Computer scientists are at the forefront of technology. They design, build and test the technologies that make our digital world possible. They develop new ways to store data on hard drives, create computer systems capable of performing complex functions on their own, and design apps and the underlying code languages that make these apps possible.
Computer scientists often focus on a specific area of study or specialization. For example, some may focus on software development, while others may work on hardware engineering or computer networking. Regardless of their area of expertise, computer scientists have a great deal of responsibility on their shoulders—they are the builders of the digital world we all rely upon every day.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a computer scientist and what it takes to become one yourself.
Computer Scientist Job Duties
Computer scientists can be involved in a wide range of duties, depending on the type of work they do. Some common responsibilities include:
- Conducting research to develop new computer technology and applications, such as web browsers or software used in mobile devices
- Working with clients to determine their needs and evaluate existing systems to make recommendations about future projects
- Creating models of existing systems or designing new computers or operating systems based on user needs
- Testing new programs, components, or designs to ensure they meet design specifications
- Managing the development of complex computer system projects by working with other members of the development team, including programmers, engineers, and project managers
- Identifying problems with existing systems and recommending improvements that will improve security, efficiency, or usability
- Documenting detailed information about project status, progress, problems, results, and other information so that others may use this information as a basis for future projects
Computer Scientist Salary & Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics reports that, as of May 2020, the median annual wage for computer and information research scientists is $126,830. As with other high-level positions, this wage is dependent on the experience and education level of the individual.
Over the next decade, the employment of computer scientists is projected to grow 15%, roughly twice the average for all occupations. Demand will stem from the need to develop and implement new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and to implement new cybersecurity measures.
Computer Scientist Job Requirements
The following is a list of the most common education and training for computer scientists.
Education: Computer scientists must have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or some other technology-related discipline. Many employers prefer applicants with a master’s degree or even a Ph.D.
Certification: Although certification is not required, it does provide job candidates with a competitive advantage. There are several certification associations for computer scientists, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Experience: A computer scientist must have a thorough understanding of the programming languages and operating systems used in the industry. Several years of experience in the field is often required.
Computer Scientist Skills
The following skills are required for computer scientists:
Technical knowledge: Computer scientists must have a strong grasp of the technologies they work with, including hardware, software, networking, and databases.
Ability to learn on the job: Computer science is an ever-changing field, so it’s important for computer scientists to be able to learn new things quickly. It’s also important for them to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in technology so that they can remain competitive in their industry.
Analytical skills: This is a job that requires problem solving at all levels, from low-level debugging issues all the way up to developing large-scale applications or systems. It’s important for computer scientists to be able to take an idea from concept through implementation while keeping in mind how it will affect users and other systems within the organization as well as how it will affect business goals and objectives over time.
Communication skills: Computer scientists must be able to communicate their ideas and theories clearly and effectively.
Programming Skills: Computer scientists must have a solid understanding of the programming languages used in their field.
Research skills: A background in research can help individuals learn more about the latest developments in their field of study so they can apply them in their work or propose new projects based on current trends.
Computer Scientist Work Environment
computer scientists hold a variety of positions, and work in a variety of locations, including in an office, at a client site, or in front of a computer at home.
Computer scientists must contend with the physical and ergonomic stress that comes with this job. They spend much of the workday at a computer, which strains their eyes, and they also perform repetitive motions that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Computer Scientist Career Path
Computer science is a difficult field to break into, but the pay and prestige are great for those who can do it. The best way to get started in this field is to build up a solid academic resume and then try to find a job in a large company with a research-and-development department. In the early stages of employment, computer scientists often focus on either theory or practice, depending on their interests. Typically, they write programs or manage projects under the supervision of someone more senior. The hours are long and work is usually done in teams.
Five Years Out
Computer scientists have a choice at five years: They can continue in the programming side of their chosen area or move into management. If they choose management, they may occupy positions such as systems analyst or project leader. Computer scientists who remain in programming work on more complex projects, such as artificial intelligence. Many computer scientists choose to go back to school to get doctoral degrees in their areas of specialization. A small number of computer scientists become independent consultants or start their own companies. The hours can be irregular and sometimes stressful, but salaries are good and most people working in this field are satisfied with what they do.
