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What Is a Cryptologist?

Cryptologists decipher secret codes or invent them in order to protect classified information.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2014
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A cryptologist is a person who works to decipher hidden language, crack secret codes, and find ways to protect information. An individual in this line of work may help to create codes the military can use to communicate in secret, or he may help to provide anti-terrorism intelligence. A cryptologist may also find ways to disguise information that is passed from spies to their employers. In fact, a person in this field may even work to find ways to keep Internet users' private information from falling into the wrong hands.

Often, cryptologists are found working for government agencies and assisting the military. A cryptologist who works for the military may take messages that are made up of foreign words and symbols and translate them into messages his employer can understand and use. When he cracks the code in such data, he may be able to provide information that can be used to avert tragedies and save lives.

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While government and military organizations may be the most frequent employers of cryptologists, these code breakers may work for other types of organizations as well. For example, an individual in this field may work to help credit card companies or banks protect their customers from identity theft. An individual in this field devises and implements methods that serve to disguise information people send via the Internet so that it is less likely to fall into the wrong hands. The work a cryptologist does may help to keep a person's credit card numbers or bank account information out of the hands of thieves.

Interestingly, a cryptologist may also work to analyze financial data and trends, using his skills to predict stock market changes. An individual in this field may strive to help companies to figure out the best times to invest as well as how much to invest. He may also analyze computer viruses and worms, looking for patterns that tell him how to beat them. A cryptologist may even be called on to analyze patterns in DNA.

Sometimes, a cryptologist may also work to help local law enforcement officials. For example, he may help to decipher the secret communications of gang members. He may even help law enforcement officials to see patterns in the activities of a serial killer.

A person who wants to become a cryptologist may prepare by earning a bachelor's degree in a major such as computer science, telecommunications, or computer programming. Some people may also begin entry-level jobs in this field with degrees in foreign languages or mathematics. To move beyond an entry-level position, a person may need to be fluent in foreign languages and have an expert-level grasp of mathematics and computer programming concepts. Additionally, many employers prefer cryptologists who hold master's and doctorate degrees, especially for higher-level positions.

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