Best Penetration Testing Courses Online: Your Guide in 2024

Best Penetration Testing Courses

Are you looking for the best penetration testing courses online that are worth your time and money?

To succeed as a penetration tester, you must have a solid hands-on understanding of network and web application vulnerabilities and experience with various penetration testing tools.

This article will give you the pen testing courses required to succeed. 

We’ll explain what skills you should have before jumping into it, and we’ll briefly touch on how to ensure you succeed in your journey and provide resources for further development.

Next, we’ll highlight the 18 best penetration testing courses. We’ve divided them into seven sections: best recon, beginner, advanced, web app, python, WiFI, and hands-on labs.

Let’s begin.

So You Want to Become a Penetration Tester?

You’ve decided that you want to become a penetration tester. But what does this mean?

It means you likely have a good grasp of IT, networking, and general cyber security and want to specialize further. Attention to detail and a willingness to continue learning will aid with this.  

If you don’t have this background basic knowledge, you can acquire it by taking courses and certifications. These will validate your skills in those three key areas.  

If you’re interested in learning networking and cyber security, read our two articles recommending online courses to prepare you with the necessary knowledge.

Best Networking Courses for Beginners: Top 15 Picks

The Best Cyber Security Courses Online for Beginners

To succeed as a penetration tester, you should possess several key skills to help you throughout your career, including a technical mindset, problem-solving, and hands-on experience with essential tools. 

The courses in this list provide the vital skills needed to excel as a penetration tester.

Succeeding in Your Journey: Beyond the Best Penetration Testing Courses

Although the courses in this list will provide the necessary skills for the job, you also need motivation and perseverance to finish them and build upon what you’ve learned. 

Most aspiring penetration testers who fail do so because they give up prematurely. 

When facing obstacles, redirect your thinking to what tangible steps you can take to move forward, however small. 

Progress fuels motivation. 

Structure your days purposefully to nurture good habits. Have faith that consistent effort will lead you where you want to go. You have everything within you to succeed.

Advancing in cyber security can pose challenges. Reflect on why you set this goal for yourself. Focus on the strengths you already possess—determination, curiosity, diligence. With the right mindset and action plan, your capabilities are limitless. 

If you’re looking for an all-in-one resource with actionable steps to become a penetration tester, consider joining the StationX Accelerator program

We offer:

  • Roadmaps outlining the path to becoming a penetration tester
  • Mentorships with industry experts
  • Mastermind groups to collaborate with others interested in penetration testing
  • A community of like-minded individuals seeking to realize this career goal

By joining, you can take control of your learning and career aspirations to achieve your dream of becoming a penetration tester. Our comprehensive resources and supportive community can help guide you on this journey. 

Join our program today and take the first steps toward your exciting future as a penetration tester.

Let's get into the courses. 

Best Recon for Penetration Testing Courses

The second step in penetration tests is reconnaissance. These two courses prepare you to gather information about the target network or system.

1. The Complete Nmap Ethical Hacking Course: Network Security Assessment

The Complete Nmap Ethical Hacking Course: Network Security Assessment is a comprehensive guide to using Nmap for ethical hacking, system administration, and network security.

It covers all major platforms, including Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Course materials include:

  • Installation, hacking labs, scan techniques, and port selection
  • Discovering active, vulnerable hosts
  • Service detection, version detection, OS detection, timing, and performance
  • Nmap Scripting Engine (NSE)
  • Sidestepping firewalls and evasion tactics
  • Nmap GUI version, Zenmap

Knowing how to use Nmap effectively is indispensable, and this course is designed to take you from Nmap novice to seasoned pro.

Your instructor, Nathan House, brings over 25 years of experience in cyber security. He’s a trusted expert in the field with a track record of advising top-tier companies and a slew of qualifications (CISSP, CISA, and CISM, to name a few).

This course is highly recommended for anyone aspiring to deepen their understanding of network security and penetration testing using Nmap. 

2. Recon for Ethical Hacking / Penetration Testing & Bug Bounty

The Recon for Ethical Hacking / Penetration Testing & Bug Bounty course provides a complete methodology for ethical hacking, penetration testing, and bug bounties. It starts with the basics of recon and bug bounty hunting fundamentals and advances to exploitation techniques.

