Explore some of the ways that you can become qualified in a blockchain related field.
Although we can trace the cryptocurrency phenomenon to 2009, when bitcoin (BTC) came on to the scene, it wasn’t until 2017 that the world was taken by the crypto storm. Unprecedented growth in bitcoin’s value and market capitalization has resulted in significant interest from everyday people, regulators and law enforcement agencies.
Bitcoin’s surge has pushed along the entry of a plethora of altcoins to the market, each hoping to gain their share of the virtual economy. This excitement creates a range of opportunities for those looking for a career in the blockchain sector.
Our comprehensive guide details ways that you can get in on the action by becoming certified in a cryptocurrency-related field.
How can I start a career in crypto?
Blockchain technology is still in a relative infancy, which limits the certified courses offered in the US. But a firm interest in cryptocurrency and an understanding of the fast-paced demands of the digital world are important.
To get started initially, educate yourself by reading as many books, watching as many videos and browsing as many forums as you can get through.
You’ll also want to consider your specific angle in approaching cryptocurrency. Potential careers include computer engineering, financial investigation, law and programming.
How much money can I make?
As with any innovation, there’s no guarantee that cryptocurrency is even here to stay. Throughout the short history of bitcoin and altcoins, government regulation, hacking scandals and other external factors have contributed to extremely high market volatility.
The underlying technology is decentralized — which means that no single authority has control over the network. And cryptocurrencies have seen peaks and valleys in response to government regulation, large-scale hacking and pump-and-dump schemes.
Blockchain technology operates in a highly complex industry. By amplifying your knowledge and expertise with a certified qualification, you might gain access to salaries often associated with in-demand roles. Analyzing job data, Burning Glass Technologies claims that blockchain development is the second-highest skill demanded by US employers, commanding as much as $150 an hour.
What university or degree programs exist today?
University-backed courses that focus on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is somewhat limited in the US.
While we haven’t yet seen crypto-specific bachelor’s or master’s degree programs, a range of short courses are available at universities and institutions nationwide.
|Program or course name||Institution||Certification||Description||Cost|
|Cyber Security||Stanford University||Graduate Certificate||Aimed at those looking for a career in cybercrime, this certificate approaches topics linked to blockchain technology, including digital forensics, legal issues and computer systems security. Expect to complete this online course in one to two years.||$15,120 – $17,640|
|Blockchain Fundamentals DeCal||University of California, Berkeley||15-week course||Designed for those with limited knowledge in cryptocurrency, this course offers a comprehensive overview of relevant topics linked to blockchain technology from both a technical and nontechnical view.||N/A|
|Breakthrough Innovation with Blockchain Technology||Harvard University Extension School||11-week course||This course focuses on industry potentials across six economic sectors, addressing issues around human rights, fair trade and democracy, as well as how blockchain technology can contribute to global solutions.||$2,700|
|Blockchain||Purdue University||15-week course||Focuses primarily on the fundamentals of blockchain technology, starting with the underlying framework and followed by its potential impact on financial services, government and identity management.||N/A|
|Innovation and Cryptoventures||Duke University||12-week course||Covers the sectors that could soon experience disruption as a result of blockchain technology, including an empirical overview of cryptocurrency as a financial instrument, regulations with respect to financial crime and cryptography.||N/A|
What certification programs are out there?
Outside of academia, you’ll find organizations that offer certified courses on blockchain technology. Both the Cryptocurrency Certification Consortium and the Digital Currency Council strive to set industry standards for the virtual economy. On certification, members are expected to uphold these standards by refreshing their skills regularly. Engaging in activities that breach ethical expectations could result in the revocation of their certified status.
Cryptocurrency Certification Consortium
The Cryptocurrency Certification Consortium (C4) is a nonprofit organization out of Toronto offering three certification programs. It has good reputable standing in the cryptocurrency world, not the least because Ethereum heavyweights Vitalik Buterin and Anthony Diiorio are on its board of directors.
Certified Bitcoin Professional (CBP)
Aimed at those with intermediary knowledge of the underlying bitcoin framework, C4’s CBP program includes an overview of cryptography and ledger-based economics, mining, wallets and bitcoin commerce. Application and exam fees total $135, with an extra $34.99 fee required for renewal after two years of certification.
Certified Bitcoin Experts (CBX)
A more technical program, CBX is for those who already hold advanced knowledge and expertise in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. But as of March 2018, C4 has yet to release fee information.
