How to become a Cryptographer?


How to become a Cryptographer?

A cryptologist is responsible for the analysis and interpretation of information. They are experts in deciphering coded messages, creating encoded messages and have excellent skills in mathematics as well as linguistics. As far as the career options are concerned, cryptologists can work with the government’s defense departments or with companies who need to encrypt sensitive information and make it inaccessible to any prying eyes. Cryptologists generally work long hours by strict deadlines. This article will act as a guide to help you become a cryptographer. 

Job Responsibilities of a Cryptographer

A cryptographer puts ciphers, security systems and algorithms into code. The job basically demands encryption of information that the organization a cryptographer is working for considers sensitive. Another responsibility of a cryptographer is that they have to code information that hackers and cybercriminals cannot break. Companies offer absolute control of the codes to cryptographers and in the process increase their responsibilities. The responsibilities assigned to a cryptographer may vary from organization to organization, but we have summed up some of the specific responsibilities that you may have to perform:

  • Ensure the protection of financial data and other sensitive information and make them available only to authorized individuals.
  • Design a robust security system that protects it against any exposure.
  • Make sure that sensitive information is safe from any cyber threat including being edited, copied or deleted.
  • Utilizing statistical and mathematical formulas and analyzing data to identify any potential security threats
  • Regularly test systems to identify any threat or vulnerability and keep the systems updated and reliable.
  • Help the company resolve any other cybersecurity issue 
  • Stay updated about the latest technologies and trends in cryptography to provide the best possible solutions to complex problems

Available Career Options

A cryptographer has various career options to choose from. Cryptographers can be hired by government agencies to secure and protect sensitive information, whereas for-profit companies and universities hire cryptographers to encrypt confidential information, thwart hacking attempts and/or provide insights about how to make the existing system strong. As mentioned earlier, the specific job responsibilities will vary from employer to employer.

Educational Requirements

Understanding what is expected of a cryptographer is just one part; the other is identifying the things a person needs to become a cryptographer. It is imperative that you do your research before deciding to become a cryptographer. First of all, schooling is very important and certainly obtaining a technical degree is mandatory. A cryptographer should at least have a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, computer science or mathematics. There are a few employers who would hire you for your skills if you don’t have a technical degree, but you need to be prepared to demonstrate the skills and expertise employers would expect from a cryptographer with a technical degree.

Certainly, advancing your education and obtaining a master’s or doctorate degree will add appeal to your resume while increasing your chances of landing your dream job as a cryptographer.

Work Experience

The type of work experience you need to become a cryptographer for any organization depends mainly on the position you are applying for as well as the employer you wish to work for. There are some positions that would demand at least five years of experience and a master’s degree, and there are some positions which would accept two to three years of experience for a similar position. Should you wish to work for the National Security Agency or Federal Bureau of Investigation, then you have to have a very strong background in cryptography to support your job application. For cryptographers, it is not easy to get to their desired positions instantly. They have to work hard to get to the top and be recognized. That’s where certifications come in. Start your 30-day FREE TRIAL with QuickStart.

Career Options

If you have just obtained one of the degrees mentioned above that you need to become a cryptographer, the next question is which career option is the best for you? The answer to this is simple. You’ve probably heard it a million times, but let us reiterate this: You need to pursue your passion. There’s a possibility that you’ll not land your dream job right after graduation, though some might. However, there are other career options including:

  • Financial Consultant
  • Security Consultant
  • University Professor
  • Message Coder
  • Encryption Experts

The career options mentioned above are at the top in every candidate’s career path list. However, to get into the field you need to demonstrate to the employer that you have the skills and knowledge to become a cryptographer

What kinds of skills are important to become a cryptographer?

