computer scientist training
Explore the computer scientist career path, including skills and responsibilities, education requirements, salaries, outlook, and FAQs.

Computer scientists research and develop new technologies.

These high-level technologists are a driving force behind the advancement of modern computing. Merging deep technical acumen, creativity, and scientific research skills, computer scientists invent new information systems and improve upon existing ones. Computer scientists work in a variety of industries, notably hardware and software design companies, the federal government (especially in the defense sector), IT research firms, and academia.

For a better idea of what computer scientists can do, here are some CS superstars and their key accomplishments:

  • Alan Turing – “The Father of Computer Science” formalized the concepts of "algorithm" and "computation" with his Turing Machine, and developed the British Bombe machine which helped crack Germany's Enigma code in WW2 (1936, 1939)
  • Grace Hopper – Invented the compiler, coined the phrase “debugging,” and created Cobol - one of the first (and still widely used) programming languages (1940s – 50s)
  • Shaun Fanning – Invented P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing and brought it to the mainstream with Napster (1999)
  • James Gosling – Led the team that invented Java, one of today’s most prolific and powerful coding languages (1995)
  • Steve Jobs – Co-Founded Apple, and revolutionized the way we perceive personal and mobile computing (1976, 2007)

While most computer scientists’ accomplishments aren't widely known, their valuable contribution is recognized by those in-the-know, and rewarded in kind -- the average salary for computer scientists is over $136,000, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the truly gifted in this field, the sky’s the limit.

Technical training providers and accredited universities offer a range of programs to prepare you for the computer scientist career path. Compare the best online computer science bachelor's.

a.k.a. Computer Information Research Scientist | Computer and Information Scientist

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Computer Scientist Skills & Responsibilities

Computer scientists employ a range of technical skills and soft skills to successfully execute this position. Here are some typical day-to-day activities and marketable skill sets for this job role. Computer scientists:

  • Identify and solve complex technology problems in business, medicine, and other essential industries.
  • Apply and adapt theoretical principles to develop new computer software and/or hardware solutions.
  • Are well-versed in CS-related math skills, e.g., linear algebra, calculus, statistics & discrete mathematics.
  • Must possess world-class soft skills in complex problem-solving, communication, and creative thinking.
  • Consult with end-users, managers, and vendors to determine computing goals and system requirements.
  • May work closely with computer engineers and natural scientists to solve complex computing problems.
  • Utilize superior technical writing skills to document and publish their most significant CS findings.
  • May supplement their income with [or focus solely on] CS teaching gigs across all levels of academia.
  • Not all computer scientists are coders, but those who are should be fluent in the day’s leading programming languages, such as Java, C++, and Python.

Computer Scientist Salary

The median annual wage for computer scientists is $136,620, according to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here are the average salaries for computer scientists and related career paths:

Computer Science Career Average Salary
Research Statistician $99,000
Data Scientist $126,000
Computer Engineer $133,000
Software Engineer $135,000
Computer Scientist $138,000
Machine Learning Engineer $162,000
Principal Research Scientist $218,000

These are the top-paying cities and metro areas for computer scientists:

City or Metro Area Computer Scientist Salary
San Jose / Sunnyvale / Santa Clara, CA $292,000
San Francisco / Oakland / Hayward, CA $260,000
Los Angeles / Long Beach / Anaheim, CA $247,000
Seattle / Tacoma / Bellevue, WA $199,000
Portland / Vancouver / Hillsboro, OR-WA $191,000
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania $164,000

Most computer scientists work in full-time salaried positions. For those who work on a part-time or contract basis, the mean hourly wage for computer scientists is about $60, with most falling in the range of $50 to $75 per hour, depending on location, experience, skill set, publications, and body of work.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Analysis of Online Job Boards

Computer Scientist Education Requirements

Computer scientist careers in business and academia typically require a graduate degree - such as a Master’s or Ph.D. - in computer science (CS), systems analysis, computer information systems (CIS), or a similar field of study. However, in the federal government and military, many entry-level computer science jobs can be achieved with a bachelor’s degree, providing you pass the requisite security/background checks – which can be rigorous depending on the agency and role you’re applying to.

Marketable skills to look for in a computer scientist degree program include software development and programming, computer hardware engineering, data analysis, information systems management, artificial intelligence, machine learning, technical writing, and advanced mathematics – particularly linear algebra, statistics, calculus, and discrete mathematics.

Desirable soft skills for computer scientists include creative thinking, complex problem solving, time management, and effective interpersonal communication – both written and verbal.

Compare the best computer science bachelor's degrees.

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Computer Scientist Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 23% growth in the computer scientist job market from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the 3% average for all occupations over this period. Computer scientists are charged with advancing and innovating all aspects of technology, so as technology continues to play a larger role in our lives, the job outlook for computer scientists will remain bright.

To improve your chances of getting hired for a lucrative computer science position, bolster your learning plan with training in software development, currently the fastest-growing and most sought-after skills domain in the IT workforce. Complimenting your curriculum with coursework in hot and emerging areas like robotics, big data analysis, artificial intelligence, and cyber security will further boost your computer scientist job prospects.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Frequently Asked Questions

Tech insiders answer common questions from prospective computer scientists.

How much do computer scientists make?

The median salary for computer scientists is $136,620, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is much higher than the median wage for all occupations in America which is $46,310.

How long does it take to become a computer scientist?

Most computer scientist positions require a master‘s degree or higher, so it typically takes 6 years of education to become a computer scientist (4 for bachelor’s + 2 for master’s). Some schools offer computer accelerated computer science degrees where students can simultaneously earn their CS bachelor’s and CS master's in 4.5 to 5 years.

What percentage of computer scientists are female?

20 percent of computer scientists are female, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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About the Author

IT Subject Matter ExpertDaniel Greenspan is the founder and Editor-in-chief of ITCareerFinder. Working closely with IT professionals, world-class trainers, and hiring managers since 2005 has given him unique insight into the information technology job market and the skills and credentials IT pros need to succeed.