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How do I Become a Cryptographer?

By Darlene Goodman
Updated May 17, 2024
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If someone wants to become a cryptographer, he or she should probably seek an advanced degree in mathematics or computer science. Most cryptographers hold a Ph.D. in one or the other of these fields, although some may be able to replace higher education with self-directed study and experience. For the most part, these jobs require skills in problem-solving, analytical thinking, and arithmetical reasoning. Positions in cryptography are found many areas, and most prefer experienced applicants.

When an individual wishes to work as a cryptographer, he or she should typically study the mathematical and computer-related processes involved in writing security computer code. Students who wish to gain experience in these topics often should study for advanced degrees in either mathematics or computer science. Usually, they focus on both of these fields, because cryptography generally involves assignments in each.

To become a cryptographer, an individual should typically study mathematics in school. Even if students major in computer science in their undergraduate or graduate studies, they should usually still focus on gaining upper-level math skills, such as algorithms, statistics, and abstract algebra. Solving mathematical proofs is also considered a valuable skill in cryptography. In addition, students may wish to take courses in number theory and complexity theory.

Students should probably also study advanced computer science, because skills in writing code are important to learn in order to get a job as a cryptographer. For example, individuals should generally take courses in algorithm design, computational complexity, and theory of computation. Many colleges offer courses in cryptography at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Authoring and breaking code is one of the main tasks involved in this field. Therefore, problem-solving skills are important for someone hoping to become a cryptographer. This may help him or her to create more complex security codes. If an individual is skilled in finding flaws or defects in a system, he or she should then be able to translate this knowledge into better security code.

For the most part, a person who wishes to become a cryptographer should acquire an advanced degree in cryptography. These degrees allow a student to gain knowledge and experience in the processes involved in the field. Some individuals may be able to mimic the rigor of a graduate degree through self-study and volunteer experiences. They may also wish to work as an apprentice under an experienced mentor.

Most employers — including commercial industries, non-governmental organizations, and security agencies — seek potential employees that have a strong educational background in the field. Therefore, they are more likely to hire someone who has gone through a higher education program that has given him or her experience in cryptography research and development. On the other hand, if self-taught cryptographers can prove that they have achieved a comparable level of training through their own studies, a company may hire them instead.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon337556 — On Jun 06, 2013

How much money will an average cryptographer get in a year?

By anon295132 — On Oct 04, 2012

Do people with this kind of job usually work with businesses that handle money?

By anon264319 — On Apr 27, 2012

I am from India. Are there any of these jobs in India? What exactly is it better for me to do if I want to be a cryptographer?

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