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Cryptographer: Job Description, Duties and Salary Information

Cryptography requires significant formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and salary requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Cryptographers help protect confidential information and may work to protect military, financial or political data. They may be involved in encrypting information or decrypting information. Cryptographers are required to pass a background check and possess at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, mathematics, or a related field.

Essential Information

Cryptographers analyze and decipher encrypted data to assist law enforcement or government agencies in solving crime, threats or security concerns. They also develop computational models that help solve problems in business, engineering, science, or other industries. A minimum of a bachelor's degree and experience in information technology is required for many jobs in cyber analysis that use cryptography. Government jobs in this field typically require a background check and security clearance.

Since much of their work is mathematics-based, cryptographers are often grouped with mathematicians for statistical purposes. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the field of mathematicians should see favorable growth rates over the next few years, but because the field is small, that won't translate into many jobs.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in mathematics, computer science or related field; graduate degrees often required
Other Requirements Security clearance often required
Projected Job Growth for Mathematicians (2014-2024)* 21%
Median Salary for Mathematicians (2015)* $111,110

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cryptographer Job Description

In the past, cryptography was primarily used to protect military, political, financial, law-enforcement, and other confidential data through the use of a key needed unlock encrypted information. Today, digital information is also encrypted. Cryptographers write algorithms designed to mask information such as account and credit card numbers and wireless networks. Corporations, military organizations, and government agencies also use encryption to protect computers and networks from hackers and cyber-terrorists.

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Cryptographer Duties

According to O*Net Online, cryptographers apply mathematical theories to solve problems in various industries, including engineering, business, and science. Cryptographers may analyze and decipher encryption systems as well as develop new encryption algorithms. They may develop statistical or mathematical models to analyze data and come up with methods to correct problems. They also test these models for accuracy and reliability.

Cyber Security Analysts Job Duties

Some cryptographers are specialists in cyber security. According to job postings found at CareerBuilder.com in August 2013, cyber-analysts may identify issues that make software vulnerable to hacking and help design solutions, including encryption, to prevent it. They may also test software to discover ways to penetrate and access the data. Cyber analysts may work with online services, application servers, and databases.

Cryptographer Salary Information

The BLS cited the average annual salary for mathematicians, including cryptanalysts, was $112,560 in May 2015. Those that worked in the federal executive branch had an average of $108,890. The BLS also reported that the highest-paying jobs for mathematicians were found in New Jersey, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Cryptographers must have a high level of analytical skill and understanding of mathematical theories in order to break encryptions to decipher coded data, or to create an encryption system to protect data. They may work with law enforcement professionals to access data relevant to crimes or with the military to protect data from being accessed by those without authorization. Job prospects are expected to be strong for cryptographers from 2014 to 2024, with a job growth rate that's much faster than average when compared to all occupations.

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