Breaking into the Puzzle Palace:
Careers in Math at the
National Security Agency
Erin E. Corman
National Security Agency
Mathematics Hiring Manager
• Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. in mathematics, or
a related field
– Statistics, computer science, physics, engineering
• Breadth and depth in mathematics courses
• Strong grades in mathematics courses
• Core competencies
– Calculus sequence, linear algebra, advanced calculus /
real analysis, abstract or modern algebra, number
theory, probability and statistics
• Computer science / programming desirable
• U.S. citizenship required
Application Process
• Résumé and transcripts
• Preliminary security screen
• Mathematics Proficiency Test (MPT)
– 50 questions, multiple-choice, two hours, no calculator
– Passing score is 16 correct out of 50
– Covers the core competencies
• Clearance process forms
• Site visit
– Operational interviews and seminar option
– Clearance processing
• Two-stage review process
• Final Job Offer
A Day in the Life
• Solve mission problems
– Combine ingenuity and the power of modern computers
to test ideas and implement solutions
– A mathematician’s keen analytic ability is often the
essential ingredient
• Work is interdisciplinary
• Mathematics Development Programs
– Series of rotational tours working on mission problems
– Strong training component (required and optional)
– Three years in duration
NSA Mission
• Protect U.S. national security systems and
produce foreign signals intelligence.
– Information Assurance (IA)
• Confronts the formidable challenge of preventing foreign
adversaries from gaining access to sensitive or classified
national security information.
– Signals Intelligence (SIGINT)
• Collects, processes and disseminates intelligence information
from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence
purposes, and to support military operations.
• Research
– Provides the tools, the technology and the techniques
to ensure the success of the SIGINT and IA
missions, now and in the future.
How Math Fits In
• IA
– Cryptographic design and evaluation
– Cybersecurity
Signals analysis
Error-correcting codes
Filtering and selection
Language processing
Algorithm development
High-performance computing
Contact Information
Erin Corman
(301) 688-0944
National Security Agency (NSA) Website
Keyword: Mathematician