Key topics covered:

The course is hands-on, with live attacks, demos, and concepts. No specific skills are required.

Your instructor, Rohit Gautam, is an experienced researcher and trainer with acknowledgments from Google, Facebook, and other organizations. He brings innovative teaching methodologies to simplify reconnaissance and hacking.

This course is recommended for anyone looking into penetration testing, bug bounties, or web security.

Best Penetration Testing Courses for Beginners

These next courses cater to beginners learning the fundamentals of penetration testing.

3. Learn Ethical Hacking From Scratch

The Learn Ethical Hacking From Scratch course provides 135+ videos to take you from beginner to intermediate skill levels. You’ll learn the fundamentals and how to set up a hacking lab environment on Windows, Linux, and MacOS.

The course covers network hacking, WiFi and wired networks, gaining access through server-side and client-side attacks, post-exploitation techniques, and web/application hacking methods.

Highlights include:

This course introduces offensive security tactics and methodologies used by ethical hackers and penetration testers. You’ll learn to think like a hacker to test and exploit systems proactively.

The instructor, Zaid Al-Quraishi, is an experienced ethical hacker and computer scientist who brings years of practical experience to the course.

With hands-on examples and actionable skills, this course effectively prepares complete beginners to enter the field of ethical hacking and penetration testing.

4. Learn Website Hacking / Penetration Testing From Scratch

The Learn Website Hacking / Penetration Testing From Scratch hands-on course teaches you how to hack and test the security of websites and web applications using the same techniques as black hat hackers.

Core areas include:

  • Setting up a penetration testing lab environment 
  • Information gathering tactics for reconnaissance 
  • File upload flaws to get shell access
  • Code executions to run malicious scripts
  • Local/remote file inclusions
  • SQL injections 
  • Reflected, stored, and DOM XSS attacks 
  • Tools such as SQLmap, BeEF, Hydra, Weevely
  • Post-exploitation attacks
  • Manual and automated discovery of vulnerabilities

With completely hands-on demos of real attacks and easy-to-follow explanations, this course effectively prepares you to hack web apps as a penetration tester. 

The instructor, Zaid Al-Quraishi, is an experienced, ethical hacker and educator known for his practical, real-world teaching methodology that simplifies complex concepts.

We recommend this course if you want to learn how to perform penetration testing against web apps using popular tools and techniques.

Best Advanced Penetration Testing Courses

The following two courses take you from beginner to advanced penetration testing. 

5. Intermediate Ethical Hacking Hands-on Training

The Intermediate Ethical Hacking Hands-on Training is designed for those who have already completed a beginner-level penetration testing course, as it builds on fundamental skills.

It introduces you to Active Directory enumeration and exploitation with attacks such as LLMNR poisoning.

The course helps you advance your practical offensive security skills through hands-on labs. You’ll understand network, wireless, and web application penetration testing at an intermediate level by the end of the course.

Topics Include:

Prof. K, with a Master of Science in Cyber Security and Information Technology, leads the course with expertise in network infrastructure design and computer security.  He’s taught online since 2008 and holds multiple technology certifications.

We recommend this advanced penetration testing course as it will equip you with the skills you need to succeed, and it is advised as your next step after finishing a beginner's course. This course will provide you with valuable hands-on experience.

6. The Complete Pentesting & Privilege Escalation Course

In The Complete Pentesting & Privilege Escalation Course, you’ll learn Linux and Windows privilege escalation techniques, which will help for certifications such as the OSCP and real-world scenarios requiring elevated privileges.

In this course, you’ll learn:

Though theory will not be overlooked, this course is entirely practical. You’ll cover a wide range of scenarios helping you succeed when performing pen tests and certification exams.

Your instructor is Atil Samancioglu, a renowned instructor with over 200,000 students trained in development, mobile applications, and cyber security. 

He’s also the co-founder and CEO of Kolektif Academy, a forward-thinking startup in Turkey known for its innovative learning experience.

With this course, you’ll learn new skills that are perfect if you’re looking to enhance your pen testing and privilege escalation abilities.

Best Web Application Penetration Testing Courses

The following courses teach you how to become proficient in web application penetration testing.

