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How To Become Cryptographer

By David Krug 7 minute read

A cryptographer’s training and education are important considerations if this is a career path you’re interested in exploring.

Most cryptographers have earned a bachelor’s degree, although others have gone on to get master’s or doctoral degrees in the area.

What Is the Definition of Cryptography?

According to the dictionary, cryptography is the study of using codes to keep information secret and safe. When encrypting a message, traditional, low-tech methods use symbols, numerals, or other characters to represent the original letters in the message.

In order to decipher an encrypted technique, a table or grid must be used to illustrate which symbol corresponds to which letter.

Computing and information technology often go hand in hand with cryptography in the digital era. When it comes to securing computer networks and their digital data, cryptography relies on coding or computer programming.

You might conceive of a cryptographer as both a message decoder and an expert in coding communications to protect sensitive information.

Despite its strong ties to computer science, cryptography relies heavily on mathematical ideas, concepts, and theories for its foundations.

As a matter of fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies cryptographers and analysts as mathematicians rather than information technology professionals.

Coursework in a Degree Program in Cryptography

There are three disciplines that make up this field, computer science, mathematical sciences, and information security.

Using a combination of these fields, students learn to create and decode complicated computational codes in order to encrypt and decode data.

Additionally, students should master both symmetric and asymmetric encryption methods, which employ different keys to decode the encrypted data.

Data structures and mathematical methods, such as cryptographic hash functions, are required of all students seeking a cryptography degree. 

Cryptographers utilize tiny bits of information, such as message authentication codes and digital signatures, to verify that communication came from the source it was intended to.

Computer Technology

Data structures and algorithms, among other technical topics, play an important role in computer science education.

Programming languages and computation’s mathematical basis are both included in the field of computer science.

It’s not uncommon for students to have backgrounds in electrical and electronic engineering, such as computer engineering. In computer engineering, hardware and software are considered equally important.

Sciences of Mathematics

The study of cryptography necessitates a strong mathematical foundation. Courses in discrete mathematics, linear algebra, matrix algebra, probability and statistics, number theory, group theory, and finite field theory are all recommended for those who want to become cryptographers.

Security for Information

In the field of information security, the primary goal is to protect data. Information security covers everything from cyber law and policy to virus research, digital forensics, and the ethical hacking concepts that guide it.

Other Educational Programs for Work in Cryptography

A degree in cryptography isn’t usually required for entry into the profession. Many colleges and universities don’t provide specialized courses in cryptography, especially at the undergraduate level.

Instead, students can choose to focus their studies on any of the programs of study that fall under this umbrella.

Mathematics, applied mathematics, or the applied mathematical sciences are common bachelor’s degrees for students with a strong mathematical foundation.

There are a number of math-heavy degrees that can help students prepare for a job as a cryptographer.

A computer science degree may be excellent for people who are more interested in the technological aspects of current cryptography.

Students can learn about the mathematical models and ideas that underlie computer algorithms, as well as the numerous programming languages that go along with them.

Instead of pursuing a career in cryptography, you may instead get a degree in information security or cybersecurity.

What counts most is not the name of your degree’s program of study, but rather the competence and technical abilities you develop during your degree program.

Internships in the field of data encryption may help aspiring cryptographers get hands-on experience, so they should use their electives wisely to create a strong foundation in all of the various fields of cryptography.

Associate’s Degree Required Cryptography Jobs

Your employment choices in cryptography will be restricted if you have merely an associate’s degree in the area. You’ll likely be searching for roles like cybersecurity specialist, cybersecurity technician, security analyst or officer, or cyber data analyst.

There will be fewer opportunities for you to specialize in cryptography and data encryption as they are the responsibilities of people with more advanced training.

Programs in cybersecurity, computer security, cyber defense, information assurance, and even digital forensics are among the cryptography-related associate’s degree alternatives.

Bachelor’s Degree in Cryptography Employment Opportunities

Cryptography and cryptanalysis occupations often demand a bachelor’s degree or above. It’s possible to land a job as a cryptography specialist or cybersecurity engineer or a risk manager or a research associate with this level of schooling.

