Are you ready to find a school that's aligned with your interests?

If you like solving puzzles, cryptography may be the career for you.

Many organizations deal with sensitive information. A certified cryptographer helps safeguard information by writing and solving encryption codes.

Cryptographers develop and use cryptographic software and methods. Their main goal is to ensure data privacy, authentication, and non-repudiation. According to Glassdoor, cryptography professionals earned an average annual salary of $98,190 as of December 2021. Certification may help boost this salary.

Certification shows that a professional has mastered a specific set of skills and knowledge. Candidates usually need to fulfill education and experience prerequisites. Most cryptographer certifications also include a written exam and an ethical standards pledge.

This article provides an overview of cryptography certifications along with advice on how to prepare for the exams and choose the top certifications for cryptographers.

What Is Certification in Cryptography?

Are cryptographers licensed or certified?

States issue licenses to perform jobs like cosmetology, medicine, and accounting. Most states, however, do not regulate cryptographers or cryptographic products. Therefore, cryptographers do not hold licensure.

By contrast, professional organizations issue certifications. Employers may expect cryptographers to hold certifications, but the state does not. Some cryptographers are certified while others are not. Certifications can help affirm a cryptographer's knowledge of critical areas like cryptographic attacks, public-key cryptography, and symmetric-key algorithms.

Aspiring cryptographers should thoroughly research available certifications. The best certifications for cryptographers offer a positive return on investment.

Why Pursue Certification?

Certifications offer a good way to advance a career as a cryptographer. They can lead to improved job prospects, increased opportunities, and expanded knowledge.

By completing one of the best certifications for cryptographers, cybersecurity professionals can prove their cryptography expertise. Certification also helps professionals stay current with the industry's technology and methods. In cryptography, keeping up to date is crucial because both jobs and threats can change quickly.

Some organizations require cryptographers to hold specific certifications. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Directive 8140 requires select cybersecurity professionals to earn a certification. Professionals seeking a DOD job should confirm that their chosen certification meets this rule.

The links below reveal more information about how to become a cryptographer, what the profession is like, and how much cryptographers earn.

What the Best Certifications for Cryptographers Offer

Becoming a highly qualified cryptography professional means earning one or more cryptographer certifications. Top certifying organizations include Global Information Assurance Certification, International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council), CompTIA, Cisco, (ISC)², and the Information Assurance Certification Review Board.

These associations offer time-tested exam formats that reflect current industry standards. According to Skillsoft's 2021 Global Knowledge IT Skills And Salary Report, cybersecurity certifications that earn top pay include CompTIA Security+, certified information security manager (CISM), and certified information systems security professional (CISSP).

Before choosing a certification, cryptographers should look at several factors. They should consider whether each credential is well-respected in the industry, whether it is vendor-neutral, and whether it tests theoretical knowledge or practical skills.

The list of cryptography certifications below is not exhaustive, but it details some of the top certifications in the field.

International Council of E-Commerce Consultants


Formed in response to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, EC-Council certifies people and businesses in information security skills.

Today, the organization operates in 145 countries and has certified more than 200,000 professionals. These certified security experts represent agencies such as Microsoft, the FBI, the U.S. Army, and the United Nations.

EC-Council's certifications include computer hacking forensics investigator, certified ethical hacker, and licensed penetration tester.

Certified Encryption Specialist

This certification validates candidates' skills in cryptography fundamentals. Test-takers must prove knowledge of hashing algorithms, asymmetric cryptography, and other significant concepts such as Kerkchoff’s principle.

Candidates must show that they can encrypt a drive and set up a VPN. They must also demonstrate hands-on experience with steganography. The certification process includes a three-day, 20-hour course and a 50-question, two-hour exam.

Certified Ethical Hacker

Applicants verify their lawful hacking skills through training and testing. The program consists of 20 training modules. It culminates with a four-hour, 125-question multiple-choice exam. Module topics include enumeration, social engineering, session hijacking, and cryptography.

C|EH Master

Already a certified ethical hacker? EC-Council now offers a master's certification. This program tests an applicant's real-world hacking skills. To earn the certification, applicants must complete 20 practical challenges over six hours in an iLabs cyber range. The test allows an open-book format, and test-takers must score 70% or better to pass.

Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator

CHFI is a lab-focused, vendor-neutral digital forensics program. This certification helps prepare cybersecurity professionals to investigate and prevent computer crimes. The training course consists of 16 modules, including dark web forensics, web attack investigation, and IoT forensics. Test-takers need two years of experience across six related domains.

(ISC)²


Formed in 1988 as a consortium of organizations committed to global security, (ISC)² now claims 168,000 certified members. The organization supports a professional development institute for security professionals and a cybersafety education center for the general public.

(ISC)² also offers certifications for both entry-level and experienced professionals. Certified professionals uphold (ISC)²'s official code of ethics.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional

CISSP provides broad-based certification for cybersecurity managers, directors, and executives. For government employees, this certification meets the U.S. DOD Directive 8570.1.

Applicants need at least five years of paid security experience in at least two of the eight domains this certificate validates. These domains include security and architecture engineering, asset security, and security operations.

Certified Cloud Security Professional

(ISC)² offers this certification for cloud security design, architecture, and operations professionals. Applicants must prove their knowledge of six security domains. These include cloud data security, cloud application security, and cloud platform and infrastructure security.

Test-takers need at least five years of IT experience, including three or more years in information security and at least one year across one or more of the six domains.

