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PenTest+ vs CEH: Which Is the Best Certification for You?

PenTest+ vs CEH: Which Is the Best Certification for You?

Have you been bitten by the cyber bug and now find yourself tossing and turning at night, wondering which ethical hacking certification you should go after? You’re itching to break into the penetration testing, but can’t decide whether PenTest+ or CEH is the best fit for your talents and career ambitions. We know the feeling!

Both are well-respected in the cybersecurity field, but cater to slightly different audiences and skills.

The PenTest+ focuses more broadly on best practices for testing and securing systems, networks, and applications. It covers the entire penetration testing lifecycle, assessing vulnerabilities and recommending solutions to harden security. While the CEH zooms in specifically on ethical hacking techniques to actively expose weaknesses.

This article will explain key distinctions to help you determine the better fit. We’ll compare and contrast what each one covers, the exams, price points, and career opportunities that open up once you’ve conquered them. By the end, we’ll dish out some down-to-earth advice on which certification works best depending on your background and aspirations.

The choice between these battle-tested certifications will directly impact your future, so let’s break it down together! The only bug you’ll have by the end is the unstoppable hacking itch! Read on for the full comparison of these two popular infosec credentials.

Understanding PenTest+ and CEH Certifications

Below, we have explained the key aspects and differences between the PenTest+ and CEH certifications. We define what each credential entails, and compare the roles and responsibilities associated with a PenTest+ versus CEH designation.

Definition and Overview

The CompTIA Penetration Testing Professional (PenTest+) and the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certifications both validate skills in identifying and exploiting systems vulnerabilities. However, they approach the field from slightly different angles.

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The PenTest+ focuses more broadly on best practices across the entire penetration testing lifecycle. It covers risk assessment, scope definition, information gathering, vulnerability scanning, attacks and exploits, report writing, and communication of results. 

Earning the PenTest+ demonstrates an understanding of how to plan and scope a penetration test, assess what systems are at risk, probe for weaknesses, analyze findings, and recommend solutions to strengthen security defenses.

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Meanwhile, the CEH zooms in specifically on hands-on ethical hacking techniques. It covers topics like intrusion detection, social engineering, denial of service attacks, virus attacks, and ways to find weaknesses in systems without authorization. Someone holding the CEH possesses very technical, specialized skills to actively expose vulnerabilities by assuming the objectives and behavior of a malicious hacker.  

When considering which certification to pursue, it primarily comes down to your existing background and long-term career goals. The PenTest+ is more appropriate for those newer to the cybersecurity field looking to learn the full penetration testing workflow. The CEH appeals to experienced IT professionals seeking to specialize as ethical hackers.

Comparison of roles and responsibilities

The CompTIA PenTest+ certification focuses more on hands-on penetration testing and ethical hacking skills. Someone with a PenTest+ is qualified to conduct network penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, web application penetration testing, social engineering, and physical security assessments. They understand penetration testing methodologies, tools, reporting, and communication skills necessary for an entry-level penetration tester.

The CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) certification from the EC-Council focuses on an ethical hacker’s thought processes and technical knowledge. Someone with a CEH understands system weaknesses and vulnerabilities from a hacker’s perspective and applies that knowledge to strengthen system security. They are qualified to perform vulnerability assessments, penetration tests, threat analysis, system hardening configuration, and monitor network traffic for anomalies.

In terms of roles, a PenTest+ credential holder is more prepared for hands-on junior penetration testing roles. They have practical experience with tools and techniques to actively test systems and find vulnerabilities. A CEH, while possessing technical knowledge, is better suited for supervisory cybersecurity roles like security analyst, auditor, and cybersecurity engineer. They understand offensive cybersecurity concepts but may not have as much practical experience conducting active assessments.

PenTest+ vs CEH: Comparison Table

The following table provides a concise comparison between CompTIA PenTest+ and EC-Council CEH based on various factors such as focus area, required experience level, exam details, cost, renewal requirements, and the best-suited audience for each certification.

