How do I Become a Cryptologist?

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress
A cryptologist can either write codes or study how to break them.
A cryptologist can either write codes or study how to break them.

The science of cryptology has expanded immensely in the last few centuries. Professional code writers and breakers have traditionally been employed by military and government agencies, and indeed such organizations are still some of the most prominent sources for jobs. In recent years, the ongoing global transition to electronic communications and commerce has spawned a great need for clever cryptologists to keep private information secure. A person who wants to become a cryptologist generally needs to be intuitive and highly skilled with computers and numbers. Most employers require applicants to hold at least bachelor's degrees in a related field, but a master's or PhD may be needed to become a cryptologist in a top government agency or private company.

An inquisitive personality and rigorous attention to detail are helpful traits for a person who wants to become a cryptologist. People who have the natural talent and determination to excel at number and word puzzles are typically best suited for the career. In fact, some military establishments have even recruited adept newspaper puzzle solvers to work on breaking wartime enemy codes and strengthen their own ciphers.

Most cryptology jobs today involve working with extremely complicated electronic ciphers. An individual who wants to become a cryptologist can benefit from enrolling in an accredited bachelor's degree program in computer science or software engineering. Learning the details of different methods of programming and ethical hacking provide a student with a strong starting point for making his or her own codes. In addition, extensive college coursework in mathematics can significantly improve a person's understanding of how and why computer codes work the way they do.

A bachelor's degree may be sufficient to find entry-level work in the private sector or with a government office, but most future cryptologists choose to pursue advanced degrees. A master's or PhD program in computer science can provide a student with a profound knowledge of the principles of code making and breaking. Many future cryptologists have the opportunity to pursue independent research on the subject and intern at security technology firms.

With the appropriate degree, a person can apply to become a cryptologist at a technology company, military establishment, or law enforcement agency. In addition, institutions such as the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency in the United States are frequently looking for top cryptologists to aid in important security matters. It usually takes several years of experience to advance to a senior role in any setting, but cryptologists who are dedicated to their work generally enjoy long, enjoyable, well-paying careers.

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Discussion Comments


Not with the government. You may be hired in the corporate realm, but US citizenship is required to work in the government sector. Additionally, even if you attain citizenship it is unlikely you will be able to get security clearance as a foreign national.


If you're Lebanese and don't have American citizenship, can you still get a job in this field?

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    • A cryptologist can either write codes or study how to break them.
      By: Cousin_Avi
      A cryptologist can either write codes or study how to break them.