How to Become a Cryptologist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 05, 2020

Find out how to become a cryptologist. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in cryptology.

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Cryptologist Career Info

Cryptologists are responsible for analyzing and interpreting information. They're trained in both linguistics and mathematics in order to decipher coded messages, as well as create encoded messages. Cryptologists can work in the military and with companies that need to encrypt essential information. Travel might be required, and time-sensitive assignments may create overtime work hours.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree minimum; graduate degree most common
Degree Fields Mathematics, computer science, linguistics or similar program
Experience Five or more years of field experience may be required
Key Skills Good communication, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills, advanced computer skills, and knowledge of scientific, analytical, and programming software
Salary (2018) $101,900 (Median salary for all mathematicians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree program focused in mathematics or computers, such as the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, is necessary in order to become a qualified cryptologist. Having a strong background in analysis and statistics, as well as knowledge of current technology, can also be useful. Depending on what area of cryptography they are pursuing, cryptologists may also consider studying a foreign language, such as Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Russian or Persian, so that they can translate, analyze and decipher communications.

Gain Experience

Positions in this field may require some experience or training in the field. Prospective cryptologists may look for related positions, such as computer programmer or computer systems analyst, to gain professional experience.

Consider Career Options

The career opportunities available for cryptologists can vary. For example, a Navy Cryptologic Technician Interpretative (CTI) is trained in the use of communication technology aboard aircraft, ships, and submarines. They study vital tactical information, act as translators during relief efforts, and operate sophisticated communication devices.

In comparison, crypto research professionals aid in increasing security, create sophisticated security measures, prevent fraud, and perform security reviews for companies. Cryptologists can use their knowledge of computer systems and computer coding to see if digital information or photography is authentic, misleading, or altered.

Get Graduate Degree

While a bachelor's degree is sufficient to obtain a government job or a position in a private sector, additional education may be required for cryptologists looking to further their studies in advanced code breaking and creation.

While it can be difficult to find a school that offers cryptology as a major, students can obtain a master's degree in a related field, such as the Master of Science in Information Security. Course studies in these programs or other relevant areas, like mathematics or advanced computer science, include combinatorics, algorithms, graph theory, complex variables, applied cryptography, network security, and differential equations.

A cryptologist can work in many different industries, but he or she should have at minimum a bachelor's degree in a field related to computer science or mathematics before seeking entry-level work in the field.

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