CategoryPenTest+CEH
Focus AreaBroad penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, and security operationsSpecialized in ethical hacking techniques
Required Experience LevelRecommended networking, IT admin, or security experienceAt least 2 years of information security experience
Exam DetailsPerformance-based and multiple choice questions, 85 questions, 165 minutesMultiple choice, i-labs, exams, 125 questions, 4 hours
CostExam voucher around $392Exam voucher around $1,199
RenewalNo renewal, but new exam versions released every 3-4 yearsRenew every 3 years, by earning CE credits or retaking the exam
Best Suited ForSecurity analysts, vulnerability assessors, and penetration testers focused on defenseEthical hackers, penetration testers, information security leaders
Key Skill Areas TestedPlanning/scoping pen tests, attacks, exploits, tools, methodology, reporting, communication skills, mitigation techniquesIn-depth hacking techniques, intrusion detection systems, virus attacks, trojans, evasion techniques, social engineering

Purpose and Scope of Each Certification

In this section, we have laid out the purpose and scope of PenTest+ and CEH cybersecurity certifications. Together, these certifications round out and build on each other to arm cybersecurity pros with layered skill sets to ward off threats. As we get into the details of each, you’ll see how they dovetail to equip candidates with comprehensive cyber skills.

PenTest+

This certification provides broad coverage of the entire penetration testing life cycle, from planning and scoping assessments, conducting tests of systems, networks, and applications to identify weaknesses, and documenting and communicating findings and strategies for mitigating risks.

CEH

This certification focuses specifically on methodologies, techniques, and tools involving ethical hacking of target systems. It aims to help security professionals actively expose cybersecurity vulnerabilities through controlled attacks.

What are the Similarities Between PenTest+ and CEH?

Both PenTest+ and CEH focus on validating skills in penetration testing and ethical hacking methodologies needed to properly identify weaknesses in networks, systems, and applications.

While the CEH goes more in-depth into advanced attack techniques, they share core knowledge areas like planning assessments, using tools/exploits, analyzing data, and communicating risks.

The two creds are vendor-neutral, so they can provide credibility on foundational skills useful for various security jobs and platforms. They’re also both ANSI-accredited, demonstrating rigor and quality standards in exam development. Recognized globally, the CEH and PenTest+ carry weight for multinational cybersecurity roles.

Another similarity is the renewal process, which unfolds over 3-year periods to maintain validity. Continued learning during each cycle is mandated – 60 CEUs for PenTest+ and 120 credits for the more specialized CEH. So staying current on evolving technologies through classes, research, or training is necessary beyond just initial certification.

While differing in some technical specifics and experience requirements, the CompTIA and EC-Council ethical hacking credentials share common ground in applying pen testing principles. They demand ongoing expertise development as well. The credentials complement each other in jointly preparing cybersecurity experts equipped to lock down modern systems and networks.

How Do PenTest+ and CEH Differ?

The CEH specifically focuses on methodologies and techniques related to penetration testing through ethical hacking. It goes deep into understanding attack types, tools, countermeasures, and hands-on ability to find weaknesses. 

The PenTest+ covers penetration testing fundamentals but also includes vulnerability assessment life cycles for systematically uncovering risks. So the PenTest+ has a broader scope beyond just hacking-focused areas.

In line with its specialized ethical hacking concentration, the intense CEH exam is longer at 4 hours with 125 multiple-choice and hands-on questions to assess advanced technical skills. On the other hand, the foundational nature of the PenTest+ is reflected in its shorter 165-minute exam length with 85 performance-based and multiple choice questions measuring abilities like communication that support core pen testing tasks.

The target experience levels also differ between the certifications. The CEH requires 2 years of specific work experience in information security along with signing an ethics agreement given its immersive, hands-on exam hacking into simulated networks. 

