By CSDH Staff
A computer and information research scientist is an expert in the field of computer science. They receive education and training that puts them at the top of their field. The job offers high earnings–over six figures–and plenty of other benefits.
If you’re considering a career in computer research, this occupation is one to look at. In this article, we discuss what computer and information research scientists do. We explain the work of researchers in computer science, how much money they make, and what job outlook they can expect. We also talk about the education you need to work as a computer research scientist.
What is a Computer Scientist?
These specialized scientists use their training and knowledge of computers to solve existing problems. They devise solutions for complex situations that arise. They also help make computer technology more efficient in business and other industries. This means they make improvements in software technology or advance computer hardware capabilities.
Computer research needs these scientists. These professional researchers are responsible for finding vulnerabilities in software before malicious hackers cause damage. Without these professionals working on advanced problems, modern technology would not advance.
What Do Computer Scientists Do?
Computer and information research scientists typically spend many years studying the science behind what they do. This means they must have a strong grasp on:
- Computation theory
- Data structures
- Discrete mathematics
Their knowledge in these areas helps them find clever solutions to the most difficult problems faced in computer science. Rather than spending time coding on a computer, information research scientists work with a pen and paper. They balance equations and solve complex computing problems. They also look for efficient solutions to existing issues.
Computer and information research scientists invent new ways to solve problems. They are always looking for efficiency. Information research scientists create technologies and software. Their job is to solve problems.
How to Become a Research Scientist
The first step to beginning a career as an information research scientist is to earn a bachelor of science in computer science. But your degree track needs to be robust. It must also help transition you into graduate school.
A bachelor’s degree won’t always get you a job in this occupation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you need at least a master’s degree in computer science or a related field. In federal government, a four-year degree might open doors to some jobs. But most computer research scientists have a graduate degree or higher.
Best Majors for Computer and Information Research Jobs
Most information research scientists have undergraduate degrees in computer science. But this major isn’t the only one that will land you a job. Here are some of the best majors for future computer scientists and research scientists.
In this major, students learn how to apply math and scientific principles to design. They also work with computer hardware and computer systems. They analyze problems involved in computer applications and figure out ways to fix them. As a computer engineering major, plan on taking courses that cover topics such as:
- Computer architecture
- Computer hardware and organization
- Digital and computer systems
This major is one of the most popular choices for computer and information research scientists. In this major, aspiring research scientists learn about computer theory. They also study computing problems and solutions. Courses cover topics like:
- Complex computing problems
- Computer software and hardware
- Computing technology
- Data logic
- Data science and management
- Machine learning
Data science is a newer field of computers and technology. In this major, students learn math, statistics, and computer science. They learn to use algorithms and different statistical methods. They also use analytics software to extract information from large data sets. The courses you take in this major depend on the program, but most cover topics such as:
- Database systems
- Data mining and analytics
- Data science for control system computer scientist jobs
- Machine learning systems
- Software systems
Earning a PhD for Computer and Information Research Scientists Jobs
While you don’t need a PhD to land a job as an information research scientist, getting one won’t hurt. Organizations looking for serious candidates prefer those with graduate degrees. So, having a PhD as an information research scientist could land you a senior-level job.
Most PhD programs take six years to complete. Some programs go faster but many take longer. Plan on spending at least another four years on your graduate degree after earning your bachelor’s degree. Computer and information research scientists can earn doctoral degrees in computer engineering, data science, or another related discipline.
Job Experience for Computer and Information Research Scientists
Even if you’re a college student, you need to think about getting experience in the field. Employers prefer to hire computer and information research scientists with at least five years of work experience. As a student, you can look for creative ways to build experience. Internships and research opportunities are great ways to gain experience in the field.
You can also pursue part-time work that gives you experience working with existing technology. An aspiring control system computer scientist should look for training in computing technology and computer systems design.
Since computer and information research scientists work in many different fields doing many different tasks, look for positions that expose you to:
- Computer and information research
- Computer hardware
- Computer systems design
- Computing technology
- Data analysis
- Data science
- Machine learning systems
- Networking technology
- Programming languages
- Software development
- Software systems
Pay for Information Research Scientists
Computer and information research scientists earn $131,490/year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The top 10% of computer scientists working in this field earn over $208,000/year. But to make top dollar, you need PhD in a related discipline and years of experience.
