Cryptography Career (Good choice, in demand, well paid?)

Internet use is increasing by the day, with individuals and businesses venturing into this space to connect; this implies an increase in cybercrime, explaining the increased demand for cryptography, a subcategory of computer security. Therefore, whether cryptography is a good career or not, we understand it is a matter of concern that requires your attention.

So, is cryptography a good career? Cryptography is a good career, especially for anyone who wants faster career growth. Most companies are on the lookout for such individuals to handle their security systems. A good understanding of mathematics and computer science is a good start for anyone with a passion for cryptography as a career.

Cryptography has greatly evolved within the past 30 years, thanks to the wide internet usage and e-commerce. Today, the internet is the leading source of essential communication and an essential tool for shopping, sharing personal information, and social interaction.

With more information passing through computers, there is an increased threat of security to government agencies, businesses, and individuals’ private lives hence the need for cryptography in data security.

If you want to know whether cryptography is a good career, this is the ultimate guide. We will help you understand whether cryptography pays well, if it is in demand, and how much cryptographers are paid. Read through the rest of the sections to find out all the answers you need.

Is Cryptography Well Paid and in Demand?

Anyone desiring theoretical cryptography only needs a good understanding of mathematics, as it’s only when going into a career does the benefits of having a good background make a real difference.

Due to the increased demand for cryptography in both the government and private sectors, the professionals are well paid. The increased demand revolves around the need for the government and businesses to build secure products and mechanisms. This involves restricting information and using mathematical concepts to safeguard upcoming technology.

Cryptographers use mathematical concepts to develop models and enforce them at the respective workplaces to ensure the safety of the information from unauthorized persons. These professionals also protect sensitive and important information from interception and deletion, respectively.

This career has a theoretical and technical side, and you can venture into either, depending on your preferences. The theoretical part of cryptography is suitable for anyone who wants to work in research institutions and labs or is good at academic research. It has less exposure and slow growth. On the other hand, if you want to practice applied cryptography, you expect faster career growth, especially if you are a quick learner.

Cryptography uses codes to protect information from unauthorized persons; hence, helpful in curbing cybercrimes. Therefore, since the private and public sectors require cryptographers to secure their systems, bodies such as the FBI, NSA, and other federal government bodies are on the lookout constantly to hire more crypto research experts.

Higher learning institutions such as universities and colleges are also on the lookout for these professionals to perform academic research and train more students. Private companies such as insurances and financial institutions dealing with encryption, authentication tools, and digital data services also need cryptographers. With the above career options in mind, it is also worth noting that a cryptographer working for the government has different expectations from working for a university or insurance.

Since cryptography aims at securing data, cryptographers should restrict data to authorized personnel using upcoming technology and mathematical concepts. They should research and develop mathematical concepts and methodologies for building secure mechanisms and products.

The career path of a cryptography professional is diverse, and an individual will fit into several depending on their skill. The top three jobs you might consider while studying cryptography include becoming a University Professor, Security Consultant, or Financial Consultant. You may also consider becoming an encryption expert or message decoder, among other career options.

Some of the must-have skills to secure a good job in cryptography include a solid academic background, linguistics, research abilities, and subject matter expertise. An aspiring cryptographer should have a strong background in mathematics, statistics, and technology. 

One should study in one of the institutions approved by centers of academic excellence (CAE) for intense training and certification. They should also master the languages of countries, preferably those which threaten their country’s security.

These individuals should also be conversant with the particular subject they are focusing on and interpret it from different perspectives. By understanding the subject in question, a cryptographer will avoid errors in developing security systems which could be costly. Finally, a cryptographer needs to come up with concepts and methodologies to ensure additional security. To achieve this, they should have a passion and skills for conducting extensive research.

Cryptographers also work to identify threats to national security. This is especially the case for those working for the government. These individuals are first trained on signal intelligence within the government agency or military and use this knowledge to create a secure communication network for the air, land, and sea systems.

Through their understanding, they can also intercept and analyze signals from foreign sources and detect foreign threats. Upon detecting weaknesses in the security systems, cryptographers design stronger systems to prevent vulnerabilities.

Other roles cryptographers play include testing models for accuracy and reliability, testing new theories, and updating the methods. In banks and other financial institutions, these professionals secure online transactions, ATMs, credit cards, and interbank transactions.  They also ensure the safety of wireless networks in the communication sector.

To have a successful career in cryptography, you need a combination of hard and soft skills. This is because you are expected to secure confidential information technically and professionally. Hard skills include those you attain through schooling. These include programming languages such as C++, Java, and Python. You also need to understand the complex mathematical theory and its application, knowledge in digital signatures and encryption, data structures, and algorithms, among others.

Work experience enhances your skills over time. A cryptographer should also have an understanding of the software and hardware used in information security.  This includes the use of operating systems such as UNIX and Microsoft windows. Standard algorithms in cryptography include Triple Data encryption (Triple DES), which protects against security incursions, and Rivest Shamir Adelman, which protects data during transmission.

