How to Be a Cryptologist

A woman working on her computer while wearing a headset.
A cryptologist deciphers secret codes and may create codes or encryptions as well. Maskot / Getty Images

If you enjoy mysteries and puzzles, and are good with numbers, a job in cryptology (also called cryptography) might be right for you. A cryptologist deciphers secret codes and may create codes and encryptions as well. Cryptologists work for government agencies, the military, computer companies and financial institutions to help safeguard private information.

A career in cryptology requires intelligence, adaptability and a strong character [source: USMilitary].


To become a cryptologist you will need a bachelor's degree in one of the following fields:

  • Mathematics
  • Computer science
  • Computer programming
  • Engineering
  • Foreign languages
  • International relations

Once you've earned your bachelor's degree, here's how to proceed.

  • Earn a post-graduate degree in a similar field or in cryptology itself. Although a post-graduate degree isn't necessary for an entry-level position, you will probably need it in order to advance in your career.
  • Apply for an internship. Many government and military agencies offer internship opportunities for people who want to become cryptologists [source: Erudera].
  • Get a job in military intelligence. This can help you prepare for a career in cryptology [source: Olson].

Cryptologists work in many different environments.

  • If you work for a software company, you'll probably work in a high-tech-office environment with all kinds of computer software and equipment.
  • If you work for the United States Navy, you may work in a shore-side duty station or deal with radio data and communications aboard a ship. You may have to cross-train with a specific military service. For example, you may have to become a member of a submarine crew or aviation crew.

To qualify to be a military cryptologist, you must have a clean criminal record, never having committed a felony or misdemeanor [source: USMilitary].