Cryptologists make and break codes. They develop algorithms or code keys that help protect private or secret information. These algorithms also protect the information when transmitting or otherwise sharing it. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics groups cryptologists with other kinds of mathematicians. How much you’ll earn as a cryptologist depends on your education and experience, where you work and the company you work for.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2011, the median yearly income for all mathematicians, including cryptologists, was $101,040. On average, the top 10 percent of mathematicians in the United States earned $153,620, while the bottom 10 percent earned $52,850 or less. Mathematicians who work for the federal government, which is where most cryptologists work, earned an average of $106,370 as of May 2010.
According to SalaryExpert.com, a salary calculator, you’ll earn between $60,000 and $90,000, depending on where you live. Cryptologists in Miami, for example, earn about $78,000 while those working in Houston earn around $70,000. The highest-paid cryptologists, according to SalaryExpert.com, work in Chicago and earn about $135,000. The lowest-paid cryptologists work in Missouri, earning just below $50,000 a year. With the National Security Agency (NSA) employing more cryptologists than other employers, you may need to relocate to Washington, D.C., in order to find a job. Using the salary calculator at Simplyhired.com finds slightly better news for cryptologists. It says you can expect to earn about $100,000 a year, though it doesn’t factor in regional differences in its calculations.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2010, the federal government employed about 37 percent of all mathematicians in the country. Many of these mathematicians work for the NSA. The NSA bases compensation on an employee’s education and experience. For example, language and intelligence analysts with a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in work experience will earn $42,209 a year. Different branches of the military employ cryptologists as well, tying salary to pay grade and years of service. An enlisted naval cryptologic technician, for example, with a rank of E-4 and four years of service will earn $2,266.50 a month. A naval officer who works as a cryptologic technician with a pay grade of O-6 and four years of experience will earn $6,981.30 a month.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for mathematicians will increase by 16 percent by 2020. Though you can find work as a cryptologist with a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in work experience, having a master’s degree or Ph.D. in mathematics, and a background in a relevant field like computer science or computer programming, will likely increase your job prospects. If you want to work for the NSA, you have to pass a background check and polygraph test. Getting an internship there can also improve your chances of getting hired.