The soft skills include those which you need to be ethical at work, such as accepting new challenges, critical thinking, trustworthiness, being clever, and good judgment. Critical thinking enables a cryptographer to develop algorithms for data security. A critical thinker will employ critical thinking to identify, rectify and mitigate an existing risk and prevent reoccurrence. By being clever, a cryptographer will interpret the encrypted information and secure the organizational content.

Strong non-verbal and verbal communication skills are also essential for a cryptographer, given that they mostly work as part of a team. Upon identifying risks or developing mitigation, they relay this information to their colleagues by providing a detailed explanation of the processes.  They may also need to explain some technical concepts to the general audience, which can be difficult with poor communication skills. Finally, if you want to stand out as a cryptographer in the market, you should seek certification by getting a certified encryption specialist (CES) certificate.

Upon successful completion of your studies, you can secure a position with the government or private sector. The private sector includes financial institutions, health care, and telecommunications, which need a computing system in their operations. The sensitive data running through the systems in these institutions requires by law that they use encryption as one of the data security methods to protect their clients.

How Much Are Cryptographers Paid?

Cryptography attracts intelligent individuals good at algorithms and coding. Given the critical nature of this role, companies will look for employees with brilliant academic and work backgrounds. Knowledge of the current technology is also an added advantage to anyone looking for such an opportunity.

The pay rates of a cryptographer will vary depending on their academic qualification, state, and work experience. With the increased use of cryptography, the demand is growing and hence the pay. Generally, the more qualified you are, the higher your chances for better pay.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies cryptographers as mathematicians. Their salary, on average according to BLS, as reported in 2012, was $101,360 and their job growth projected at 23% by 2022. This growth is faster than all job categories and attributes to increased internet use over the years.  The pay rates vary among states, with New York having a higher pay at an average of over $151,000. 

The cost of living is also a consideration for pay, with individuals working in developed states earning more than those in less developed states, but there are exceptions to this. In New York, cryptographers not only work for the government but also for banks, retailing, consulting, and advertising firms through their digital transformations.

Being an urbanized state, New York has a higher cost of living that comes with the high demand and salary for cryptography. On the other hand, Nebraska, which also boasts of a high salary for cryptographers, has a lower than average cost of living hence an exception to the above rule.

Salaries may also vary depending on the sector you are working for, whether private or public. If you are working for the government, your salary may be lower than private research companies.  On the other hand, if you get into high-end encryption, you will likely be absorbed by software product vendors such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple, among others, and your payment will be more than those in public sectors.

In order to become a competitive professional in cryptography, passion is the first requirement, after which you can enroll in an institution of higher learning for professional training. Most employers expect a minimum of a degree. Other employers may accept a non-technical degree, but this should have a work experience back up for most to consider you for employment. 

A master’s or doctorate degree serves as an added advantage. Thus, you should study in an approved institution and earn at least an undergraduate degree in information technology, computer science, or applied mathematics major. You will require at least four years of an undergraduate program and one to two years for a graduate program depending on the structure and courses per semester.

The academic disciplines in cryptography teach quantitative, technical, and logical skills to enable you to develop and break computer codes. Given the nature of cryptography (it may require interaction with foreign states), you may need to study linguistics for better communication. A research-based degree is also beneficial to such individuals to research new models and processes necessary for developing secure systems.

As a cryptographer, you must also be passionate about continuous learning due to the fast-evolving internet. You can also join a professional body in your state, for instance, the International Association of Cryptologic Research, to gain a competitive edge in the industry by interacting and learning from top experts.

Finally, the position you are applying for and your employer will also determine your pay and demand different work experiences.  If, for instance, you want to work with the National Security Agency (NSA), which protects the US government by enforcing the military and armed forces data security, a strong background is necessary. While you may take time to get this job, you will eventually make it to employment with proper research and preparation if this is your dream job.

Wrap Up

Cryptography is a vital career in both the public and private sectors due to the vast number of global opportunities. Cryptographers help preserve sensitive data in the government, military organizations, corporations, and individual entities. They apply mathematical concepts and theories, and computer knowledge to create systems.

Thus, if you want to progress in your career as a cryptographer and work in the federal government, you should choose academic institutions recognized by the agencies, such as centers of excellence in information assurance and security. You can then enroll in mathematics, information technology, or computer science either at the undergraduate or graduate level.

To gain a competitive edge in this industry, technical skills are fundamental. With theoretical skills, you can become a university professor, which is limiting. However, after theoretical training, you can gain exposure to the work environment and polish your technical skills. This way, you will become a top consideration for financial institutions and software companies.

Finally, the times we live have individuals utilizing the internet for essential communication, shopping tools, and social interaction. For this reason, data security is at stake; hence, the need for cryptographers. Given the complexity of this career, you should be passionate about it if you want to achieve higher milestones.

Thus, while your salary is essential, your drive should be protecting your government, businesses, and individuals against malicious attempts. If you enjoy continuous learning coupled with coding and encrypting data, cryptography might be a satisfying profession.

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