Mastering Challenges: A Comprehensive Guide to the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) Certification

Are you an IT professional looking to level up your cybersecurity career? The Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certification is a highly sought-after credential that can open doors to new opportunities in the ever-growing field of cybersecurity. In a world where cyber threats are increasingly pervasive, OSCP certified professionals are in high demand for their ability to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in systems and networks. Let’s explore this prestigious certification and understand why it’s considered the gold standard in penetration testing.

Throughout this blog post, we’ll provide insights into the OSCP certification, its prerequisites, and eligibility criteria. Additionally, we’ll delve into the OSCP exam format and challenges, compare it with other cybersecurity certifications, discuss career opportunities and salary expectations for OSCP certified professionals, and touch upon the importance of continuous learning and advanced certifications in the cybersecurity field.

Key Takeaways

  • The OSCP certification is a practical assessment of an individual’s proficiency in offensive security, recommended for those wishing to pursue a career in penetration testing.

  • The PEN-200 course verifies candidates possess the required skills and equips them with knowledge needed to prepare for the OSCP exam.

  • Successful completion of the OSCP exam requires technical proficiency, communication and documentation skills. Continuous learning & advanced certifications are essential to stay competitive & maintain real world applications on cyber threats.

Understanding the OSCP Certification

Illustration of a cybersecurity professional performing penetration testing

The OSCP certification evaluates an individual’s ability to detect and exploit vulnerabilities, establishing it as a desirable credential for security professionals. It is tailored to IT security professionals with Windows and Linux administration experience who wish to become ethical hackers or progress as penetration testers. As one of the most prevalent penetration testing certifications, the OSCP is recommended for individuals who wish to pursue a career in professional penetration testing. To obtain the security certified professional OSCP certification, candidates must successfully complete Offensive Security’s Penetration Testing with Kali Linux (PEN-200) course and pass its corresponding practical exam.

The OSCP exam is a practical, 24-hour assessment that necessitates candidates to display their aptitude in recognizing and manipulating vulnerabilities in a target environment, making it a valuable certification for cyber security professionals. Obtaining the OSCP certification reassures employers of an individual’s proficiency in offensive security, including the ability to detect and rectify security vulnerabilities in diverse network environments, thus increasing their value as information security professionals.

The Role of Offensive Security

Offensive Security plays a pivotal role in providing OSCP certification and the Penetration Testing with Kali Linux (PwK) course. Their main goal is to provide IT security practitioners with up-to-date ethical hacking tools and techniques to bridge any gaps in their security knowledge. Founded by Mati Aharoni in 2006, Offensive Security specializes in offering training in cybersecurity, with a particular focus on penetration testing methodologies and system security evaluation.

In addition to OSCP, Offensive Security offers a variety of other courses and certifications related to penetration testing, exploit development, security operations, and cloud security. These courses cover topics such as introductory penetration testing, hardware hacking, and advanced subjects. Through a wide range of cybersecurity courses, Offensive Security enables candidates to fill knowledge gaps and stay current in the dynamic field of cybersecurity.

Key Competencies for OSCP

The OSCP certification focuses on penetration testing with Kali Linux, arming candidates with the necessary skills to enumerate a system, recognize vulnerabilities, and formulate solutions to generate shells. To successfully pass the OSCP exam, candidates must possess a comprehensive understanding of attack techniques used on systems and devices, the identification of vulnerabilities stemming from software, hardware, or configuration issues, problem-solving aptitude, and analytical reasoning.

By completing the Linux Privilege Escalation Examples course, candidates can gain a solid foundation in:

  • Linux operation

  • User establishment

  • Advanced concepts such as executing and avoiding privilege escalation in Linux

  • Setting up a Linux server in Virtual Box

This course is suitable for those pursuing the OSCP and ethical hacker certification. OSCP candidates can benefit from the PEN-200 certification, an accreditation provided by Offensive Security, which offers multiple options for obtaining the certification.

Prerequisites and Eligibility Criteria for OSCP

Eligibility for the OSCP certification requires:

  • An expansive understanding of TCP/IP, networking, and Linux

  • Familiarity with Bash scripting, basic Perl, or Python

  • A robust technical and ethical hacking foundation

  • A firm grasp of the foundational concepts of Cyber Security

  • An extensive knowledge of CEH

Individuals who have achieved success in the OSCP exam possess a comprehensive knowledge of security principles and methodology, as well as detailed security knowledge. This ensures they do not lack detailed security knowledge, as they are required to:

  • Execute exploits

  • Detect familiar attack vectors in a virtual penetration testing lab

  • Investigate a network

  • Identify security flaws

  • Simulate an attack on a company’s IT infrastructure

Grasping these prerequisites and eligibility requirements ensures candidates are adequately prepared for the OSCP certification process.

Preparing for the OSCP Exam

To prepare for the OSCP exam, candidates can refer to recommended books such as The Hacker Playbook 2: Practical Guide to Penetration Testing by Peter Kim, Penetration Testing: A Hands-on Introduction to Hacking by Georgia Weidman, and The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws by Dafydd Stuttard and Marcus Pinto. Additionally, there are YouTube videos discussing topics such as how to approach the exam, course materials and exercises, labs, reporting, enumeration, and exploitation advice. An investment of $999 is required for the course, lab, and certification, while the fee for exam retakes is $150.

