Computer Science

How Much Do Cryptographers Make?

How Much Do Cryptographers Make?
Most modern companies depend on the digital storage of data, and the responsibility of a cryptographer is to safeguard that data against anyone who shouldn't have access to it. Image from Unsplash
Kayla Matthews profile
Kayla Matthews March 27, 2023

Cryptography involves data security, a high priority in today's tech-dominated business world. With the right skills and certifications, you could be earning north of $150,000 annually in this career.

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Alan Turing, regarded by many as the father of modern computer science, once said, “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”

Such is the case for cryptographers. They are the gatekeepers of secure information, protecting confidential data for various industries. Every time you make a phone call, check your bank account online, or access your electronic health records, cryptographers have a hand in making the process as secure as possible. It’s a profession that allows people to maintain confidence in the electronic world.

Sounds like it should be lucrative work, doesn’t it? And it is: you’ll learn how much cryptographers make in this article, as well as:

  • What is cryptography?
  • What do employers look for in cryptographers?
  • The top states for cryptography jobs
  • Is cryptography right for you?
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What is cryptography?

Most companies depend on the digital storage of data. Cryptographers safeguard that data against anyone who shouldn’t have access to it. They utilize programming and mathematical skills to build security systems to safeguard encrypted data. It’s a career that attracts people who are good at puzzles, great at algorithm design, and experts in coding. They’ll need to pass a background check too.

Cryptographers serve a vital purpose: preserving the sensitive data of corporations, military organizations and government agencies, and individuals. In the field, you’ll apply your knowledge of mathematical theories to decipher coded data and create encryption systems.

Professional cryptographers need to possess at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, mathematics or a related field. In terms of salary, they make an average of $155,000 each year with a range that’s $93,000 at the low end and $213,000 at its highest.

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“I’M INTERESTED IN CYBER SECURITY!”

In its 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, (ISC) estimates the size of the the global cyber security workforce at 4.7 million. It also indicates that the current workforce is 3.4 million workers short. That’s over 3 million positions waiting to be filled by qualified cyber security experts (nearly half a million of them in North America alone). (source)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, top-paying employers in cyber security analytics include those in:

- Information services: $149,500
- Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial instruments: $142,000
- Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $129,000
- Scientific research and development services: $128,500
- Software publishers: $126,000
- Publishing: $125,700

The average salaries of professionals with a Master's degree are between $91,000 and $109,000, respectively. About half of all professionals in this field hold a graduate degree. (source)

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What do employers look for in cryptographers?

Cryptographers only need a bachelor’s degree to begin working in their field. Those holding a master’s degree in computer science, mathematics, or computer engineering will have a leg up in their job searches. Having a strong background in analysis and statistics and a knowledge of current technology could also give your resume a boost.

Many universities provide online programs for bachelor’s degrees in computer science. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville offers an online master’s with a concentration in applied cybersecurity, while Case Western Reserve University offers separate tracks for experienced computer professionals and STEM-proficient career changers.

Top employers of cryptographers include Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, IBM, the United States Navy, and the National Security Agency (NSA).

The top states for cryptography jobs

The pervasiveness of technology and data means that cryptography jobs are available practically everywhere. That said, job opportunities tend to cluster around technology hubs, which tend to be located in or near big cities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you’ll find the greatest number of cryptography jobs in Virginia (mostly around the District of Columbia, because the federal government hires so many cryptographers), Texas, Florida, New York, and Maryland (again, the government). Top-paying states include:

  • Hawaii: $177,000
  • Nevada: $174,400
  • Massachusetts: $172,200
  • Rhode Island: $168,500
  • Oregon: $168,300

As you might expect, the highest-paying jobs are typically located where the cost of living is also high. Conversely, the lowest-paying states are all located in the Southeast, where the cost of living is typically lower: Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and North Carolina all rank at the bottom in this category.

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Is cryptology right for you?

In a time when the Internet provides essential communication and is used as a tool for shopping, social interaction, and the exchange of personal information, security has become a seriously important issue for everyone involved. As a cryptographer, your work will help people feel secure every day, whether you’re helping your company prevent a data breach or ensuring that a customer feels comfortable making that “add to cart” click. As for your salary, well: that’s the cherry on top.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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