By contrast, the PenTest+ has no experience requirements, so those newer to cybersecurity or looking to transition careers can earn it to validate baseline penetration testing and vulnerability assessment knowledge crucial for many roles.

While overlapping in the field of penetration testing, the CEH focuses on scenarios measuring deep hacker tools/method expertise compared to PenTest+’s broad assessment scope and accessibility for beginners. The distinctions in concentration area, exam format/length, and experience requirements help dictate use cases.

Advancement Opportunities

Below, we have discussed advanced opportunities for those looking to advance their careers in EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and PenTest+.

PenTest+

The PenTest+ certification validates fundamental, vendor-neutral skills for junior penetration testers and vulnerability assessors. It can help early-career cybersecurity professionals move into security analyst and penetration testing roles. Experienced IT administrators may also pursue the PenTest+ to transition into cybersecurity.

CEH

The CEH credential is well-suited for more seasoned cybersecurity professionals looking to demonstrate in-depth expertise in ethical hacking methodologies. It prepares for leading penetration tests and can lead to advancement as an ethical hacker, senior penetration tester, and into information security leadership roles requiring extensive technical knowledge.

Job Opportunities

In this section, we explore the career paths in ethical hacking and penetration testing. We’ll break down what PenTest+ and CEH entail. The opportunities out there are growing in this field – let’s explore how PenTest+ and CEH can help position you to seize them.

PenTest+

With innovative hacking threats on the rise, the future looks bright for qualified penetration testers with the CompTIA PenTest+ certification. As more organizations prioritize proactive assessments of vulnerabilities in their network infrastructure and applications, demand for security analysts and junior penetration testers will grow. 

PenTest+ holders can gain employment testing systems, implement security solutions, document risks, and communicate with management. Entry-level careers in cybersecurity have strong outlooks and competitive salaries.

CEH

For credentialed, experienced professionals specialized in ethical hacking techniques, exciting job opportunities lie ahead. As data breaches make headlines, companies urgently require experts to expose weaknesses in their digital defenses. 

CEH certification holders can lead penetration testing engagements and security operations teams with their advanced understanding of attacks, risk assessment methodologies, and mitigation strategies. 

With the tremendous rise in emerging hacking threats, certified ethical hackers will see no shortage of opportunities to help strengthen organizational and customer security in the years ahead. Leadership roles overseeing large cybersecurity, penetration testing, and risk/compliance teams also open doors.

Exam Structure and Requirements

As we compare the two, we’ll call out the requirements and exam specifics to help decide which certification lines up better with your background and career aims. PenTest+ caters more to those looking to break into the field, while CEH appeals to seasoned cybersecurity pros seeking to level up and fill gaps.

By breaking these certifications down side-by-side, you can weigh up if one certification outshines the other or if it makes sense to take on both sequentially as you build up your skills. There’s no one-size-fits-all option, so think about the pen testing and ethical hacking knowledge you’re hoping to pick up.

PenTest+

The CompTIA PenTest+ exam is comprised of 85 multiple-choice and performance-based questions that must be completed within 165 minutes. Performance questions require demonstrating knowledge practically through simulated penetration testing scenarios. 5 domains are covered:

  • Planning and scoping pen tests
  • Using tools/techniques to test systems, networks, and apps
  • Analyzing data and reporting findings
  • Managing testing processes
  • Basic exploitation techniques and communication abilities No prerequisites are required but networking/IT experience is recommended. The passing exam score is 750 out of 900.

CEH

The CEH exam contains 125 multiple-choice questions with iLabs to be finished in a 4-hour time limit. The focus is assessing advanced, hands-on ethical hacking expertise across areas like intrusion detection, policy creation, social engineering, DDoS attacks, trojans/viruses, and hacking web applications and wireless networks. 

Prerequisites include 2 years of work experience and a signed code of ethics. A scaled score of 500 out of 1000 points is required to pass and become a Certified Ethical Hacker. Periodic background checks are also conducted.

