After studying philosophy and being a philosophy teacher, I took back studies 4 years ago and I did a bachelor in maths. I'm in maths grad school now (I'm 32), and I would like to work in cryptography. (I took as many algebra and arithmetic and logic courses as I could, and I'm studying Galois theory this semester.)

I have two questions:

First, how do people who have a background in pure mathematics convert into cryptographers ? For instance, I know very few programming languages (I only know some Python and Matlab, and know next to nothing in C and in object programming). Is it necessary to have knowledge and experience in a lot of languages, and in programming in general, to work in the field of cryptography?

My second question is : is my project realistic? Meaning, is there a chance some company will ever hire a guy who started studying maths with 28, and has no working experience in this field, or even computer science in general?

Thanks in advance for any answers, tips, suggestions, or even encouragements :)

Supplement question: is it necessary to have a PhD to work in cryptography, or is it possible with just a masters. If so, what are the differences between the jobs of someone who has a PhD and someone who hasn't?

  • $\begingroup$ With just a MS in math and no programming experience you'll be hard-pressed to find a job in the area. You don't need a ton of programming knowledge; it's more important to show domain-specific crypto knowledge. The NSA is always interested in hiring mathematicians to do crypto, and they'd probably train you in programming as well. $\endgroup$
    – pg1989
    Nov 27 '13 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer ! I actually live in Europe, so I don't think the NSA would hire me... What kind of programming knowledge is it important to get first ? For instance, is it important to know some object-programming language like Java or C++ ? $\endgroup$
    – Asinus
    Nov 27 '13 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ Ahh ok. Most countries have intelligence agencies that hire mathematicians. If you can teach yourself some programming you can start looking at bigger tech companies like IBM, or if you do a PhD in applied math/crypto. In my mind the quicker of the two paths is learning more programming. Learn C and an object-oriented language like Java and you should be set. $\endgroup$
    – pg1989
    Nov 27 '13 at 22:07
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Re: Is my project realistic? That depends. Getting hired takes the usual: make sure you've got something that makes you different/special enough so employers are willing to hire you. You should be aware that competition is hard and includes students in their twenties up to pros with decades of experience. So, having no working experience in this field, or even computer science in general isn't the best starting point. Yet, there's a chance if you manage to create a perfect mix of three factors: talent, knowledge, and experience. From what you write, currently time is your your worst enemy. $\endgroup$
    – e-sushi
    Nov 27 '13 at 22:50
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    $\begingroup$ If you're sure you want to go into Crypto, a PhD isn't a bad way into it - interesting work from the off and whilst not industry levels the salaries aren't terrible. $\endgroup$ Nov 27 '13 at 23:36

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