For those who choose less specialized responsibilities, you may work as a security engineer or software engineer.

At this level, degree programs are still lacking in specialization, unlike the masters and doctorate degrees. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree are nevertheless likely to obtain a degree in a more general field, such as computer science, computer security, or mathematics.

Some colleges, on the other hand, provide more specific study options, such as an applied mathematics focus in cryptography and an undergraduate diploma in cryptology.

Cryptography-Related Professions Requiring a Master’s or Doctorate

Earning a Ph.D. or master’s degree in cryptography can open doors to higher-level positions. It is possible to use your degree to advance your profession in cryptography, for instance.

Manager and program director positions may be available to those with a master’s degree or above in cryptology.

Those wishing to work in academia, government, or other high-level cryptography positions will need a degree.

How Do Cryptographers Maintain Subject Knowledge?

Cryptanalysts graduate from college, but the cyber security landscape and the challenges it faces do not stop evolving after they do.

Cryptographers and others in the cyber security industry must have a lifelong learning mindset even after receiving their formal education.

Maintaining up-to-date knowledge in the subject of cryptography is essential to a successful career.

Certificate and non-degree courses, as well as courses and publications published by industry journals and professional organizations, are also options.

What Cryptographers Require Outside of a Degree

In addition to their technical talents, cryptographers must have the excellent problem-solving ability, a solid sense of self-control, and honesty.

Additionally, cryptographers may find it helpful to be fluent in a second language, as the decrypted data may take the form of foreign communication signals.

Where Can One Find Employment With a Degree in Cryptography?

Encryption experts can find work in any business that needs to keep data on a computer network private and safe using encryption codes.

The government, financial organizations, and the computer and information technology sectors are just a few of the many places where cryptographers are needed most.

Government Cryptographer Vacancies

It is common for government security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies to employ cryptography experts.

Agency for National Security

Your cryptography abilities will serve you well if you choose a career in national security. In the federal government, the National Security Agency (NSA) is one of the most well-known for recruiting cryptographers and engaging in classified encryption work.

Aspiring cryptologists may find the NSA’s math-focused job post of cryptanalytic diagnostician of interest.

Use mathematical models and terminology to explain cryptographic data and issues, and work on cryptanalytic procedures, some of which they have developed themselves, in this function.

Bureau of Homeland Security Investigations

There are some of the top cryptologists, cryptanalysts, and forensic cryptologists in the country working at the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ Laboratory.

The Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU) of the FBI are dedicated to the professional practice of cryptography for the benefit of federal law enforcement and intelligence.

FBI cryptanalysts decipher electronic and non-electronic communications, such as letters, ledgers, and diaries, that are suspected to relate to organized crime, violent crime, and terrorism. 

As of 2022, the US Department of Justice announced the formation of the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, a specialized FBI unit tasked with investigating cases involving the use of digital assets such as cryptocurrency to facilitate criminal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking, computer hacking, and other types of theft.

The FBI has traditionally released code-cracking tasks for the general public, via which cryptographers can test their decoding abilities.

Agency for Central Intelligence

As a Cyber Security Officer at the Central Intelligence Agency, you may have to deal with encryption technologies (CIA). There are many different sorts of information technology systems and dangers that CIA Cyber Security Officers deal with.

Financial Sector Cryptography Occupations

Most of the data that has to be encrypted is either financial information like credit card numbers or sensitive information that is required to verify your identity.

The financial industry is a top target for cybercriminals, which makes it a great area to work for professionals in the field of cryptography.

Cryptography analyst, applied cryptographer, cryptographic engineer, cryptography manager, and cryptography risk manager are some of the possible job titles in the financial industry to seek.

Jobs in Information Technology involving Cryptography

Cryptography occupations are all technology-related, yet not all cryptographers work in IT. There is, nonetheless, a high need for qualified cryptographers and other professionals in cybersecurity in the information technology field.

Working in cryptography may be found in a variety of industries, including software development, IT services, and IT consulting, among others.

David Krug