Ten Years Out
By ten years out, computer scientists have achieved high levels of responsibility within their organizations; some occupy key management positions that involve overseeing staffs of other computer professionals or developing new technologies that can affect entire industries. Some pursue more lucrative opportunities outside their companies; others take sabbaticals to develop new technologies for themselves before returning for full-time jobs. Ten-year veterans receive more tangible rewards than just recognition for good work; salaries increase significantly at this point, and so does job satisfaction for most workers in this field.
Computer Scientist Trends
Here are three trends influencing how computer scientists work. Computer scientists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
The Rise of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence has already begun to impact many aspects of the modern world, such as marketing and customer service. In the coming years, artificial intelligence will likely have an even greater influence on how people work; this includes both administrative professionals who use AI for assistance with repetitive tasks or knowledge workers who may find themselves being replaced by intelligent algorithms over time.
Increased Popularity of Cloud Computing
The internet is constantly changing, and it’s becoming more difficult for companies to operate offline as many products are now based entirely online or can only be accessed through an internet connection. As such, businesses that rely heavily on software have been turning to cloud computing solutions as a way of saving time and money while gaining flexibility and scalability benefits. This trend has given rise to increased demand for cloud specialists who have knowledge about how this technology works; there is currently no set certification program for those with this expertise but expect one in the near future because of its growing importance across industries.
The collection of data has been growing at an exponential rate, largely due to the emergence of social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn that have dramatically changed how we interact with each other.
As such, data privacy is becoming increasingly important as new threats emerge online every day; even though there are legal protections for user data under many circumstances, it’s still possible for personal information to be leaked if steps aren’t taken by individuals or organizations to protect sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.
Data security is especially important for IT professionals given that they often hold large amounts of private company or client information—so staying up-to-date on best practices and industry regulations surrounding data protection is essential to maintaining safety around sensitive material.
How to Become a Computer Scientist
1. Planning Your Career
If you are interested in computer science, it is important to choose a specific field of study that aligns with your professional goals. Some students will find themselves drawn to the world of coding and software development while others may be more intrigued by artificial intelligence or network security.
Once you have decided on your desired area(s) of expertise, make sure that the career path is suited for your lifestyle needs; many computer scientists work long hours as part-time employees or freelancers and must therefore maintain flexibility in their schedules.
2. Writing a Resume
When writing a resume for computer scientist positions, it is important to highlight your technical skills. List any programming languages you are fluent in and software that you can program proficiently. It’s also essential to include relevant education and any relevant experience from previous jobs. If you don’t have much professional experience yet, be sure to list all of your academic achievements as well as any internship experiences or work done on personal projects.
3. Applying for Jobs
When applying for jobs, you should have a portfolio of work that showcases your abilities. If you are just starting out, it can be helpful to intern at an organization or company in the field so that you can build up your resume and get real-world experience.
If interning isn’t possible, think about projects you’ve worked on in the past or things that you’ve built outside of school assignments; try to show off your creativity and innovation! You might also consider participating in hackathons (events where programmers gather together to collaborate on coding projects) — these are often open to all levels of developers and could give employers insight into how well you handle yourself under pressure as well as what types of challenges excite/motivate/interests you most.
Another great option is getting involved with student organizations related to computer science; this will help make connections within the industry while also giving more structure to your learning process.
4. Ace the Interview
One of the most important things to do as a computer scientist candidate is to make sure you understand the job description before going into the interview. What are the main responsibilities? How does the position interact with other departments? Is there a typical career path for the position? All of these questions should be answered before you walk into the interview room.
At the interview, it is important to convey a strong understanding of your field, as well as your desire to grow in the role. Show off your communication skills and demonstrate that you can clearly and effectively relay technical information to non-technical parties. If you are comfortable with it, you can bring a portfolio of work samples to the interview, but make sure to not be too overwhelming.