What Does a Computer Scientist Do? - Job Description & Average Salary

If you enjoy technology, you might want to consider a career as a computer scientist. Here's what you'll need to know, from the job description and educational requirements to the job duties and outlook. Schools offering Computer Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Computer scientists work on new and existing computer systems, using theory and algorithms to solve complex computing problems. Most entry-level computer scientists hold a master's degree in a field related to computing -- computer science, computer engineering or information technology. For more information on the computer science field, see our chart below.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Computer science, computer engineering
Key Skills Coding, mathematics, analytical thinking
Job Growth (2016-2026) 19% (computer and information research scientists)*
Median Salary (2017) $114,520 per year (computer and information research scientists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Computer Scientists Do?

If you love having faster internet or a smartphone that does more and more incredible things, you might have a computer scientist to thank. Computer scientists study the ways in which computers can help society solve important problems. They do this in a range of ways. Some work primarily in computing theory, coming up with ideas to push computing into new territory. Some work with robotics to help us use robots to make life simpler. And others invent or improve languages to help humans interact with computers in a more meaningful and efficient way.

What Does it Take to Become a Computer Scientist?

The majority of computer scientists need a master's degree to get a job in the field. First, most get a bachelor's degree in a related subject such as information systems or computer science. After that, there are typically another two or three years of postgraduate study. The computer science field includes a fair amount of specialization (biomedical, robotics, programming) so it can help to have coursework within the specification. For example, a computer scientist who wants to work in the biomedical field would benefit from courses in biology.

Where Do Computer Scientists Work?

Because their work is important to so many facets of society, computer scientists can choose to work in a variety of disciplines. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 28% work for the federal government, 20% work in the computer systems design industry and another 17% work in research and development. Institutions of learning and software developers made up another portion, at 8% and 6%, respectively.

How Much Can You Make as a Computer Scientist?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported its most recent salary statistics for computer scientists in May 2017. According to BLS data, the median salary for a computer scientist at that time was $114,520. Software publishers and computer scientists in the engineering, physical and life sciences industries earned the most.

Will the Field of Computer Science Grow?

As we become more and more dependent on computers for manufacturing, entertainment, medical procedures and more, the need for computer scientists will grow. The BLS projects that employment for computer and information research scientists will increase by 19% between 2016 and 2026, which is significantly faster than the national average for all other careers. Of course, computer science is a relatively small field, so that increase represents around 5,400 more jobs within that period.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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