Cryptographic Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in becoming a cryptographic technician, take courses in mathematics and English while in high school. You should be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide with ease and be able to compute ratios and percentages. The ability to read equipment and instruction manuals and to write reports with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation is important in the job. You should also take courses that will train you in typing and in the operation of computers and business machines. Computer science, data analytics, and programming courses; business classes; and even shop classes dealing with electronics will be helpful. Knowledge of foreign languages is especially helpful in government and military positions, as well as in the increasingly globalized world economy.

Postsecondary Training

Some private sector employers may hire individuals with a two-year degree, but most employers prefer to hire those with four-year bachelor's degrees. You may also want to consider joining the military as a way to get cryptographic training. Positions with federal intelligence and investigative agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), generally require job candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree or several years of related experience, or both. Undergraduate majors that are typical for this field include mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering. The National Security Agency reports that it hires people with both technical (mathematics, engineering, etc.) and nontechnical (history, music, etc.) bachelor's degrees.

Other Education or Training

Prospective cryptographic technicians need to receive special training that lasts from six months to a year. The U.S. Armed Forces and government agencies that employ cryptographic technicians usually provide this training. The NSA places prospective cryptographic technicians in its internship program, which combines classroom training, work experience, and instruction from experienced cryptanalysts.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Cryptographic technicians can become certified as broadcast technologists if they have two or more years of broadcast engineering or related technology experience and achieve a passing grade in the certification exam. The Society of Broadcast Engineers offers this and other broadcast engineer and technologist certification programs.

Other Requirements

Due to the secret nature of their work, cryptographic technicians often need government clearance, which involves a thorough investigation of the applicant's character and records for the previous 10 years. For obvious reasons, it is important for you to have a clean police record if you are interested in a career as a cryptographic technician. Someone who has been in trouble with the law will not meet the high standards of the background investigation.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Cryptographic technicians should have several years of experience working in security, law enforcement, information security, military or other related positions. Those seeking to enter the field straight from college should complete an internship at a government agency such as the National Security Agency, the FBI, the Department of Defense, the Department of State.

Cryptographic technicians need to know how to read, analyze, and decipher encrypted messages. They rely on their knowledge of mathematics, engineering, computer programming, and languages in their work. They must be well versed in cryptographic software, radio and computer equipment, surveillance devices, and other technologies. Strong analytical and problem-solving skills are required in this field. Persistence and patience are also essential because code-breaking can be time consuming. Cryptographic technicians enjoy solving problems and are interested in using their skills to protect the nation or the organizations for which they work. In addition, employers also seek those who can be trusted to maintain confidentiality.