7. The Complete Web Penetration Testing & Bug Bounty Course

In The Complete Web Penetration Testing & Bug Bounty Course, you’ll dive deep into web app pen testing and learn how to find vulnerabilities.

Topics Include:

  • HTML injection
  • PHP injection
  • Directory traversal
  • XSS
  • Access Control & IDOR
  • CSRF
  • SQL injection
  • SSRF
  • API pen testing

You’ll learn about potential attacks and practice what you’ve learned using the OWASP Juice Shop, a vulnerable web application. You’ll also learn to set up Burp Suite to uncover these vulnerabilities. 

Taught by Atil Samancioglu, who has trained many cyber security students, this course is perfect if you want to become a penetration tester. You’ll go from the basics all the way to advanced techniques.

8. Learn Burp Suite, the Nr. 1 Web Hacking Tool

The Learn Burp Suite, the Nr. 1 Web Hacking Tool, offers hands-on training in using Burp Suite to assess web application security. You’ll learn the main functionality of Burp Suite while gaining practical experience setting up a test environment with the OWASP WebGoat vulnerable application.

Modules Covered:

  • Proxy
  • Repeater
  • Target
  • Spider
  • Sequencer
  • Scanner
  • Intruder
  • Comparer

The course will walk through conducting a web application assessment, attacking the WebGoat application as you put your new skills into practice. 

The course instructor, Geri Revay, is an experienced professional in penetration testing and will impart the practical knowledge he’s gained from various industries. 

This course is recommended if you want to gain practical hands-on experience using Burp Suite to conduct web application penetration testing.

Best Python for Penetration Testing Courses

The next two courses on our list will teach you how to use Python for penetration testing. 

9. Learn Python & Ethical Hacking From Scratch

The Learn Python & Ethical Hacking From Scratch course provides a complete methodology for simultaneously learning Python programming and ethical hacking. It starts from zero assumed knowledge and advances to writing 20+ hacking programs by the end.

Projects Include:

  • Mac changer
  • Network scanner
  • DNS spoofer
  • Code injector
  • Keylogger
  • Subdomain enumeration
  • Vulnerability scanner

The course takes an extremely practical approach with hands-on examples and hacking tools. No specific skills are required to start.

Your instructor, Zaid Al-Quraishi, is an experienced ethical hacker and penetration tester focused on simplifying hacking and programming for beginners. 

This Python programming and ethical hacking course is recommended for anyone looking to learn how to build tools with Python, regardless of skill level.

10. Complete Python 3 Ethical Hacking Course: Zero To Mastery

The Complete Python 3 Ethical Hacking Course: Zero To Mastery comprehensively teaches Python by guiding you through setting up a virtual environment, coding penetration testing tools, and leveraging PyCharm to write programs.

This eight-hour course includes over 60 video lessons and 10+ hands-on projects to reinforce learning. You should have some basic Python programming experience to get the most out of the course.

Projects include:

  • Portscanner
  • Vulnerability scanner
  • SSH brute forcer
  • Arp spoofer
  • Password hash cracking 
  • Keylogger
  • Backdoor

The course is taught by Aleksa Tamburkovski, who started ethical hacking at 15 and is currently using his skills with a private cyber security company. 

This course is recommended if you want to learn how to write your own penetration testing tools using Python.

Best WiFi Hacking Courses

The next course will teach you how to hack different WiFi technologies. 

11. WiFi Hacking: Wireless Penetration Testing for Beginners

The WiFi Hacking: Wireless Penetration Testing for Beginners course provides a complete guide to hacking WiFi networks using the WEP, WPA, and WPA2 wireless security protocols.

Course highlights:

  • Configuring Kali Linux and setting up wireless access points
  • Changing your MAC address and using promiscuous mode
  • Hacking WEP, WPA/WPA2, and WPS secured networks
  • Aircrack-Ng dictionary attacks and exploit vulnerabilities

The course is geared towards beginners who understand hacking methodologies and how to use Kali Linux. 

The instructor, Jason Dion, is an experienced information security professional with certifications like CISSP, CEH, and more. He brings real-world experience securing networks for large organizations.

This course is recommended for anyone looking to learn wireless penetration testing, hack WiFi networks, or understand vulnerabilities in wireless security standards.

Best Red Teaming Courses

These next three courses give you the skills to become a proficient red team ethical hacker. 