In the IT field, technical skills are mandatory to become successful. Similarly, to become a cryptographer you need to develop sound technical skills. This is a high-risk career, and thus detailed information and knowledge are required. As a cryptographer, a person needs to protect extremely valuable and sensitive information, therefore you are expected to have the following skills along with extraordinary self-confidence:

Hard skills

The hard skills that you need to become a successful cryptographer are:

  • Fundamental knowledge about all major languages of programming including Java, Python, C, C++
  • Excellent mathematical and statistical skills
  • Fundamental knowledge about number theory, complexity theory and information theory
  • Excellent command over encryption, key exchange and digital signatures
  • Command over data structures and algorithms
  • Expert level command over symmetric-key algorithms for cryptography including knowledge of hash functions, symmetric encryption and message authentication

Soft skills

Having discussed the hard skills you need to become a cryptographer, let us talk about the soft skills that are equally important for a cryptographer to have in order to become successful.

  • Accepting of new challenges
  • Sharp
  • Critical & analytical thinker
  • An inclination for solving puzzles and problems
  • Have great judgment
  • Trustworthy

Job Outlook & Pre-requisites

Becoming a cryptographer is a good career move, as there are various employers across the world who are ready to pay big bucks to expert cryptographers. However, here’s a table that will explain to you how much you will get on the basis of your degree and experience.  


Minimum bachelor's degree but commonly employers prefer a graduate degree


Mathematics, computer engineering, computer science or similar


Over five years of relevant experience is required


All the hard and soft skills mentioned above.

SALARY (2015)

$111,110 (Median salary for all mathematicians)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

One thing we would like to admit here is that it is very difficult to pinpoint how much a cryptographer may earn. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has lumped cryptographer and cryptanalysts with mathematicians, thus saying anything with certainty is difficult. Moreover, large privately-owned corporations may pay their cryptographers much higher than what the data shows because of their need to keep their sensitive information secure and protected.   

  • According to Salary Expert, the average salary of a cryptographer or cryptanalyst in major U.S. cities range from $80,000 to $144,000 per annum. These average salary numbers cover jobs from entry level to senior level.
  • SimplyHired has placed the average salary of a cryptographer as $70,505 per annum.
  • All Star Jobs concluded that the starting salary of a junior cryptanalyst is around $40,000, whereas seniors in a similar capacity can make over $100,000 per annum

Cryptography Certificates & Training

Apart from an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree, there are some online training and certifications that you can do to become a cryptographer. Here’s our pick of the top five online cryptography certifications that can help you achieve your career objectives and become a successful cryptographer. These courses are specially designed to help people aspiring to become a cryptographer develop skills needed by employers.

University-based Cryptography Certification

This cryptography certification mainly focuses on the application of cryptography to computer security. If you’ll opt for this course, you’ll be exposed to insights of cryptographic systems. You will learn how to apply cryptography in the real world, the right way. This program is a mixture of theory, lab work and homework. However, to take this course you need to have a basic understanding of the discrete probability theory, otherwise you’ll face a lot of difficulty in understanding it. This course is for beginners and great for people who wish to understand how cryptography works in the real world and what encryption forms are the best.

There are multiple mediums of learning about cryptography, but the courses offered by QuickStart shed light on the importance of cryptography in ensuring data safety while transferring data. This course is also designed for beginners and covers public key as well as conventional cryptography – both are the basic forms of cryptography. This course is for you if you wish to encrypt data and protect your organization’s sensitive information. It will help you understand the main difference between clear text and ciphertext. However, if you’re already working as a cryptographer and wish to take a refresher, then this course is ideal for you as well.

The cryptography courses available at QuickStart are suited for individuals who wish to learn the art of protecting information in computer systems. You’ll be exposed to cryptographic inner working modules, and the course covers all the basic concepts and principles of cryptography. Again, this course is designed for beginners but individuals with advanced cryptographic skills can also enroll to learn the modern public key infrastructure.

It is great for learning various tools and techniques that are useful to understand privacy amplification, security definition and the min-entropy. You just have to dedicate only four to six hours a week to ace this course and get the certification. This course is ideal for all those individuals who wish to get themselves familiar with modern quantum cryptography

CompTIA Security+ (Exam SYO-501) (QuickStart)

Having covered all the courses that are best suited for beginners, it is imperative that we add something that benefits those with advanced cryptography skills. Individuals who already have excellent command over cryptographic systems and concepts should undertake this course to improve their resume. This online course is designed to impart knowledge about the identification of security fundamentals and threats, risk analysis, assessment of security systems, designing robust networks, implementing cryptography, addressing all the security risks facing modern data hubs and ensuring continuity of business.

