What Does a Cryptologist Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Cryptology is a broad, complex field that includes cryptanalysis and cryptography. Learn what it takes to become a cryptologist. Plan a career encrypting and decrypting messages, and discover the employment prospects in cryptology.

[Featured Image] A cryptologist sits at a table and uses their computer.

Cryptology is a broad, complex field that comprises number theory and applied formulas and algorithms that support cryptography and cryptanalysis. Since the arrival of the digital age, we have seen increasing demand for cryptologists. 

Persistent malware, hacking, and cyberattacks have made it imperative for companies, regulatory bodies, and individuals to find ways to keep their data and communication channels secure and private. Because of modern cybersecurity threats, many universities have started offering courses in cryptology to meet the demand for specialists in the field.

Becoming a cryptologist involves a combination of developing the necessary skills in cybersecurity and math, getting a degree in a computer science field, and gaining experience. Most employers expect cryptologists to also have a master's degree.

Read more: 4 Ethical Hacking Certifications to Boost Your Career

What is cryptology?

The technique of converting plain text to ciphertext and vice versa is known as cryptology. Cryptology is also known as encryption and decryption research. Once you've studied cryptology and can establish a channel for secure communications, you're known as a cryptologist. Cryptologists analyze and interpret data and patterns to decipher and generate encoded signals. For this reason, you'd have skills in both linguistics and mathematics.

There are vast options for professional opportunities for cryptologists nowadays. From electronic banking to military intelligence, governments and private companies—all these entities use some type of legal databases that depend on cryptology for security.

Cryptology refers to the study of both encryption and decryption (creating and solving codes), whereas cryptography deals with encryption (creating codes) only. 


Cryptology salary and job outlook

Cryptologists in the United States make an average annual salary of $132,072 per year, according to SalaryExpert, as of September 2022 [1].

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roles in mathematics and statistics, such as cryptologists, are expected to grow at a healthy rate of 30 percent from 2022 to 2032 [2].

Read more: What Is a Cryptographer? Career Guide

How to become a cryptologist

If you’re interested in becoming a cryptologist, consider the following steps:

Develop cryptology skills.

These skills could prove helpful as you pursue a career in cryptology:

1.   Knowledge about computers

For cryptologists, having an interest in and proper understanding of computer systems is vital. Algorithms use software applications to be developed and distributed across a network. Start getting familiar with different computer systems by researching or learning from relevant courses at a university. 

2.   Mathematics

Algorithms use encoded data to secure digital information. Algorithm development can require a thorough understanding of mathematical ideas. Start developing your arithmetic skills by studying or completing primary education at a university or equivalent facility.

3.   Problem-solving

When it comes to discovering flaws in enterprise security systems, cryptologists can benefit from problem-solving skills. A cryptologist's primary responsibility is to create systems and software to solve these difficulties. Strategies like brainstorming and analyzing various options will help you enhance your problem-solving abilities. 

4.   Organization

Since developing and monitoring security systems can require a lot of multitasking, cryptologists must be extremely organized. Electronic coding can be quite complicated, requiring a cryptologist's undivided attention. Being organized can help you multitask more effectively and concentrate on the task at hand. You may become more organized by setting objectives, planning, and managing your time.

5.   Adaptability

Technology evolves at a rapid pace, posing new challenges and dangers to information security and privacy. Cryptologists frequently upgrade and design new security methods, which demands a high degree of adaptability. Experiencing new things, making errors, and learning from others might help you break out of your bubble and increase your flexibility.

Earn a degree.

Most employers look for candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, computer science, cybersecurity, linguistics, or a related field. Some companies might prefer candidates with a master’s degree. 

Read more: Cybersecurity Degrees and Alternatives: Your Guide

Search for an internship.

To start gaining valuable experience for your resume and further your education, consider taking on an internship. Internships would not only provide you with valuable experience for your resume, but they will also help you further your education. Working with skilled cryptologists will help educate you with skills you won't learn in a classroom. Getting a paid internship comes with the extra benefit of earning money to help you pay for your school.

Read more: What It Takes to Earn Computer Science Internships

Next steps

If you’re interested in starting a career in cybersecurity, consider the Google Cybersecurity Professional Certificate on Coursera. This program is designed ​​to help individuals with no previous experience find their first job in the field of cybersecurity, all at their own pace. The courses cover topics such as security models, tools that are used to access and address threats, networks, and more. 

Article sources


SalaryExpert. “Cryptologist, https://www.salaryexpert.com/salary/job/cryptologist/united-states.” Accessed September 11, 2023.

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