Exam Difficulty

When sizing up the difficulty level of the PenTest+ and CEH cybersecurity certifications, it’s important to break down the key aspects and differences between the two exams in order to make a decision.

Candidates should weigh the experience and depth of knowledge they currently hold against what each exam covers before signing up. While more rigorous, the respected CEH certification opens up higher-level career opportunities for those able to step up and lock it down.

PenTest+

The experience-neutral PenTest+ aims to validate comprehension of penetration testing theories, best practices, and concepts crucial to the discipline. 

Its knowledge-based 85-question exam covers scenarios a book-learned candidate with no hands-on practice could answer regarding vulnerability assessment cycles, reporting, communication protocols, and more. 

So working professionals may find it more theory-heavy, requiring study despite sector familiarity.

CEH

With its 4-hour, hands-on, 125-question exam, the CEH is challenging as it focuses on experiential expertise in ethical hacking techniques using real tools to show abilities to actively uncover security vulnerabilities. 

So, questions involve practical experience executing methodologies along with knowledge of specific tools and attack types to analyze systems. Those currently working in penetration testing roles likely have an advantage here.

While both ethical hacking exams are difficult in their own regard, the CEH favors candidates who can demonstrate applied skills actually conducting penetration tests and engaging tools of attack. Its questions align with experiential expertise. 

But the PenTest+ is more theoretical, focused strictly on principles candidates should understand before conducting hands-on assessments. Experience doesn’t allow shortcutting study there. In the end, both deeply test different facets of expertise through practical or conceptual questions to uphold their respective industry value.

Recertification Process

Keeping up with the latest developments in ethical hacking and penetration testing requires going through the recertification process for PenTest+ and CEH. This helps avoid falling behind on new methods, techniques, and tools that hackers are constantly coming up with. Professionals looking to renew their certifications need to brush up on recent advances in the field by studying new material and taking updated exams.

For PenTest+, composers have to go through the recertification process every 3 years to stay current. This involves retaking the exam before their certification runs out. CEH has more flexible recertification requirements, allowing holders to either retake the exam or earn the required number of CPE credits to renew their credentials each year. Individuals can log CPEs by taking extra courses and seminars over the year to round out their existing knowledge.

No matter the certification, staying on top of new vulnerabilities that crop up and maintaining a breadth of understanding across penetration testing and ethical hacking is key to standing out.

The recertification process, while time-consuming, pushes professionals to double down on and expand their skills. This helps the cybersecurity community continue to keep up with hackers and black hats who are always coming up with new attacks.

CEH

To renew the CEH certification, ethical hackers must obtain 120 Continuing Education (CE) credits over each 3-year period. These credits should be earned steadily each year, with 40 submitted annually, rather than leaving all 120 to the last minute before renewal. 

There are many options to gain credits like attending conferences and trainings, publishing articles, or pursuing other industry certifications. An annual $80 EC-Council membership is also mandatory not just for dues purposes but also to provide the portal to officially submit earned CE credits for reporting and credential renewal.

PenTest+

While PenTest+ does not require set credit amounts from continuing education, credential holders must pay renewal fees to keep it valid. Penetration testers have the choice of either making yearly $50 payments to stay certified or prepaying $150 to cover the entire 3-year PenTest+ cycle up front. 

There are no exams or point minimums, but CompTIA suggests optionally earning 50 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits over 3 years through qualifying education/training, teaching, publications, and more. CPE activities allow professionals to demonstrate continued knowledge. Renewal reminders are sent regularly, outlining steps to make payments.

In summary, the CEH mandates earning 120 specific CE credits on ethical hacking topics plus membership fees to recertify, while PenTest+ involves optional CPEs but requires 3-year renewal fees to be paid either yearly or upfront to maintain the credential’s validity. The process keeps expertise sharp.