Certified Ethereum Developer (CED)
The CED program is designed for those looking to certify their Ethereum blockchain skills through an exam. It covers 14 topics relevant to smart contracts, solidity and common design patterns. You must renew your certification after two years, but like the CBX certification, C4 has yet to release information or fees.
Digital Currency Council
The Digital Currency Council offers professional training over six core blockchain competencies that include finance, accounting, regulation and law.
Designed for those looking to advise others on digital currencies professionally, you can take courses online or at locations across the US. Costs start at $2,995, and certification depends on passing a 100-question exam, which costs $299.
Similar to professional certifications in other industries, the Digital Currency Council requires its members to regularly refresh their knowledge by completing five credit hours every three months — which makes sense, considering the fast-changing nature of the cryptocurrency markets. Members are also required to follow a strict set of corporate governance guidelines, whereby the Digital Currency Council can revoke certification if these standards are not upheld.
How to be wary of scams
With the newness of this area of study, it’s not surprising that scammers are out there hoping to make a victim of the curious. The International Organization for Standards sets clear guidelines for certifying schools and organizations to follow.
To avoid potential fraud, research any paid blockchain certification provider before handing of your details or, more important, your money. If the provider’s website is unclear about any aspect of the program, request more information before registering.
Independently assess the credentials of the program, and look for any reviews to learn how graduates are using their certificates in the real world. And ask about any notable cryptocurrency pioneers involved with the program, which adds weight to the reliability of the content it’s delivering.
Adjacent degrees that can prime you for a crypto career
If you’re looking to follow a more traditional experience, many colleges and universities offer an indirect route into the cryptocurrency sphere. Although these degree programs often don’t focus specifically on blockchain technology, they either deal with the fundamental technology or offer content on cryptocurrency-related topics relevant to that field of study.
Mathematics and computer science
The fundamentals of blockchain technology are often best understood by those with a firm background in both the theories and logic of mathematics and the computer science of distributed systems. Combining such skills allows you to engage with the cryptographic framework surrounding such major innovations as bitcoin and Ethereum, as well as fully preparing for future innovations.
Santa Clara University designed a mathematics and computer science bachelor’s degree with two core modules in cryptography and applied cryptography, providing students with the required barrier of entry for a career in blockchain technology.
Organized criminals are always looking for ways to exploit new technologies, of which cryptocurrency is not immune. Large-scale scandals periodically rock the virtual economy in the form of money laundering, theft and fraud, forcing law enforcement agencies to create new mechanisms to detect and seize criminal proceeds.
As a result, individuals with knowledge in digital security stand a good chance of securing a career within a cybercrime unit, either in the private sector or in government.
Syracuse University offers a master’s degree in cybersecurity that references the blockchain economy. It offers a specific module on cryptography as well as content on various related laws.
Legal and regulatory
As cryptocurrency becomes more mainstream, governments and national regulators are considering how best to legislate it. But regulation is still in its early days, and nations continue to treat it differently. For example, although cryptocurrency exchanges located in the US adhere to anti–money laundering regulations stipulated in both the Bank Secrecy Act and Money Laundering Act, regulatory burdens are far less stringent when compared to, say, China and Russia, where cryptocurrency is all but banned in its entirety.
Loyola Law School offers a master’s in cybersecurity and data privacy specialization. The program significantly focuses on legislation (or the lack of it) surrounding Internet use, which covers Internet law, privacy and regulatory compliance, among other digital currency issues.
Other careers in cryptocurrency
Outside of schools and certifications, you’ll find opportunities to work in sectors that link to cryptocurrency, including:
- Writing. There is significant demand for those with knowledge in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to write high-level content. Work ranges from journalistic material in both print and digital media to blogs or white paper assistance.
- Financial markets. Although such a career move is fraught with personal risk, you can trade cryptocurrency with your own money. However, the cryptocurrency markets are highly volatile, which means you could lose your entire investment.
- Cryptocurrency employee. Most cryptocurrencies that enter the market are created by startup firms looking to achieve a specific goal by using blockchain technology. As a result, each coin is essentially linked to a company, which tend to need highly skilled employees. Look into development, accounting or even sales roles.
- Financial investigation. No industry is immune from bad guys looking to abuse technical vulnerabilities for their own gain. Due to the anonymous nature of the blockchain framework, financial intelligence units across the globe must stay one step ahead of any potential threats.
