What Is a Computer Scientist? Duties and Requirements
Updated March 13, 2023
If you're interested in the field of technology and possess skills like creativity and innovation, you might be interested in becoming a computer scientist. This career involves duties like researching how computers function, analyzing software and using hardware to develop everyday technology. Learning more about the profession can help you determine if it's right for you and develop an actionable career plan.
In this article, we'll explain the role of computer scientists, including what they do, the requirements to become one and the skills needed to succeed in this tech position.
What is a computer scientist?
A computer scientist is an individual who uses expert technical knowledge like utilizing data, developing new software and analyzing trends to create solutions for organizations. These technical experts require an understanding of concepts like advanced mathematics, physics and programming languages.
They may work with computer engineers to design new computers or specialize in areas such as computer programming. Computer scientists can also work in various roles within the information and technology industry. Common areas of focus include:
Theoretical computer science
What does a computer scientist do?
A computer scientist researches conceptual ideas, conducts experiments and applies their knowledge to develop existing technology and create more effective applications. They can work for research institutions, universities or private companies. Their duties vary depending on their specialty, but typical responsibilities include:
Creating or revising computer algorithms
Writing new programming languages or code
Evaluating new computer systems or devices
Designing models or theories to solve computer problems
Conducting research experiments to test new theories
Upgrading computer systems or programs by designing new software
Refining computer systems and hardware to improve efficiency and speed
Presenting theories and studies to the scientific community in articles or at presentations
Educating other individuals in the field and training younger scientists
Collaborating with computer engineers and software developers to produce new technology
Using models and studies to collect relevant data
Applying data to create applicable insights and solutions
Creating databases to store information for organizations
Requirements for computer scientists
Common requirements to become a computer scientist include:
Most computer science positions require at least a bachelor's degree in one of the following areas:
Information and computer science
If you majored in a different area, you might minor in a related field to develop computer science skills. For certain areas of study, computer scientists take specific coursework. For example, individuals who work with medical computers or biotechnology may take a certain number of biology credits.
Some computer scientists choose to continue their education and earn advanced degrees, as certain roles require a master's degree in computer science or a relevant field. These advanced programs often take two to three years to complete, though some part-time options are available to students who want to work and attend school simultaneously.
Computer scientists use the technical skills and knowledge that they develop during training. During their studies, many aspiring scientists take lab courses where they can implement theoretical concepts and add projects to their portfolios.
They may also choose to complete an internship in their desired field. For example, if they want to work in business technology, they could pursue an internship with a finance company.
Computer scientist skills
Computer scientists often rely on essential skills like:
Computer scientists often use math skills to create models and test systems. They may use linear algebra, number theory and graph theory to design mathematical models and algorithms. Many related degree programs include several math courses to help computer scientists develop these skills.
Computer scientists often rely on technical skills to conduct research and test systems. The exact abilities vary across different roles but may involve developing an understanding of programming languages, software programs or certain computer hardware. Computer scientists also tend to be knowledgeable about computer theories and historical models.
Technical writing skills
In addition to technical knowledge and applicable skills, computer scientists tend to have proficient technical writing skills. Most roles require writing about complex computer concepts in the form of research reports or articles for scientific journals. While computer scientists often write documents for colleagues, they may also create easy-to-understand materials for clients and more casual readers.
Related: 16 Technical Writing Tips
Computer scientists analyze data and models to reach scientific conclusions. They experiment with new programs and predict outcomes. Analysis skills can help them find patterns and evaluate certain functions, allowing them to create new designs or present findings to others in the field. For instance, a computer scientist at a biotechnology company might develop new algorithms to help pharmacists manufacture drugs.
Problem-solving is the ability to find an effective solution to overcome a challenge. Computer scientists use problem-solving skills to ensure the security of databases and reduce algorithm bias. Problem-solving might also relate to the ability to collaborate with other departments and ensure the production of error-free code.
Creative thinking helps computer scientists develop innovative solutions to challenging problems. For example, computer scientists who work with software engineers and developers may use creativity to test several possible outcomes and determine which is ideal based on the project's requirements. Computer scientists can also use creativity to help them solve data-related problems, design new software for clients or fix cybersecurity issues.
A computer scientist relies on communication skills when leaving written feedback, as concise comments can optimize workflows. They may also present findings to classes or scientific panels. Good verbal and written communication skills help computer scientists share information with audiences who have varying degrees of technical knowledge.
SQL, or Structured Query Language, is one of the most common programming languages among computer scientists. This tool allows for the creation and organization of databases and can retrieve a large amount of data via a single command. With this skill, computer scientists can collaborate with organizations that already rely on SQL for database management.
Why work as a computer scientist?
Computer scientists have excellent career possibilities due to the prevalence of technology and digital advancement in various industries. They also tend to enjoy the satisfaction of contributing to the expanding use of technology throughout the world, connecting and safeguarding users of all types. Additionally, you can choose to work in areas such as the following according to your interests:
Health care technology
Scientific research firms
Social media companies
Software and computer manufacturers
Financial service providers
Salary and job outlook for computer scientists
The average salary for computer scientists is $92,159 per year. Your salary may vary depending on your geographic location, experience and industry. Computer scientists may also receive benefits like:
Remote work capabilities
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a job outlook of 21% for all computer and information research scientists. This projected growth between 2021 and 2031 is higher than the total projected growth for all occupations, meaning you're likely to find a job if you pursue this profession. The growth may result from the rapid increase in data collection by businesses and the increased emphasis on cybersecurity.
For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.
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