Thorough study of the course material, practising learned techniques, and using available resources are key to preparing for the exam. Success on the OSCP exam is dependent upon:

  • Understanding the fundamental concepts, tools, and techniques

  • Scheduling a test proctoring session to guarantee a successful exam experience

  • Developing time management and note-taking skills during the learning process

  • Experimenting with various machines, tools, and techniques to bolster confidence

The PEN-200 Course

The PEN-200 course, also known as Offensive Security’s Penetration Testing with Kali Linux course, is a prerequisite for obtaining OSCP certification. The course provides a comprehensive curriculum of cybersecurity topics, such as cloud security, cryptography, mobile testing, penetration testing, and IoT testing, with an instructor available to assist with the learning process. The cost of the PEN-200 course is $1,499, while the Learn One subscription is priced at $2,499 per year and the Learn Unlimited subscription is priced at $5,499 per year.

The OffSec PEN-200 test preparation training verifies that candidates possess the required skills for scripting and automating penetration testing tasks. It also equips them to succeed with privilege escalation and client-side attack execution. Completion of the PEN-200 course allows candidates to improve their technical skills and heightens their probability of success on the OSCP exam.

The OSCP Exam: Format and Challenges

Illustration of a challenging cybersecurity exam

The OSCP certification exam consists of two components: a 24-hour pen-testing exam on five challenge machines and a documentation report that must be submitted within 24 hours after the initial exam is completed. In order to pass the OSCP exam, candidates must demonstrate their ability to gain access to and take control of 50 targets across three networks within 24 hours and submit a comprehensive report of their achievements and the methods used. The OSCP exam comprises three individual machines, each offering up to 60 marks, while low-level access and privilege escalation are awarded 10 points each, and the full domain set exploit chain is given 40 points. For those who experience a third failed exam, it’s essential to reassess their preparation and approach before attempting the OSCP certification exam again.

The OSCP certification exam is composed of two parts: a 24-hour lab evaluation and a subsequent document submission. A secure VPN is utilized to simulate a live network, containing several vulnerable workstations. Upon successful completion of the exam, the tester will receive an email containing a link to update and confirm their certificate delivery address. This challenging exam format ensures that OSCP certified professionals possess the practical skills and knowledge necessary to excel in the cybersecurity field.

Exam Scenarios and Objectives

During the OSCP exam, candidates are required to compile and submit a realistic test report of all lab activities, showcasing their technical proficiency, communication and documentation skills. To pass the OSCP exam, a minimum score of 70 points is required. The documentation submitted by candidates for the exam must include a professional report outlining the student’s exploitation process for each target, including all steps, commands issued, and console output used to conduct the penetration test. The report should be comprehensive enough that a technically proficient reader can replicate the attacks step-by-step.

Students who complete ten PWK lab machines can earn a bonus of 10 points. Each machine must be accompanied by a detailed report in order to be eligible. This encourages candidates to thoroughly understand the exam objectives and scenarios, ensuring they possess the practical skills and knowledge required to excel in the cybersecurity field as OSCP certified professionals.

Tips for Success on the OSCP Exam

Success on the OSCP exam requires:

  • A strong understanding of fundamental concepts, tools, and techniques

  • The use of available online resources, books, practice labs, and videos to accumulate knowledge

  • Scheduling a test proctoring session to ensure a smooth exam attempt

  • Practicing time management and note-taking during the studies

  • Experimenting with different machines, tools, and techniques to build confidence

When taking the OSCP exam, common pitfalls to be mindful of include:

  • Insufficient preparation

  • Inadequate time management

  • Neglecting documentation

  • Omitting enumeration

  • Concentrating on a single approach

  • Neglecting post-exploitation

  • Lacking perseverance

  • Poor report writing

By avoiding these pitfalls and employing the recommended strategies, candidates can significantly increase their chances of success on the OSCP exam.

Comparing OSCP with Other Cybersecurity Certifications

Illustration comparing cybersecurity certifications

The OSCP certification is renowned for its rigorous examination and practical approach to penetration testing, as it places emphasis on real-world skills instead of theoretical knowledge. This sets it apart from other cybersecurity certifications, making it a valuable credential for those pursuing a career in ethical hacking and cybersecurity.

This section will compare the OSCP certification with other well-known cybersecurity certifications like CEH and CISSP, to highlight their differences and similarities. By examining the target audience, objectives, and career paths associated with each certification, candidates can make informed decisions about which certification best aligns with their career goals and aspirations.

Choosing the appropriate certification is vital for cybersecurity professionals, as it can considerably influence their career progression and opportunities.


OSCP is tailored for budding penetration testers seeking professionalism in the field, whereas the CEH certification course is better suited for IT professionals interested in acquiring knowledge about hacking and cybersecurity. The OSCP exam is more cost-effective than the CEH exam, and the duration for the OSCP exam is 48 hours, while the CEH certification exam is a four-hour test consisting of 125 multiple choice questions. Both OSCP and CEH are certifications in the domain of ethical hacking and cybersecurity, focusing on instructing individuals in recognizing vulnerabilities and weaknesses in systems and networks.

