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Computer Science Careers

Career Description

A Computer Scientist works as a theorist, researcher, or inventor. Their jobs are distinguished by the higher level of theoretical expertise and innovation they apply to complex problems and the creation or application of new technology. The areas of computer science research range from complex theory to hardware design to programming-language design. Some researchers work on multidisciplinary projects, such as developing and advancing uses of virtual reality, extending human-computer interaction, or designing robots.

Common Work Tasks

  • Analyze problems to develop solutions involving computer hardware and software
  • Apply theoretical expertise and innovation to create or apply new technology, such as adapting principles for applying computers to new uses
  • Conduct logical analyses of business,  scientific, engineering, and other technical problems, formulating mathematical models of problems for solution by computers
  • Participate in multidisciplinary projects in areas such as virtual reality, human-computer interaction, or robotics
  • Assign or schedule tasks in order to meet work priorities and goals
  • Consult with users, management, vendors, and technicians to determine computing needs and system requirements
  • Design computers and the software that runs them
  • Maintain network hardware and software, direct network security measures, and monitor networks to ensure availability to system users
  • Develop performance standards, and evaluate work in light of established standards

Other Job Titles

Computer Scientists are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Computer Support Specialists
  • Database Administrators
  • Computer Engineers
  • Computer Systems Analysts
  • Systems Programmers
  • Applications Programmers

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for many jobs; however,  relevant work experience also is very important. For more technically complex jobs, persons with graduate degrees are preferred. Most computer scientist positions require a Ph.D. degree, as their main job function is research.  Computer scientists having only a bachelor’s or master’s degree are generally limited in their ability to advance.

  Computer scientists must be able to think logically and have good communication skills.  Because they often deal with a number of tasks simultaneously, the ability to concentrate and pay close attention to detail also is important.


The median annual salary for a Computer Scientist is $98,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $146,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $56,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of computer scientists are:

  • Computer Systems Design and Related Services - $102,790
  • Federal Executive Branch - $91,380
  • Scientific Research and Development Services - $100,220
  • Software Publishers - $115,640
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools - $67,200

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  22%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 5,400
  • Employment 2006 : 25,000
  • Employment 2016:  31,000

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