Top tips for a potential career in cryptocurrency
- Read up on crypto. Look for free or low-cost books, articles, blogs, forums and videos, taking in as much as your mind can absorb. Learning is crucial to ensuring cryptocurrency is the right career move for you.
- Decide how to use your skills. Which specific job function interests you, and how can you use this interest within the cryptocurrency sphere? A few paths include cybersecurity, blockchain development or consulting.
- Weigh courses and certifications. Consider whether you’d like to enroll in a short course, certification program or full bachelor’s or master’s degree.
What to consider before taking the plunge
- Your time and resources. Resist jumping into cryptocurrency certification without first considering how much time and money you have to dedicate to a program.
- Consider program details. Prior to signing up, look into the credentials of the institution offering the course, the backgrounds of those teaching courses, how long the program requires and any fees and costs.
- Look ahead to what you can expect. Consider the long-term viability of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. There’s no guarantee it’s here to stay, especially ahead of potential regulations. Governments and financial institutions have the power to restrict exchanges from providing gateway services between real-world money and digital currency.
How can I demonstrate my expertise in crypto?
Here are a few areas in which you can flex your newfound experience and find a community of fellow crypto followers to share knowledge with:
- Meetups. Attending public cryptocurrency meetups is a solid way to learn, share and network with other blockchain enthusiasts. Regular meetings are held throughout the US in public spaces like coffee shops and bars.
- Conferences and events. Look into upcoming cryptocurrency events, which range from innovative ideas and training sessions to investment proposals. These events are a way to network while advancing your knowledge.
- LinkedIn. The social media platform for professionals is an invaluable tool for meeting blockchain stakeholders. It’s flooded with crypto news and developments and a way for potential employers to discover your skills.
Should I specialize in a specific coin?
Bitcoin continues to lead as the cryptocurrency of choice in terms of adoption, reputation, market capitalization and value. However, with more than 1,500 altcoins now in existence — a number that grows weekly — you’ll find opportunities to diversify your knowledge to cover other coins beyond one that could ultimately become redundant.
Many crypto newcomers build their protocols on top of established blockchain clients like bitcoin, Ethereum and Decent. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of the underlying technologies of competing blockchains, focusing on the three fundamental characteristics driving this technology: transparency levels, consensus mechanisms and mining capabilities. Understanding these characteristics can better prepare you for industry developments.
Experts who have carved a name for themselves in the crypto space
Pioneers involved in the early days of bitcoin and blockchain technology are potentially sitting on significant wealth. Well known for their interaction with the crypto community, many have gone on to create new ventures through education, sharing knowledge and mentoring.
We highlight three notable experts that have made a name in the crypto arena.
Russian programmer Vitalik Buterin is the leading cofounder of Ethereum, which has chased bitcoin’s tail as a de facto blockchain since its launch in 2015. Ethereum was the first blockchain to install smart contract capabilities, and many other cryptocurrencies have adopted the ERC20 standard.
Buterin was also behind the creation of Bitcoin magazine and has appeared on several Forbes lists, including its 30 under 30 list of the brightest young entrepreneurs. We can only speculate as to how much money Buterin has made from his Ethereum holdings, but general consensus is that it’s well over $100 million.
The Greek-British bitcoin enthusiast Andreas Antonopoulos is known for his contributions to the crypto economy. He’s gained global recognition for his public speaking, educational videos and media commentary, but he’s likely best known for his book Mastering Bitcoin, considered a leading technical bitcoin guide.
Antonopoulos released his book with an open culture license, allowing anyone to download a free PDF of Mastering Bitcoin. He’s now teaching fellow at the University of Nicosia, where he helped design the world’s first digital currency master’s program.
Emin Gün Sirer
Often regarded as a blockchain genius, Emin Gün Sirer is a computer science professor at Cornell University. His knowledge of distributed systems has contributed to many improvements of blockchain technology, most notably his workings on scalability. Sirer was also behind the innovation of decentralized vault storage, which allows bitcoin holders to reverse a transaction if their coins are stolen.
Despite its volatility, the exponential growth of cryptocurrency has created a surge in industry demand for those possessing blockchain-related skills and expertise.
More universities and colleges are adding blockchain-specific modules to existing higher education programs that range from computer science to legal practice and cybersecurity. You’ll also find programs designed for industry professionals who are looking to certify their knowledge.
It’s a good idea to decide the specific area of blockchain technology you want to get involved with or the kind of career you’re looking to get out of it.