However, the OSCP certification is more hands-on and practical compared to the CEH certification, which relies more on theoretical knowledge. This makes the OSCP a more valuable credential for cybersecurity professionals who wish to excel in the field of penetration testing and ethical hacking.


The CISSP certification is a widely recognized and esteemed qualification. It is more renown than OSCP or CEH in many organizations and industries. It is considered one of the most sought-after and respected cyber security certifications in the current IT landscape.

The CISSP course is a comprehensive training program that covers a variety of topics, including:

  • Access management

  • Asset security

  • Incident analysis

  • Identity

  • Incident handling

  • Penetration testing

  • Business continuity

  • Risk management

  • Security in software development

  • Security operations

The OSCP and CISSP certifications differ in terms of focus and practicality. While the OSCP is centered on hands-on penetration testing proficiency, the CISSP certification is more comprehensive and managerial. As a result, professionals seeking a comprehensive career in cybersecurity are recommended to begin with either CEH or OSCP and progress to CISSP.

Career Opportunities and Salary Expectations for OSCP Certified Professionals

A variety of career opportunities are available to OSCP certified professionals. These roles range from:

  • Business continuity and cloud security

  • Compliance auditing

  • Disaster recovery

  • Security management

  • Penetration testing

  • IoT testing

  • Risk management

  • Incident handling

The average salary for OSCP certified professionals is approximately $96,000, while the average salary for Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certified professionals is $82,966. It is anticipated that information security jobs will experience a 35% growth rate between 2021 and 2031.

With the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals on the rise, obtaining the OSCP certification can open doors to new opportunities and higher salary prospects in the cybersecurity field. By staying up-to-date with the latest developments in cybersecurity, OSCP certified professionals can remain competitive and continue to excel in their careers.

Continuous Learning and Advanced Certifications

Ongoing learning is vital in the cybersecurity field due to the constant evolution of threats and technologies. Staying abreast of the latest developments and acquiring new skills is crucial for cybersecurity professionals to remain ahead of the game. For OSCP certified professionals seeking to refine their skills further, Offensive Security provides advanced certifications such as OSCE (Offensive Security Certified Expert) and OSEE (Offensive Security Exploitation Expert).

Pursuing advanced certifications like OSCE and OSEE allows professionals to:

  • Deepen their knowledge and expertise in the cybersecurity field

  • Enhance their skillset

  • Increase their marketability and value in the competitive job market

Continuous learning and advanced certifications are vital for staying ahead in the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape.

Real-World Applications of OSCP Skills

The skills gained via OSCP certification have various real-world applications such as career advancement in technical roles, the ability to conduct thorough penetration testing on business networks, and hands-on penetration testing experience. OSCP professionals possess practical knowledge and capabilities in ethical hacking and can apply them to practical situations, such as password attacks, physical asset attacks, cyber threats prevention, and attack simulations.

By obtaining the OSCP certification, cybersecurity professionals can effectively identify vulnerabilities, exploit systems, and provide actionable advice to organizations. This not only increases their value as cybersecurity experts but also helps organizations to better protect their sensitive data and assets from cyber threats.


In conclusion, the OSCP certification is a highly valuable credential for IT professionals looking to excel in the cybersecurity field. The certification offers a practical and hands-on approach to penetration testing, ensuring that OSCP certified professionals possess the skills and knowledge necessary to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in systems and networks. By comparing the OSCP certification with other popular cybersecurity certifications such as CEH and CISSP, candidates can make informed decisions about which certification best aligns with their career goals and aspirations.

As cyber threats continue to evolve, it is crucial for cybersecurity professionals to invest in continuous learning and advanced certifications. By staying up-to-date with the latest developments in cybersecurity and refining their skills, OSCP certified professionals can remain competitive in the job market and continue to excel in their careers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is offensive security certification worth it?

Yes, the Offensive Security certification is definitely worth it. It provides a robust introduction to penetration testing and qualifies individuals to work in a wide range of roles, with salaries reaching up to $200,000 annually for higher-level certifications.

What is the best certification for offensive security?

The Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certification is widely considered the best option for aspiring ethical hackers, as it provides a comprehensive course in penetration testing methodologies and the use of tools included with the Kali Linux distribution. Candidates must pass a rigorous, proctored exam to receive the certification.

How much does OSCP exam cost?

The OSCP exam costs $1,499 as part of the PEN-200 training course, which includes 90 days of lab access and one exam attempt.

How much does an offensive security certified professional make in the US?

OSCP salaries in the US range from $96,000 up to $206,550 per annum, with an average salary of $159,750 per year. Project-based penetration test pricing can also range between $4,000 and $15,000 per test.

What is the primary focus of the OSCP certification?

The OSCP certification focuses on equipping candidates with the necessary skills to enumerate a system, recognize vulnerabilities, and formulate solutions for penetration testing with Kali Linux.

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