Common interview questions & their answers

Just like in all domains, it is very important to know your stuff in order to nail the interview. So, you need to be prepared, and the only way you can do that is if you know the kind of questions interviewers and hiring managers are likely to ask during your interview. Here are a couple of technical questions which you should be prepared for.

Question: Explain cryptography and its benefits

Answer: It is a technique of securing communication and information using specific protocols. Cryptography is the method to encrypt information that can only be understood by senders and receivers – and no cybercriminal or hacker can decode that message/information. Cryptography is based on some vast protocols that are hard to decode, thus it ensures the security and authenticity of information. The advantage of using cryptography is to make information inaccessible to any person who is not authorized to access that information.

Question: Can you name a few important applications of cryptography in the real world?

Answer: The utilization of cryptography is everywhere around us; a few important ones include:

  • Chip-based payment cards
  • Password protected devices including computers and smartphones
  • Data authenticity
  • Defense communications
  • Designing protocols
  • Digital Currencies
  • E-commerce

Question: Explain decryption and why we need it?

Answer: If encryption is one module of cryptography, then decryption is the second one. It’s basically two sides of the same coin. Encryption turns data into codes to protect sensitive information, whereas decryption is the opposite process that is decoding the information and converting it into its original form. We need decryption to ensure two-way communication. For instance, if the defense department needs to send sensitive information about a high-value target in a foreign country, then the receiver of the message/information should know the decryption protocols to decode that information.

Question: For which data threats we need cryptography?

Answer: With the advancement in technology, cyber-threats are also evolving and thus to be prepared one need cryptography at every stage of information security. For every cyber threat, we need cryptography, as it protects data from prying eyes.

Question: What’s the difference between Public Key Cryptography & Secret Key Cryptography?

Answer: Both are encryption algorithms which can be utilized for data protection. Secret Key Cryptography employs a symmetric approach and can be utilized for encryption and decryption purposes. However, Public Key Cryptography works on asymmetric approach and has two keys – one can be accessed by the public and the other can only be used by an administrator.

Question: What’s the purpose of Hash Functions?

Answer: It doesn’t have any key like Secret Key Cryptography & Public Key Cryptography and is primarily used to ensure that information from a sender has been received by the receiver without any changes.

Question: For what type of information, we can use cryptography?

Answer: The simplest answer to this question is that any type of information that needs to be kept private and confidential.

Question: Will you share sensitive information when you don’t have any cryptographic tool available at your disposal?

Answer: This depends on the network we are using to share information. If it’s a private and secure network, then such a risk can be taken. Otherwise, taking a risk of sending information over an insecure network is not a good choice.

Question: Tell us what is RSA?

Answer: A cryptographic approach that uses prime number logics is based on encryption and authentication. RSA is public key cryptography. RSA is a fast cryptographic approach that can handle multiple queries at the same time.

These are few of the many questions that an interviewer may ask you. However, the nature of questions will vary on the basis of the position you are applying for and the organization. To be considered for a senior role in any government or private organization as a cryptographer, try finding a course on QuickStart that suits your needs.

In this article, we have tried to cover all the things you need to become a cryptographer. However, if you’re interested in advancing your career as a cryptographer and would like to go beyond the basic courses, you should browse through our information security course catalog and find out all the training offered by QuickStart. Connect with our experts for more information on Cryptography and related certification training.

About The Author
Account Manager (Northwestern United States) at QuickStart

Travis Hameed

Travis Hameed is an expert when it comes to navigating complex sales, and making prospects' lives easier and hassle-free. As a sales rep with over 6 years of experience, he has decided to be a part of QuickStart's blog and share his thoughts regarding the questions that he comes across frequently. When he is not helping customers with their IT skills training challenges, he loves to cook.

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