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)
- 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)
- Grace Hopper – Invented the compiler, coined the phrase “debugging,” and created Cobol - one of the first (and still widely used) programming languages (1940s – 50s)
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 $118,000, 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 programs to prepare you for the computer scientist career path. Compare the top-reviewed computer science programs online and in your area below.
a.k.a. Computer Information Research Scientist | Computer and Information Scientist
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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 must be fluent in the day’s leading programming languages, such as Java, C++ and Python, and must continue learning new languages as they emerge.
Computer Scientist Salary
- On average, computer scientists in the U.S. earn $102,000 per year.
Average salaries for computer scientists and related IT career paths:
- Systems Analyst: 79,000
- Software Engineer: $90,000
- Hardware Engineer: $92,000
- UI/UX Designer: $94,000
- Research Statistician: $101,000
- Computer Scientist: $102,000
- Machine Learning Scientist: $103,000
- Principal Research Scientist: $107,000
- Big Data Scientist: $119,000
Top 5 highest paying U.S. cities for computer scientists:
- San Jose, CA / Silicon Valley: $133,100
- DC Metropolitan Area: $127,400
- Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN: $125,000
- Boston/Cambridge, MA: $116,120
- San Francisco, CA: $115,280
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 $48.51, with most falling in the range of $27 to $64 per hour, depending on geographic location, experience, skill set, publications and body of work.
Sources: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics | Indeed.com
Computer scientist positions 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, technical training, technical writing, and advanced mathematics – particularly linear algebra, statistics, calculus and discrete mathematics.
Sought-after soft skills for computer scientists include creative thinking, complex problem solving, time management, and effective interpersonal communication – both written and verbal.
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Computer Scientist Jobs
Your computer science training and experience may qualify you for a range of job roles, including:
- Data Scientist jobs
- Computer Systems Analyst jobs
- Software Developer jobs
- Hardware Engineer jobs
- Research Analyst jobs
- Data Analyst jobs
- Computer Science Instructor jobs
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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 16% growth in the computer scientist job market from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the 5% average for all occupations during this period. Computer scientists are charged with advancing and innovating all aspects of technology, thus as technology continues to play a larger role in how we live and work, the job outlook for computer scientists will continue to be 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' Occupational Outlook Handbook