Some industries offers a high information research scientist salary. Computer and information research scientists earn the best wages working in industries like:
- Computer systems design: $161,870/year
- Software development and publishing: $152,940/year
- Computer engineering, life, physical sciences research and development: $132,810/year
- Federal government: $112,310/year
Job Outlook for Computer and Information Research Scientists
The job outlook for computer and information research scientists is better than average. Job growth for this occupation is 21% through 2031. This means that 3,300 job openings should result each year over the next decade. Most openings will result from the need to replace workers who retire or transfer to different occupations.
Because the education requirements for computer and information research jobs are high, many companies say they have trouble finding qualified applicants. With this in mind, you can help solve a big employment problem by getting educated. You can put your passion for science and math to work. And if you have a PhD in computer and information science or a related field, you can qualify for top information research scientist jobs in the industry.
Skills Computer and Information Research Scientists Need
A computer and information research scientist is a unique career. To do the job, you need special skills and abilities. Here are some skills that make computer and information research scientists successful. If you have these skills, you might consider a career as a computer and information research scientist.
Whether you work to improve software systems or better networking technology, you need analytical skills. Successful computer and information research scientists have strong organization and analytical skills.
In computer science, what they do as researchers depends on how well they can communicate their findings. Being a good communicator helps computer and information research scientists succeed on the job.
Information research scientists work with other computer professionals. They convey information about computer systems and computer hardware. They also work alongside programmers and managers. On computing technology projects, computer and information research scientists work with engineers. They must have strong interpersonal skills.
It should come as no surprise that information research scientists work with numbers. They use their math skills to conduct computer and information research. Information research scientists create new computing languages and faster computing speeds. To solve complex problems, you need good math skills.
The education computer scientists get helps them develop excellent problem-solving skills. Computer and information research scientists invent new computer software and help improve computer engineering. Their job is to solve problems in different fields of computer engineering and data science.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are common questions asked about the career path for computer and information research scientists.
Do you need a PhD to work as a computer and information research scientist?
The short answer? Yes. You need a PhD to work as a computer and information research scientist. Most employers want candidates who are experts in the field. They are not looking for computer professionals with basic knowledge. They want candidates who are leading research efforts, publishing in academic journals, and making technological advancements.
With a PhD, you can better your chance of getting a job as a computer and information research scientist.
Can you find work with a bachelor’s degree?
Computer scientists can find work with a bachelor’s degree. But computer and information research scientists need more education for the best job prospects. The minimum education requirement for most computer and information research jobs is a master’s degree. Many require a PhD.
But the federal government does hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree in computer and information science. These federal government jobs are entry-level and do not allow for advancement unless you go back to school.
Are there specialties for computer and information research scientists?
There are two kinds of specialties common for computer and information research scientists. These include:
Computer and information research scientists specializing in programming study and design new programming languages. They use these languages to write software. They create new software languages and new computing languages. They also help improve current languages.
Computer and information research scientists can also study the development and application of robots. This specialization can help you gain knowledge in how a machine interacts with the physical world. In this specialty, you can learn how information gets processed or sensory feedback received.
Both specialties are current. They change and evolve as new technologies emerge. This is why both are popular areas in PhD programs for those studying to become computer and information research scientists.
What are the job duties of computer and information research scientists?
Now that we’ve answered the question: what is a research scientist? Let’s take a look at the most common job duties.
An information research scientist performs many tasks. Here are some of the jobs one carries out as a computer and information research scientist.
- Analyze and solve complex computing problems
- Develop new programming languages that improve the efficiency of computer and information research
- Find ways to make better networking technology useful to an organization or business
- Make technological advancements and faster computing speeds
- Manage computer hardware and software and improve computer systems design
- Work with existing technology and find ways to improve it for other computer professionals
- Write papers for publication in academic journals and present research findings at conferences
How do computer and information research scientists advance?
Computer and information research scientists typically advance through education and experience. A PhD will get you the job, but your computer software research and advancements will help you advance.
Computer and information research management and team leader roles are available for qualified research scientists. These are computer scientists who exhibit leadership capabilities. They solve complex problems and have superior information research scientist skills. Some start out as lower level managers and advance to higher positions.
How long does it take to become a computer and information scientist?
Now that we’ve answered the question: what does a research scientist do? You might wonder how long it takes to become one. Research scientists have PhDs. The education process takes time. Plan on spending at least six to eight years in college. Few online PhD programs exist, so plan on earning your degree the traditional way.
But with hard work and effort, you can earn a PhD that will qualify you for computer and information research scientists jobs. The degree will also help you advance in your career.