: 4.6/5

No. of Reviews: 58

Price: 10-Day Free Trial (Charges may apply after trial. Prices available on Sign-Up)

10. Cyber Security Certification Training Course – Edureka

This course is offered on the Edureka platform. The online training comprises multiple cybersecurity concepts such as ethical hacking, cryptography, penetration testing, computer networks and security, application security, vulnerability analysis, malware threats, sniffing, SQL injection, and many more. 

The learners will begin from scratch with the fundamentals of cybersecurity and build hands-on experience across modules. Besides, the learners will understand the best practices, the technologies to protect networks, and the tools and techniques for preventing attacks and safeguarding data from unauthorized attacks. 

Finally, the learners will cover all the advanced concepts on securing applications, access management, session hijacking, and the methods to tackle these challenges in an organizational environment. 

The key takeaways from this course are:

  • Comprehensive understanding of cybersecurity
  • Security architecture
  • Security governance
  • Security Auditing
  • Regulations and frameworks
  • Ethical hacking
  • Types of hackers
  • Phases of ethical hacking
  • Penetration testing
  • Types of penetration testing
  • Footprinting
  • Types of footprinting and footprinting techniques

Instructor: Industry Professionals

Level: Intermediate

Duration: 4 weeks

User Review: 5/5

No. of Reviews: 33,000

Price: $204

11. Cybersecurity Specialization by University of Maryland – Coursera

Cybersecurity Specialization by University of Maryland – Coursera

This certificate course is offered on Coursera. In this specialization, the learners will cover the fundamentals concepts of securing systems, the hardware and software requirements, cryptography for secure interactions, and penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the learners will explore the concepts of modern best practices and build essential practical skills with the relevant tools and techniques to build better security-oriented systems. The course curriculum includes:

Usable Security

This module focuses on the design aspects of building a secure system. In addition, the basic principles of human-computer interactions as insights for building secure systems are covered in-depth. Finally, the learners will understand the goal of developing security measures within a system.

Software Security

In this module, the learners will explore the foundations of software security, software vulnerabilities, SQL injection, and session hijacking concepts. In addition, the learners will deep dive into advanced penetration testing concepts and analysis techniques that can help mitigate or prevent the attacks. Finally, the learners will cover the programming aspects of this course and work on various hands-on sessions to use techniques and at each developmental phase of building secure software systems.


The third module focuses on the foundations of modern cryptography and its implementation in practical applications.

Hardware Security

In this module, the learners will learn the security requirements from a hardware perspective. The learners will explore the vulnerabilities in the current digital system and understand the design flow and the form of physical attacks on the systems.

Cybersecurity Capstone Project

The final module includes the capstone project, which is mandatory to be completed successfully to attain the certificate of completion.

Instructor: Jennifer Goldbeck, Jonathan Katz, Michael Hicks, and Gang Qu

Level: Intermediate

Duration: 8 months

User Review: 4.5/5

No. of Reviews: 3795

Price: Free Enrollment (Additional charges for certification may apply)

12. IBM Security Analyst Fundamentals Specialization – Coursera

IBM Security Analyst Fundamentals Specialization – Coursera

This specialization program is available on Coursera. Throughout this course, the learners will explore digital forensics, penetration testing, and incident response concepts. Furthermore, the learners will understand threat intelligence and learn to use the tools to gather data to prevent cyber attacks in an organizational environment.

Additionally, the learners will cover the most significant breach cases and their reviews to understand from different perspectives about various threats and build their experience on incidence reporting on a real-world breach.

Finally, the learners will master the cybersecurity analyst tools to provide data and endpoint protection alongside system and network security and SIEM concepts. Besides, to enhance the hands-on experience, the learners will also learn to work with various industry-specific open source security tools. The course contents are:

Penetration Testing and Incidence Response

This module offers the learners a solid background in penetration testing and how to collect data for the tests. In addition, the learners will focus on the popular penetration testing tools and understand the various phases of incident response and various response policies and their components for risk mitigation and prevention.

Digital Forensics

The forensic process and analysis of data, including the scripting languages used for system analysis, are covered in –depth. Moreover, various techniques and tools required to identify digital evidence to prevent future attacks are covered with the help of practical examples.

Cyber Threat Intelligence

This module provides an understanding of the network defensive tactics, network access control, and network monitoring tools for threat intelligence. In addition, the learners will explore the data protection risk alongside the mobile endpoint protection requirements.

Finally, various concepts on scanning technologies, application security vulnerabilities, and threat intelligence platforms are covered comprehensively. Besides, the learners will deep dive into advanced concepts such as data loss prevention tools and data classification in a database environment, recognizing application security threats, and exploring SIEM products alongside reviewing suspicious alerts.

Cybersecurity Capstone: Breach Response

The final module includes the capstone project based on all the essential concepts covered throughout the course. The project requires learners to include incident response methodologies in a security model and categorize the critical vulnerability types. There is an additional provision of concepts on the cost of data breaches and the research studies associated with them.

At the end of the course, the learners will have complete knowledge about incident response methodologies, describing a watering hole attack, tackling ransomware threats, and third-party breaches. In addition, the learners will gain the competency to understand and take appropriate actions for point of sale attacks and performing case studies on current cyber attacks and breaches.

Instructor: IBM Global Subject Matter Experts

Level: Beginner

Duration: 4 months

User Review: 4.8/5

No. of Reviews: 404

Price: Free Enrollment (Additional charges for certification may apply)


Penetration testers or pen testers are the assets in any organization today. A recent IBM report suggests that the average cost of a data breach in 2021 rose from 3.86 million to $4.24 million, which is the highest average in total cost ever recorded in the 17-year history of the report. They are responsible for performing simulated tests by conducting cyberattacks on a computer system, networks, and applications to identify vulnerabilities that malicious attackers can exploit.

Although some of the pen tester jobs begin with entry-level positions in the cybersecurity field, there are endless opportunities in this domain, and they are among the most highly paid professionals in the industry. According to Indeed.com, the average salary of a pen tester in the USA is $111,737, and they are offered the highest package of $144,946 as per the region and experience of the professionals.

Nevertheless, pen testers remain the key contributors to making an organization secure in terms of applications, systems, networks, cloud environment, and more. Therefore, this job profile continues to observe a high demand and a high growth rate in the past few years. Thus, it is essential for aspirants and experienced professionals aiming to switch their career domains must opt for some of the top online courses that provide a balance of theoretical concepts and build the practical experience of the learners.

In addition, it is vital to attain the courses from some of the top-tier institutions that offer industry-recognized certificates that can provide immense value to the hiring organizations. Therefore, this article highlighted some of the top courses for penetration testing that can improve career prospects and build essential skills to achieve a lucrative job role with exciting growth prospects in the future.


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Kaushik Das

Kaushik is an artificial intelligence researcher and a data scientist with expertise in medical image processing, intelligent automation, computer vision, and big data engineering—a technical and a scientific writer by passion. He is also passionate about sports, photography, traveling, and exploring new technologies.

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