Red teams are security professionals who test systems’ defenses by attempting to exploit vulnerabilities in a way that often emulates real attacks and APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats). 

This provides organizations valuable feedback to improve security measures proactively before threats in the wild attempt similar attacks. 

These courses provide comprehensive training that takes you from beginner to advanced, developing real-world hacking skills from a red team perspective. You’ll learn exploitation techniques, post-exploitation, Windows and Linux internals, Active Directory, and more. 

It gives you the skills to be hired as a red team ethical hacker or penetration tester. 

The instructor, Brandon Dennis, is an ethical hacker and CEO of Red Team Nation who holds certifications like OSCP, OSCE, and OSWE with over 10+ years of experience. 

These courses are recommended for anyone interested in learning advanced ethical hacking skills to transition into a career as a red team hacker.

12. The Complete Red Team Ethical Hacking Course - Volume 1

Course Highlights:

  • The 3 teams
  • Penetration testing process
  • Windows operating system
  • Linux operating system
  • Operating system internals
  • Introduction to Active Directory
  • Kerberos
  • Data manipulation

13. The Complete Red Team Ethical Hacking Course - Volume 2

Course Highlights:

  • Networking
  • VPNs
  • Firewalls
  • Configuring pfSense
  • Python
  • Assembly
  • Scope identification
  • Reconnaissance

14. The Complete Red Team Ethical Hacking Course - Volume 3

Course Highlights:

  • Exploitation
  • Post exploitation
  • Password cracking
  • Covering your tracks
  • Reporting
  • Attacking Active Directory

Best Penetration Testing Practice Labs

Our last course set consists of labs where you can practice your skills on vulnerable virtual machines. 

The following four courses are 100% hands-on technical labs using Kali Linux to hack intentionally vulnerable operating systems. Most of the virtual machines are on Vulnhub.

The labs cover enumeration, vulnerability scanning, remote and local exploitation, privileged escalation, SQL injection, cross-site scripting, reverse shells, buffer overflows, and more. 

You’ll use Nmap, Metasploit, Dirb, Burp Suite, Nikto, and more.

We recommend these labs if you want practical experience in penetration testing. These labs provide a safe environment to practice real-world scenarios and develop essential skills.

15. Hands-on Penetration Testing Labs 1.0

Labs Include:

  • Kioptrix levels 1-5
  • Tr0ll 1 and 2
  • Security Onion Lab Setup
  • Windows 7 Eternalblue vulnerable VM
  • Ubuntu Server 12.04 vulnerable VM

16. Hands-on Penetration Testing Labs 2.0

Labs Include:

  • PwnLab 
  • Brainpan 1 
  • Mr. Robot 
  • SickOS 
  • SkyTower 1 
  • Metasploitable 3
  • Apache Struts 
  • WordPress

17. Hands-on Penetration Testing Labs 3.0

Labs Include:

  • Goldeneye
  • Raven 1 
  • Raven 2
  • Lampiao
  • DerpnStink
  • Stapler 
  • VulnOS 2

18. Hands-on Penetration Testing Labs 4.0

Labs Include:

  • Tr0ll 3
  • Matrix 3 
  • Broken Gallery
  • DumbUser 
  • Symfonos 1-5

Conclusion

These are the 18 best penetration testing courses online. With these resources, you can apply your knowledge and work towards practical certifications and a rewarding career.

Taking these in order will provide you with the skills to perform reconnaissance, initial exploitation of vulnerable machines and web applications, network pivoting and active directory hacking, privilege escalation, offensive Python, hacking wireless networks, and end with labs to put your new abilities to the test.

If you’re looking to gain an edge in preparing for a career in cyber security, consider joining the StationX Accelerator program, where you’ll have access to career and certification roadmaps, mentorships, mastermind groups, and more. 

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  • Richard Dezso

    Richard is a cyber security enthusiast, eJPT, and ICCA who loves discovering new topics and never stops learning. In his home lab, he's always working on sharpening his offensive cyber security skills. He shares helpful advice through easy-to-understand blog posts that offer practical support for everyone. Additionally, Richard is dedicated to raising awareness for mental health. You can find Richard on LinkedIn, or to see his other projects, visit his Linktree.

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