Systems Security Certified Practitioner

The SSCP credential serves cybersecurity professionals with hands-on operational jobs. This certification evaluates applicants' knowledge and skills across seven security domains. These include cryptography, access controls, and incident response and recovery. Test-takers need at least one year of experience in one or more of the seven domains. Successful applicants without experience may become an associate of (ISC)².

ISACA


Founded in 1969 to help centralize electronic data process auditing information, ISACA now enrolls 150,000 members across 188 countries. The organization offers online training, publications, conferences, and a career center.

Members and non-members alike can take advantage of ISACA's credentials and certificate programs for IT auditors and cybersecurity professionals. Earning these credentials usually requires passing an exam and completing work experience. ISACA members receive discounts on test-preparation materials.

Certified Information Systems Auditor

CISA certification validates a professional's skills in risk-based auditing approaches. Applicants need five years of relevant experience. They must also pass the exam and agree to meet the ethical and continuing education requirements.

Certified Information Security Manager

CISM applicants need five years of professional experience in information security management within the last 10 years. Certifications may substitute for 1-2 years of experience. Applicants must pass a comprehensive exam and agree to follow the ethical and continuing education guidelines.

Information Technology Certified Associate

To earn ITCA certification, applicants need certificates in computing, cybersecurity, software development, data science, and networks and infrastructure. Candidates with all five certificates can submit an application and a $25 fee. To maintain certification, ISACA requires at least 20 continuing professional education (CPE) hours annually, and 120 CPE hours every three years.

Certified in Emerging Technology

ISACA awards this certification for students who have earned individual certificates in blockchain, cloud, IoT, and artificial intelligence. Each certificate requires test-takers to pass an exam, submit an application form, and pay a fee. ISACA does not call for other work experience. Certification-holders must complete continuing education units and pay a renewal fee to maintain certification.

Additional Certifications for Cryptographers

Other organizations provide relevant certifications for cryptographers. Find out more about two of the most popular below:

  • CCIE Security: This Cisco certification validates fundamental network security knowledge. The exam covers end-to-end skills in IT infrastructure. Test-takers need no specific prerequisites. However, Cisco recommends prior job experience in network security technologies.
  • CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner: CASP+ certification focuses on security architecture and engineering. Topics covered include enterprise security domain, risk analysis, and software vulnerability. CASP+ also validates the user's skill with cryptographic techniques like blockchain and mobile device encryption.

Preparing for Certification Exams

Cryptography certifications can be challenging to earn. Even the most fundamental certification exams may demand several months of preparation.

But the effort can pay off. Earning a cryptography certification could mean a salary bump of thousands of dollars a year. While it might be tempting to take the exam quickly to reap immediate rewards, that strategy can shortchange professionals.

The best way to succeed is by committing to a thorough study routine and reviewing every aspect of cryptography in depth. Below are some ways to prepare for a cryptography certification exam:

  • Take an in-person or online exam prep course.
  • Join an online study community.
  • Give yourself a reasonable deadline to take the exam.
  • Enroll in a bootcamp.

Learn more about educational options in cybersecurity at the links below.

Choosing Between Top Cryptography Certifications

Before deciding which certifications to pursue, candidates should understand what exactly these credentials entail and what criteria someone should use when choosing them. Consider the following factors:

  • Cost: Does this certification's price tag fit your budget? Does the organization offer financial aid?
  • Requirements: How long does the certification process take? Do you qualify to take the exam?
  • Renewal cycle/requirements: When do you have to renew the certification? Do you need continuing education units? Is there a renewal fee?
  • Test style/length: How long is the exam? Does it require essay-style answers, or is everything multiple-choice?
  • Test content: How complex is the content? Does it cover cryptography basics? Or should test-takers be familiar with a specific niche in the discipline?
  • Where the certification is valid: Is this certification recognized globally?
  • Alignment with career goals: With so many certifications available, does this one align best with your personal career goals?

Resources for Cryptographers

1

What Is a Cryptographer?

This page explores key aspects of cryptography. We also cover typical job responsibilities and important skills for cryptographers.
Learn More
1

Day in the Life of a Cryptographer

Insight into a day in the life of a cryptographer can help you determine if the field is right for you. Take a look at the ins and outs of this exciting and rewarding career.
Learn More
1

How to Become a Cryptographer

Do you need a degree? What about certification? Will a bootcamp provide the background you need? Learn how to get started in cryptography.
Learn More
1

Salary and Career Outlook for Cryptographers

How much can you earn? Find out about salary and career progression for new cryptographers.
Learn More

Questions About Cryptographer Certifications


Is there a cryptography certification?

No single, global cryptography certification exists. Instead, several organizations offer different certifications for cryptographers. Some of these include the CISSP, CISA, certified in risk and information systems control, and certified secure software lifecycle professional credentials.

Do cryptographers need to be licensed?

States do not require licenses for cryptographers, but certifications are becoming more common. Professional associations establish their own qualifications, meaning that candidates might take several different exams during the quest for certification as a cryptography expert.

What are the best certifications for cryptographers?

Cryptographers looking to take their skills to another level can find plenty of top certifications. Earning these certifications can help advance a career and ensure that cryptographers continue growing their expertise.

What other qualifications do you need to work as a cryptographer?

Becoming a cryptographer doesn’t happen overnight. Training often begins with math and programming courses in high school or college. Early-stage cryptographers may continue their education with a master’s degree in cryptography. Some professionals even pursue a doctorate to teach at the university level.


Featured Image: Marko Geber / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Recommended Reading

Take the next step toward your future.

Discover programs you’re interested in and take charge of your education.