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Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) from EC-Council is one of the best established and widely recognized offensive security certifications around. It’s ANSI-accredited and DoDD 8140-approved, which makes it exceptionally valuable for security professionals working in both the public and private sectors.
However, the CEH certification isn't cheap. The CEH exam costs $1,199 and retakes cost $450. Even applying to take the exam costs $100 (without approved training). It’s not cheap to start with and that’s even before training.
However, CEH is the gold standard for validating offensive security skills, in part because of these rigorous application standards. In this article, we’ll cover the various steps you need to take to earn a CEH certification, as well as their associated costs.
Earning a CEH certification requires only one thing: passing the CEH examination. However, EC-Council has set up hurdles to even taking the exam:
Unlike most IT certifications, you have to apply to take the CEH. During the application process, EC-Council will want to see that you either took approved CEH training or have at least two years of security experience. And, of course, there’s a cost at each step.
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Here are the base costs for CEH with EC-Council-approved training:
The total cost of the CEH: $2,149 to $4,298
Here are the base costs for the self-paced training options and CEH assessments:
The total cost of the CEH: $1,699 to $2,049
To fully examine how much the CEH costs, we’ll look at the fees associated with each stage in the application process from training to retakes.
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The cost of CEH study material ranges widely—from free YouTube videos to quality CEH bootcamps.
It’s important to look at the cost of CEH training in terms of value rather than cost. You should evaluate CEH study material not only on subject matter and teaching style but also how quickly it prepares you.
Many security professionals spend between two and six months preparing to pass the CEH. That’s important information because many training options charge monthly fees, which can add up quickly—especially if you don’t pass the first time.
The cheapest way to pass the CEH is to pass it on the first try, which means evaluating study material based on how well it prepares you for the exam.
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There’s certainly free CEH training tools and resources out there. EC-Council has a free online assessment tool, which involves answering fifty multiple-choice questions that approximate the material you’ll see on the 125-question exam.
If you decide you need further training, you can also purchase the EC-Council prep assessment for $149. You’ll find your weaker areas and what to spend more time studying on. Based on that evaluation, you can determine the specific areas to focus on with your training.
Self-paced training is an excellent option while preparing for the CEH exam, particularly for experienced security professionals. Self-paced CEH training is great for anyone who needs a quick refresher on the basics but then can largely learn the more technical aspects on their own. However, anyone fairly new to IT or security may want to consider the last option: bootcamps.
The most comprehensive and quickest option to study for the CEH is online CEH bootcamps. CEH bootcamps emulate a classroom experience online, which includes trainer-led instruction as well as assessments, supplemental material, and access to a knowledgeable instructor. Importantly, CEH bootcamps also have a series of hands-on lab activities and often a capstone project.
For instance, the EC-Council-approved QuickStart CEH Bootcamp prepares offensive security professionals for the CEH exam in just five, 8-hour days of instruction.
Study material is the biggest variable cost in preparing for the CEH, and the right study material is entirely based on your needs. If you’re an experienced security professional that just needs a refresher, then self-paced CEH training might be the right way to study. However, if you’re coming in fresh, then CEH bootcamps are cheaper than college courses and the most cost-effective way to quickly prepare for the CEH.
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Unlike most IT certifications, you have to apply to take the CEH. During the application process, EC-Council will want to see that you either took approved CEH training or have experience.
First, you need to be sure that you’re eligible per EC-Council’s prerequisites. EC-Council’s preferred method is having you enroll in their CEH prep course. This will walk you through each of the sections and modules that CEH evaluates, and you'll be well prepared for it. However, if you decide to pursue any CEH training other than EC-Council's, you'll need to apply for a waiver that permits you to test without passing their requirements. Approval is not guaranteed, although if you have two years of experience in an InfoSec domain, you have an excellent case for it. You can expect to hear back regarding whether your waiver has been granted within ten workdays.
CEH Exam - $1,119
The CEH exam alone costs between $950 and $1,119 depending on where and how you take it.
CEH exam vouchers have a few different components. The two basic packages are divided based on whether you’ll be testing online, at an EC-Council Authorized testing center, or at a Pearson VUE testing center.
If you’re going to be testing online or at an EC-Council authorized testing center, the CEH exam voucher will cost $950. Providing your own proctor will cost an additional $100. If you decide to take it at a Pearson VUE testing center, the voucher you’ll need will run $1,199. The worst-case scenario is one nobody wants to face, but if you fail the exam and need to retake it, a CEH retest voucher will cost $499.
Taking the CEH online. One of the core components of the pricing is the need for the exam to be proctored, and your choices here also affect the total pricing. The proctor must not only be a trained representative authorized by EC-Council to perform this duty, but he or she must also be able to view the exam and the candidate while testing. This can provide an additional expense if your proctor is geographically separated from you.
If you choose to go with proctors supplied by EC-Council, they’re going to install remote monitoring software on your computer that will enable them to see everything else that’s going on. They’ll be able to see what applications you have open, what you’re accessing on your browser, and disable all screen capturing capabilities. Once the computer has been prepped to their satisfaction, they’ll activate your webcam and have you show them the physical layout of your surroundings. If they’re not satisfied, they’ll have you put things away or change the room arrangement until it meets their requirements.
Arguably the most painful aspect of a remotely-proctored exam is that you can't get up during the entire process—no grabbing a snack, running to the restroom, or even standing up to stretch. You must remain in your seat, and your seat must remain in the same location throughout the four-hour test. You're also not allowed to use a pen and paper or talk out loud, regardless of the volume. Because some test trainers advocate for these strategies at various points, it's essential to understand they won't be allowed here.
How Much Does the CEH (Really) Cost?
The actual price tag of preparing for and becoming a Certified Ethical Hacker can vary widely. You'll need to customize how you prepare for it based on your unique circumstances.
The “absolute floor price” option: $1,050
If you already feel completely prepared to take the exam, don’t do any studying other than free materials you can find online, and use an EC-Council-approved proctor, you’ll only need to pay for the self-study waiver and the exam itself. If you don't want to spend another $499 on a retake fee, you'll have to pass it the first time.
The “official training” option: $2,050 - $2,149
If you use EC-Council-approved materials, then you’ll purchase the prep assessment to guide your study efforts and their official training course to review the material. The variance in estimated cost will be based on how you decide to take the test.
The “all the options” option: up to $4,298
If you decide to pursue a CEH boot camp training course, you could spend as much as $4,298. This would include the self-study waiver, the exam voucher, and the cost of the vendor training. Although you could choose to travel to an official testing center, this is unnecessary unless you already live close to one.
Is Earning a CEH Certification Worth It?
Since having a CEH can provide a demonstrable boost to your bottom-line earnings, it's worth paying (both in terms of effort and actual fees) to earn one. As far as total-tag IT certifications go, CEH is in the middle of the range, but on the cheaper side. Some certificates require less prep and have lower exam prices, but many can go much higher in terms of the associated costs.
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