How to Become a Cryptographer

In the year 2016 cyber space makes our world go round. The Internet is used by the vast majority of our population in one form or another, and this new world needs a great deal of protection. If you’re interested in being one of the sheriffs of the cyber world, there are several career options available to you.

Responsibilities

Ciphers, algorithms and security systems are put into code by a Cryptographer. As a cryptographer you are in complete control of those codes and protecting those codes from the cyber hackers. Some detailed specific responsibilities might include:

  • Guarantee financial data is protected and only available to authorized account holders
  • Create security systems that guard against any exposures
  • Ensure that all critical information is protected from being edited, copied or deleted
  • Analyze data to solve any security issues using mathematical and/or statistical codes
  • Test systems for any vulnerabilities and ensure they are accurate and reliable
  • Aid in solving and security issues for the government or businesses
  • Keep up to date with current research and strategies for coding and applications
Cryptography is a career with options working for the government, FBI, insurance agencies, universities, and more. Specific job responsibilities will change according to your employer. A cryptographer that works for the government will have different expectations than one that works for a major university.

What is required to become a cryptographer?

It’s important to complete the research not only of job responsibilities of a cryptographer but also what is required to obtain this critical position. Schooling plays an important role in requirements. The technical degree route is what you’ll need to look into. Most employers will expect at least a bachelor’s degree in either Computer Science, Mathematics, or Computer Engineering. Some employers may accept non-technical degrees, however be prepared to back that degree up with a high amount of work experience.

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Continuing your education with a Master’s of Science or doctorate degree will only expand your resume and employment opportunities.

Work Experience

The position and employer you decide will determine what types of work experience is required. Some positions may require five or more years of experience with a higher education degree while others may accept three years or less in a similar position. If you are interested in applying to the National Security Agency for example, be prepared to have a strong background behind you. It might take a little time and research on your desired place of employment to make sure you are fully prepared before submitting that application for your dream job.

National Security Agency (NSA)

Seal_of_the_United_States_National_Security_AgencyThe National Security Agency is the mother ship for security and the world of all things code, encrypting, protection and more. It protects our government and this country by aiding the armed forces and military operations. The NSA can be an excellent place to outreach for employment. Even without a technical degree, you could be considered for employment with the NSA. They also run summer programs for undergrads working towards a degree in math or computer science.

Career Options

If becoming a cryptographer is your career choice and you’ve just graduated, where do you go to find a career in the field and what can you do? Some are fortunate enough to land a position right after receiving their degree. Some roles they might take on include the following:

  • Financial Consultant
  • University Professor
  • Security consultant

These three options might be at the top of the list on the career path of a cryptographer. A data or message decoder, or an encryption expert are some job titles that might also interest a potential cryptographer.

What Kinds of Skills Are Important in This Profession?

Technical skills are the backbone of a successful career as a cryptographer. There is a lot of detailed knowledge and information needed especially due to the high risk of this career. You are trusted to keep extremely valuable information confidential and when you become that trusted expert, you’ll be expected to follow through with these confidences.

Hard-Skill
Hard Skills

    • Basic understanding of major programming languages, i.e.: C, C++, Java and Python
    • Strong math skills; discrete mathematics , linear, and/or matrix algebra
    • Basic understanding of complexity theory, information theory, and number theory
    • Knowledge in encryption, digital signatures, key exchange
    • Symmetric Cryptography: knowledge of hash functions, message authentication codes, and symmetric encryption
    • Skilled in algorithms and data structures
Soft-Skills
Now let’s evaluate the soft skills that are necessary to becoming a cryptographer.Soft Skills

    • Possess good judgment
    • Clever
    • Accepting of new challenges
    • Interest in problem solving and solving puzzles
    • Trustworthy
    • Critical thinker
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Certification There is currently only one specified certificate that is associated with cryptography. A CES or Certified Encryption Specialist is what the EC-Council has created. There are other types of certificates associated with cyber security on a related note.

An exciting and stimulating career awaits you in the fast growing world of cyber security. There is a wide variety of career paths as a cryptographer and the field is going to continue to grow.

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