Choosing the Right Certification

When sizing up which cybersecurity certification to pursue, it’s important to carry out a careful self-assessment and map out your career aspirations before signing up. This will help you narrow down the best path to take based on your current skill set and where you want to end up. Before diving in or opting for a particular credential, take some time to reflect on what you already bring to the table and where you want to go in the field.

Think through how a certification like PenTest+ or CEH will build on your experience or open doors in light of your professional objectives. As you weigh your options, hone in on the certification that matches your background and plays to your strengths while setting you up to reach your goals. The key is to match your credentials to your aims so you can continue moving up in the cybersecurity world.

In the sections below, we’ll explore the factors to keep in mind as you assess your qualifications and identify your career targets on the road ahead.

Assessing your skills and experience

Take an honest inventory of your hands-on abilities in penetration testing and ethical hacking. The PenTest+ suits those newer to the field, while the CEH requires advanced technical proficiency to pass its immersive ethical hacking exam. 

If you have little experience practically identifying vulnerabilities, the PenTest+ provides that grounding. Holders of networking/security certifications like Security+, CySA+, and CASP+ likely have the foundation to succeed with the PenTest+.

Identifying your career goals

Map your ambitions to determine if the PenTest+ or CEH better supports them. Outline the roles and responsibilities you’re aiming for to match credentials to requirements. The management-focused CEH prepares for leadership as an ethical hacker or Chief Information Security Officer. It’s overkill for more junior penetration tester or security analyst roles the PenTest+ prepares for. Planning job progression can direct appropriate cert choice.

Weigh whether you want to specialize in ethical hacking or expand into generalized cybersecurity practices too. Your preferences impact whether concentrating on advanced technical practice with the CEH or building wider foundational security knowledge suits better long-term. Match credentials strategically to your personal roadmap.

Assessing these pieces in relation to each exam’s focus areas provides direction on the optimal choice between the PenTest+ and CEH for your situation. 

Considering Industry Demand and Salary Potential

When sizing up cybersecurity certifications, it’s important to dig into not just the technical skills but also the career outlook and earning prospects. In this section, we’ll delve into two prime cyber certifications, PenTest+ and CEH, to get a handle on where demand is heading and how salaries are shaping up.

PenTest+: High demand and competitive salary

The need for qualified penetration testers continues rising sharply, with a CyberSeek analysis projecting around 18,000 current openings nationally. CompTIA’s 2022 IT Employment Tracker also found strong hiring for information security analysts with technical skills the PenTest+ provides.

As cyber-attacks threaten more organizations, demand will only keep expanding for professionals who can systematically assess vulnerabilities, document risks, and improve defenses.

Entry-level penetration testing jobs boast solid median annual salaries of around $80,000, according to PayScale, with increases over an average career. Holders of the baseline PenTest+ are well-positioned for abundant job options upon certification.

CEH: Growing demand and high earning potential

Though a more niche credential, there is a growing need for advanced cybersecurity experts specialized in hacking strategies shown by the CEH. Particularly due to surges in phishing, social engineering, IoT devices, and cryptoware attacks exploiting human and technical weaknesses in new ways.

Information security managers who set strategies must understand the latest technical advancements used by criminal hackers to protect systems, too. CEH certification holders earn some of the highest salaries in tech, averaging above $100k annually for senior penetration testers and ethical hackers, according to Dice.com.

With expertise barriers to entry and pressing needs, those with niche CEH knowledge see high demand. Experienced CEHs can take jobs globally and command premium salaries due to supply/demand imbalance for their rare skill sets. The industry outlook remains strong.

The bottom line is both certifications have positive job growth and strong salary potential. The PenTest+ caters to abundant entry and mid-level penetration tester job openings able to deliver a comfortable living. However, experienced CEHs provide niche expertise that garners executive cybersecurity leadership positions and compensation packages.

Conclusion

As we’ve explored, CompTIA’s PenTest+ and EC-Council’s CEH credentials take differing yet complementary approaches. PenTest+ builds core penetration testing abilities while CEH drills deep into advanced techniques.

