Computer and information research scientists create and improve technology. Driven by innovation, the field requires forward-thinking professionals with education and experience.
|Median Annual Salary||$118,370|
|Employment Growth Forecast from 2018-2028||16%|
|Number of New Jobs from 2018-2028||5,200|
|Average Entry-Level Education Requirements||Master's Degree|
|Annual Salary of the Highest 10%||$183,820|
|Annual Salary of the Lowest 10%||$69,230|
Source: BLS.gov: OOH, May 2018
Frequently Asked Questions
Most computer and information research scientists need a master's degree to enter the field, though students with a bachelor's degree may qualify for some government jobs.
Computer and information research scientists earned an annual average salary of $118,370 in 2018.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects computer scientist jobs to grow 16% through 2028, much faster than the national average for all occupations.
Most computer and information scientists work full time, amounting to about 40 hours per week.
Research scientists design and develop new technology to improve the efficiency of computer programs.
Computer scientists work with hardware and electrical engineers to solve complex computing problems and push software and hardware innovations forward.
A lucrative career in the growing information technology field, research scientists, especially those with data-mining and cybersecurity experience, enjoy expansive job opportunities.
What is a Computer and Information Research Scientist?
Computer and information research scientists improve existing technology and create new computer hardware and software. Compared to highly technical fields, like coding and programming, computer and information scientists focus more on the theories and concepts that drive technology.
Typically, computer and information scientists need a master's degree and, in some cases, specialized work experience for entry-level positions. Employers generally prefer to hire candidates with a degree accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
Alternate Job Titles for Computer and Information Research Scientists
- Computational Theory Scientist
- Computer Scientist
- Control System Computer Scientist
- Programming Methodology and Languages Researcher
What Does a Computer and Information Research Scientist Do?
Computer and information research scientists develop and improve computer hardware and software programs. They work with algorithms to cultivate computing languages and technological resources, like cloud storage and machine learning systems. These professionals focus on improvements like faster computing speeds, stronger network systems, and more reliable cybersecurity measures.
Computer scientists and researchers often work alongside hardware and electrical engineers to solve complex computer problems. As fields like medicine, business, and science increasingly rely on digital data and networking systems, computer and information research scientists are in high demand across many industries.
Computer scientists can pursue a specialized role, such as a control system computer scientist who manages computerized electrical/robotics systems using control loops. They can also work as a programming methodology and languages researcher, specializing in computer programming codes and communication. Most computer and information research scientists work in the federal government (excluding the post office), computer systems design, and research and development.
How to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist?
Most computer and information research scientists need a master's degree, ideally with approval from the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board (CSAB) and accreditation through ABET. CSAB approval and ABET accreditation expand employment opportunities for graduates and enable them to begin their career faster than if they earned a degree from a program without these credentials.
While computer scientists typically do not need a state license to practice, students may pursue voluntary professional certification to enhance their career opportunities. A variety of organizations offer vendor-specific and vendor-neutral certifications tailored to an individual's career goals. Popular vendor-specific certifications include CompTIA Security+ and CISSP.
Most employers prefer to hire computer and information research scientists with an advanced degree. Students can complete a bachelor's degree in information technology or computer systems before earning a master's degree. Though a master's degree is the most common entry-level education requirement, some employers in the federal government hire candidates with only a bachelor's degree.
Students may specialize in a field such as computer science, computational theory, or programming methodology and languages research. Such concentrations may include additional courses and career training throughout the course of a degree or certificate program.
While limited in scope and career preparation, some students pursue a computer science certificate prior to earning a degree. Some vocational schools and community colleges offer computer science certificates, which typically cover specific programming languages and types, such as Android, Java, and front- and back-end web programming.
Most certificate students graduate within one year of full-time study. Graduates qualify for some entry-level positions, such as a web programmer. They can also go on to pursue the degrees required for computer and information research science careers.
Associate Degree Programs
Though a master's degree is the entry-level requirement for computer and information research scientist jobs, an associate degree serves as an affordable first step to obtaining an advanced degree. Aspiring computer scientists can earn an associate degree in a field such as computer science or computer programming to prepare for entry into an ABET-accredited bachelor's program.
Most programs take two years of full-time study to complete. Coursework explores topics like database fundamentals, programming, and operating systems, typically culminating in an internship or hands-on capstone. Graduates with an associate degree can work as information security analysts, computer programmers, and support specialists.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
While most computer and information research scientist jobs require a master's degree, an ABET-accredited bachelor's degree prepares students to earn an advanced degree in the field. Graduates may also qualify for some entry-level computer and information research scientist jobs in the federal government.
Most bachelor's programs comprise about 120 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete, though some online programs offer faster completion times. Students may earn a bachelor of computer science or bachelor of arts in computer science, information technology, or information systems.
Master's Degree Programs
The entry-level requirement for most computer and information research science jobs, master's in computer science programs typically comprise 30-60 credits and take 2-3 years to complete. However, some part-time master's degrees extend courses over a five-year period, while accelerated online programs may offer expedited completion times.
Courses cover topics like systems engineering, computer architecture, and computer language theory. Most master's degrees offer concentrations in areas like security, analytics, and networks and culminate in a master's thesis or capstone requirement.
Doctoral Degree Programs
Computer and information research scientists may pursue career advancement through a doctoral degree, which qualifies graduates for top positions in the field. Ph.D. candidates may study general computer science topics or specialize in an area such as software engineering, language and information technologies, or robotics.
Most Ph.D. in computer science programs take 4-5 years to complete. Applicants typically need a master's degree for admission, but some Ph.D. programs accept an ABET-accredited bachelor's degree in lieu of a master's. Graduates can pursue top-level computer scientist positions in a variety of industries or work as tenure-track professors in colleges and universities.
Professional Licensure, Certification, and Development
While computer and information research scientists typically do not need a license to practice, optional certifications allow professionals to advance their careers and increase their competitiveness in the job market.
Computer and information research scientists can pursue certifications through organizations like the Association for Computing Machinery or IEEE Computer Society. ICEE Computer Society, for example, offers associate and professional software developer credentials, as well as professional software engineering master certification. Applicants typically must meet the education and experience requirements and pass an exam to earn credentials.
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