How to Become a Cryptologist


Becoming a cryptologist requires expert-level knowledge of mathematics and computer science, which usually involves earning a graduate degree in one of these areas.  You can however, typically qualify for entry-level jobs in cryptology with a bachelor’s degree in one of these areas.


To get into this field, you first need to determine if it's a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then it might just be a great fit!


• You have a passion for working with numbers, puzzles and technology

• You have a highly inquisitive mind

• You would enjoy a career that revolves around analytical thinking and arithmetical reasoning

• You have are skilled and patient in research  

• You have a keen interest in information technology and information security


Below, we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a cryptologist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Cryptologist

Having a bachelor’s degree will in one of the following fields will typically qualify you for an entry-level job in the field of cryptology:


• Computer science

• Telecommunications

• Computer programming

• Foreign languages

• Linguistics

• Mathematics


A master's or Ph.D. program in one of these fields can provide a student with a profound knowledge of the principles of cryptology. In fact, you will typically need a master’s or doctoral degree in one of the aforementioned fields, preferably with a focus in cryptology, to move beyond entry-level cryptology jobs and into higher-level positions. 


You may however, qualify for these jobs without a graduate degree if you are able to demonstrate an expert-level grasp of foreign languages, mathematics and computer programming concepts.





General Job Description

Cryptologists are responsible for using expertise in mathematics, linguistics and computer science to study the principles of cryptology: the making and breaking of encryption algorithms.


Cryptologists are often confused with cryptographers. Cryptologists study the principles behind codes and ciphers, whereas cryptographers apply knowledge to create codes and ciphers.



Typical Job Duties

Although the job duties of cryptologists can vary, they are typically responsible for the following:


• Designing and conduct research projects

• Liaising with other members of a research team

• Developing statistical and mathematical models to analyze data

• Testing models for accuracy and reliability

• Conceiving and developing ideas for cryptology applications in signals intelligence and information systems security

• Combining knowledge of certain subject fields (such as linguistics and computer science) with mathematical methods to study the principles of cryptology

• Creating and presenting research reports

• Advising on matters related to cryptology, such as the design of encryption-based information security systems

• May be responsible for instructing classes on cryptology at the college or university level



Who Employs Them?

Cryptologists primarily work in the fields of signals intelligence and information systems security. The following types of organizations employ cryptologists on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis:


• The Armed Forces

• Municipal, provincial/state and federal government departments

• Law enforcement agencies

• Government intelligence services

• Information security consulting firms

• IT Software developers producing encryption software

• Professional services firms providing technology security services

• Banks and financial institutions

• Electronic signature services

• Credit card companies

• Colleges and universities

• For-profit and non-profit research organizations

• IT end-users where encrypted data is needed, e.g. finance companies

• IT consulting firms

• Telecommunications firms

• Broadcasting companies

• Online money transferring and payment services



Why Are Cryptologists Important?

The work of cryptologists has developed into one of the fundamental research areas in information technology today (specifically in the areas of signals intelligence and information systems security), and has a variety of practical applications within today’s world. Many public and private organizations use the principles of cryptology to create, evaluate and decode coding systems and secret messages in order to protect information.


Some examples of how their work is applied include:


• Protecting personal identification for credit cards and banking information

• Authentication digital messages

• Authentication of digital signatures

• Personal identification information protection

• Protecting military strategies

• Identifying criminal activity

• Identifying terrorist activity

• Financial trend analysis

• Computer virus algorithm analysis





Certification Needed

As there are no regulations pertaining to a career as a cryptologist, you currently do not need certification in order to work as one. 



Skills Needed to Be Successful

You must be skilled, competent and dedicated in the following areas if you want to succeed in a career as a cryptologist:


Academics: Cryptologists need to be gifted in both mathematical concepts and statistical analysis, and have a strong background in information technology. Because of the need for expertise in these areas, many cryptology experts recommend having an undergraduate degree with a major in mathematics and computer science, followed by a postgraduate research degree in cryptology.


Linguistics: Many that work in cryptology, particularly in the fields of law enforcement and national defense, need knowledge of languages that are relevant to their work. For example, cryptologists in Canada need to have mastery of languages that pose a threat to Canada’s national security.


Research and Analysis Abilities: Cryptologists often must come up with new mathematical concepts and methodologies that are challenging. This requires strong abilities in research and analysis, as well as precision and accuracy when performing calculations.


Subject Matter Expertise: Professional cryptologists need to be extremely well informed on the subject of their work. If they do not have a thorough understanding of the subject matter, they could provide other cryptology and cryptography professionals with improper information, which could have serious consequences. For example, with the wrong information, there could be serious errors in designing and implementing security systems. 



Crucial Characterisitcs to Have

In order to enjoy the duties inherent in this profession, you need to posses a certain set of personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your work is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards you work, which can lead to a long and successful career.  


• You have a passion for working with numbers, puzzles and technology

• You have a desire to help protect people from hackers and identity thieves

• You would enjoy a career that involves problem-solving, analytical thinking, and arithmetical reasoning

• You have a patient and systematic approach to problem solving

• You have a highly inquisitive mind

• You can pay very close attention to detail



Job Opportunities

Our job board below has "cryptologist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia (when available). Try using alternative search terms, such as 'cryptology', or 'web secuirty' if you can't find any relevant jobs:




Cryptologist Salary

The salary level of cryptologists can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Their level of education

• Their level of experience and aptitude

• The size and type of their employer


Unfortunately there is no salary information available from reliable sources specifically for the career Cryptologist. We can however, get a good idea of what they earn by looking at the salary level of workers in closely related occupations.


Cryptologisy Salary Canada (Alberta only): According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Computer Programmers occupational group (which includes cryptographers by extension) earn an overall average wage of between $31.69 and $43.46 per hour. It's worth noting that those in the top 95th percentile earn an average of $70.85 per hour. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories.  


Cryptologist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Mathematicians occupational group is $101,360 per year, and that of workers in the Computer Programmers group is $74,280 per year.



Similar Career Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to cryptologist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Computer Scientist


Information Systems Consultant






Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this profession.


Occupations in Alberta:Systems Security Analyst.” (March 31, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 8, 2019.

Computer and Information Technology:Information Security Analysts.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 8, 2019.

Articles: The Cryptology Profession: Its Evolution, Growth, Skill Set and Career Prospects.” Upsana Gupta (May 28, 2009). SMG Information Security Media Group, Corp.  website. Retrieved November 8, 2019.


Please Note: Much of the information for this career guide was gathered from actual job postings, which due to the brief nature of their online presence, are not listed here as sources.



Scholarships for Becoming a Cryptologist

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a cryptologist can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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