What Is a Computer Information and Research Scientist and How do I Become One?

FT Contributor
A computer information and research scientist analyses a hard disk.
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Computer and information research scientists create and improve computer hardware and software. They design and invent new technology or find new uses for current computer systems and applications.

As tech experts, computer and information research scientists grapple with complex computing problems that have applications in science, medicine, business, education, and other areas.

Most of these computer scientists work for firms that focus on computer systems design or companies that have research and development departments. Many also work for the government, government agencies, or private contractors and think tanks that work with the government or with companies and organizations. Universities and other academic institutions hire computer and information research scientists as well.

Computer information and research scientists need a high level of expertise, so they are often among the most well-paid workers in the tech industry.

Computer and Information Research Scientist Job Description

Computer and information research scientists work with software and hardware.

They create new computer languages or use existing languages to develop algorithms. Algorithms are a set of instructions that tell the computer to perform a specific task.

In addition to working on cloud computing systems, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual reality, computer information and research scientists may work on existing systems. They could change or simplify algorithms to make software or systems more efficient.

Some computer and information research scientists work with computer hardware. They perform duties such as designing, engineering, and testing new computer architecture. They may also work on embedded systems, which are computers used to control machinery, sensors, or other equipment.

These experts are at the forefront of tech development. Regardless of their employer or setting, computer and information research scientists focus on creating faster computers and computer components, more secure networks, more capable software, or more efficient algorithms.

While computer and information network scientists often create practical improvements, the work is also theoretical. In this career, your job duties often involve coming up with new ideas and testing them.

For example, some of the theories behind the development of technology, such as artificial intelligence, are based on research performed decades ago in an academic setting. Even today, some researchers work for universities and focus on theoretical topics. They publish the results of their studies in academic journals or give presentations to other researchers at conferences.

Computer scientists who work for companies, organizations, or the government often focus on projects with applications in the real world. In these cases, they may collaborate with others. For example, when developing computer hardware or embedded systems, a computer and information research scientist may work alongside electrical engineers or computer engineers.

Some computer and information research scientists focus on a specific area. For example, some may focus on data science. They write algorithms that help organize large data sets or test algorithms for specific applications in medicine, urban planning, or financial forecasts.

Computer and information research scientists may also work on robotics. In this setting, you use programs and embedded systems to design and test robotic equipment that can interact with the environment or perform specific tasks. A computer scientist who focuses on robotics may work on particular areas such as machine learning or artificial intelligence.

In addition to working with existing languages, some computer and information research scientists can develop new computer programming languages. In this setting, you then test the language and make changes as necessary. These languages can be for theoretical purposes, or they can have real-world applications.

Computer and Information Research Scientist Salary

The average salary for computer and information research scientists is $118,370, and most salaries are in the $69,230 to $183,820 range. Pay depends on factors such as education, experience, location, and industry in which the computer and information research scientist works.

What Are Computer and Information Research Scientist Qualifications?

Qualifications may vary depending on the details of a computer and information research scientist job. However, most positions in this field require at least a master’s degree in computer science or a computer science-related specialty such as machine learning, data science, or computer engineering. A bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum requirement, so if you have ambitions to work in this field, you need to attend college.

Some positions, especially those at academic institutions, require a Ph.D. Both master’s and Ph.D. degrees take two to three years to complete (after a four-year undergraduate degree). During graduate-level studies, you can develop research skills.

Specialists who work with algorithms need mathematical skills. At the same time, all positions require critical thinking and analytical abilities to perform research, plan experiments, and assess outcomes.

Since professionals in this field work on new concepts, they need the creativity and ingenuity to come up with unique ideas and problem-solving abilities to apply their computer knowledge and skills to complex tech issues.

Finally, this career requires the ability to pay attention to details. In this career, you have to deal with complex equations and computer code, and one small error could lead to the failure of an entire test or experiment.

Computer and Information Research Scientist Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected in 2018 that the demand for computer and information research scientists would increase by 16% by 2028. This rise in demand is faster than a 12% increase for all computer occupations and the 5% growth rate for all professional occupations in the U.S.

The demand for computer science experts comes from new advances in the tech sector, the rise of big data, an increase in the use of embedded computer systems, and the need for increased cybersecurity.

Should I Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist?

You may find enjoyment in this career if you have both technical skills and creativity. Computer and information research scientists need the scientific ability to perform research and drive innovation, and they also need to come up with new ways to use computers to solve problems and address issues.

In this career, you need to be able to think logically and pay close attention to detail so that you can complete complex experiments and tests. At the same time, you also need communication skills to explain your innovations to a broader audience and to work with other experts to research theories and develop new hardware and computer systems.

Computer and information research scientists often work as part of a research or development team. Therefore, they need the ability to work with others as part of a team and to coordinate with experts on designs, research, and testing.

Creativity and communication are essential in this field. However, to thrive as a computer and information system, you also need strong math and analytical skills, especially if you are in a job that involves writing algorithms.

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