Ultimately, the best option depends on experience level and aspirations. Those newer to information security or seeking to transition roles can use PenTest+ to stand out, opening doors to analyst and junior pen testing jobs boasting $80K+ salaries. But technical veterans aiming for specialized security leadership as ethical hackers commanding six figures may pursue the intensive CEH instead.

Whichever direction you take, advanced cybersecurity education is imperative. That’s where CCS Learning Academy shines – offering both PenTest+ and CEH courses blending interactive labs with concepts and tools mastery. Experienced instructors get students job-ready through hands-on exam prep reflecting real-world demands. Check out CCS Learning today to unlock your cybersecurity potential with a tailored ethical hacking credential!

So, which certification will you choose to hack your way to the top?

FAQs

Q1: What are PenTest+ and CEH certifications?

Answer: PenTest+ is a certification offered by CompTIA that focuses on penetration testing and vulnerability assessment. CEH, or Certified Ethical Hacker, is a certification offered by EC-Council that emphasizes ethical hacking skills, including penetration testing, but with a broader scope in various hacking techniques and methodologies.

Q2: What are the key differences between PenTest+ and CEH?

Answer: The key differences lie in their focus and content. PenTest+ is more hands-on and practical, focusing specifically on penetration testing skills. CEH covers a wider range of ethical hacking topics, including penetration testing, but also delves into other areas of ethical hacking.

Q3: Who should pursue PenTest+ certification?

Answer: PenTest+ is ideal for IT professionals who are specifically interested in the field of penetration testing and vulnerability management. It’s well-suited for those who want a career as a penetration tester, vulnerability tester, or security analyst focusing on network and system security assessments.

Q4: Who is the CEH certification designed for?

Answer: CEH is designed for IT professionals who want a comprehensive understanding of ethical hacking. It’s suitable for those looking to become ethical hackers, security consultants, or IT professionals responsible for network and data security.

Q5: What are the prerequisites for taking PenTest+ and CEH?

Answer: PenTest+ does not have formal prerequisites, but it’s recommended to have network and security experience. For CEH, it’s recommended to have at least two years of IT security experience and a strong working knowledge of TCP/IP. EC-Council also requires an application process if you haven’t completed their official training.

Q6: How do the exam formats for PenTest+ and CEH compare?

Answer: The PenTest+ exam includes both multiple-choice and performance-based questions, focusing on practical skills. The CEH exam is primarily multiple-choice, testing a broader range of theoretical and practical ethical hacking skills.

Q7: What is the cost difference between PenTest+ and CEH certifications?

Answer: The cost of PenTest+ is generally lower than CEH. CEH also has additional costs if you choose to take the official training course, which is not mandatory for PenTest+.

Q8: How are PenTest+ and CEH certifications perceived in the industry?

Answer: Both certifications are well-respected in the industry. CEH is often recognized for its comprehensive ethical hacking focus, while PenTest+ is valued for its practical, hands-on approach to penetration testing.

Q9: Can I do both PenTest+ and CEH certifications?

Answer: Yes, many professionals choose to do both certifications. Doing both can provide a broader and more in-depth understanding of ethical hacking and penetration testing, making you more versatile in the cybersecurity field.

Q10: What are the career opportunities after obtaining PenTest+ or CEH?

Answer: Both certifications open up opportunities in cybersecurity. PenTest+ can lead to roles like Penetration Tester and Vulnerability Assessor, while CEH can lead to roles like Ethical Hacker, Security Consultant, or Cybersecurity Analyst.

Q11: How long are PenTest+ and CEH certifications valid, and what are the renewal requirements?

Answer: PenTest+ is valid for three years and can be renewed through CompTIA’s continuing education program. CEH is valid for three years as well, and renewal requires earning EC-Council Continuing Education (ECE) credits.

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