Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What Degree Leads to Compsci/ Security/ Cryptography

  1. Dec 2, 2009 #1
    What undergraduate degree will best prepare a person for one of these fields (comp security/cryptography)?
    - math
    - compsci

    ...out of the two, which one would better benefit me if I pursue a PhD with. I'm most interested in computer security and cryptography. Cryptography is algorithmic and mathematical in nature, right?

    For undergraduate degree, I plan to double in math and compsci, then pursue a PhD in either one - probably math as first choice.

    My other plan is a bachelor and master's in EECS then PhD in Mathematics.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 2, 2009 #2
    I'm pretty sure that this thread belongs in the academic guidance section, but here goes:
    EECS is probably not what you want to do, 'cause the EE will be pointless for either concentration. Even at the hardware level, computer security and cryptography don't usually get into the levels EE does. CS/math double major is the most sensible, but even cs is good enough (you'll probably cover most of the math you need in the prereqs for cs). Since you know you want to do security/cryptography, why not just go for a phd focused on that? (There are tons of programs out there catered towards that concentration.)
  4. Dec 3, 2009 #3
    oops. dumb mistake. i should've seen that there was an academic guidance thread.

    anyhow, a phd in security/cryptography is a great choice. i'll keep this in mind since i'm planning early. several more years before i go for phd. so CompSci/Mathmatics double major sounds like it's best for getting me started. Afterward, it's up to me to keep up with the technology and aim for a phd.

  5. Dec 3, 2009 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I imagine Cryptology would have strong roots in mathematics.

    Additionally, the military would be a good source of training for such areas.

  6. Dec 4, 2009 #5
    The NSA certifies security focused programs. See http://www.nsa.gov/ia/academic_outreach/nat_cae/institutions.shtml. These programs are affiliated with computer science departments. I would recommend looking at a CAE-R institution for grad school and going with a generic computer science degree first (as opposed to a security focused degree). There are great scholarship programs in this field too like http://cisr.nps.edu/scholarships.html.

    As for cryptography, the NSA is the single largest employer of mathematicians. Go math for crypto.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  7. Dec 15, 2009 #6
    You'll require both math and computer science education to hack your way into the NSA.

    stewartcs, the military is a good place to gain basic computer skills if you have none, a good place to gain moderate computer skills if you have some, a good place to gain good computer skills if you have moderate ones...

    I think you see where this is going. They'll give you a bump up, but they're mostly interested in what you bring to the table. There are some programs involving AFIT, but they're almost exclusively officer-based, so you'll be on the hook for several years total due to the training. Is that what you want? You'll have nice educational benefits, though, if you qualify to get into the programs.

    If not, the big question of "who makes up the upper crust of the NSA" comes to mind. I'd imagine it's a broad spectrum of several different specialties, with math and CS leading them, but certainly EE, IT, psychology... Yes! Language, and many other specialties abound!

    But that's conjecture. Why don't you just call them and ask them what they're looking for?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook