I hold a masters in mathematics and philosophy (emphasis on logic) and, for personal reasons, I will be joining the US Navy as an officer doing cryptology. I'm curious if I apply afterward to programs (math or computer science programs) specifically doing cryptology (or number theory or related) will they see my experience as a plus to my application, especially since I will not be able to say what I did (being top secret and whatnot).

  • Just to clarify: you are doing math-heavy research on cryptology in the Navy? Or something else with cryptol.?
    – user115896
    Nov 10, 2019 at 23:04

2 Answers 2


Yes, it will be a plus. And no, you won't need to go into details. But get a letter of recommendation from a superior.

But part of its being a plus is that it is closely related to your academic trajectory and not something different.

And, with permission from the DoD, you can probably say some things, even if not especially detailed. You can, for example, possibly speak about non-classified papers that you found useful in your work. But more important, those non-classified papers that you want to consider for extension - whether related to your work or not.

  • And I assume it would matter far less if I were to continue my current research (model theory and functional analysis)? I'm not necessarily interested in doing cryptology.... it was just the MOS my recruiter set me up with but if I like it then I may consider switching my research.
    – Squirtle
    Nov 10, 2019 at 22:00

Yes, this would be a big plus. While the university cannot know the specifics of what you did in your job, if they know it was a role involving cryptography then they will assume that you were getting some good experience. They will also know that you come from a professional background where you are aware of applications of cryptography and might potentially have ideas for methods or uses of cryptography. Military institutions generally have extremely high levels of capability in security measures like cryptography, so experience at an employer like this would be highly regarded.

While you cannot disclose details of your military work, you can presumably still let the university know the broad types of cryptographic methods and techniques you are already familiar with (without specifying whether you have used these in your work or learned about them independently). In addition, I would expect that you could also get a letter of reference from one of the supervising officers in your area, which can give a useful reference even without disclosing unauthorised information about your work.

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