Computer Scientist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Computer scientists require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Computer scientists conduct research to develop new computer technologies in order to solve problems in a variety of fields. A doctoral degree is usually required for this career although there might be some opportunities with only a bachelor's degree.

Essential Information

Computer scientists develop new technologies, systems and computer-based solutions. The most common educational requirement for advanced research positions in the field is a doctorate degree in computer science; however, those working for the federal government may hold only a bachelor's degree in computer science or a similar field. A career as a computer scientist is most suitable for those who have strong math skills and are detail-oriented.

Required Education Bachelor's or doctoral degree in computer science
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% (all computer and information research scientists)
Average Salary (2015)* $115,580 (all computer and information research scientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Computer scientists, also called computer and information scientists, can work for government agencies and private software publishers, engineering firms or academic institutions. Businesses and government agencies usually employ these scientists to develop new products or solve computing problems. Computer scientists employed by academic institutions are typically involved in more theoretical explorations of computing issues, often using experimentation and modeling in their research.


Computer scientists often work as part of a research team with computer programmers, information technology professionals, and mechanical or electrical engineers. Their research often is used to design new computer technology. They typically investigate technological topics like artificial intelligence, robotics or virtual reality. The results of their research can lead to the improved performance of existing computer systems and software as well as the development of new hardware or computing techniques and materials.


Most computer scientists hold a bachelor's degree with a major in computer science, information systems or software engineering. After completing this 4-year program, computer scientists often earn a Ph.D. in computer science, computer engineering or a similar area of study. This additional program includes coursework in hardware and software systems, program languages and computational modeling as well as a research project.

Job Outlook

In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that computer scientists earned a mean annual wage of approximately $115,580. The BLS also forecast that job opportunities for these professionals would increase 11% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than average.

Computer scientists not only work with cutting edge technologies, but they develop them too. Due to the amount of research that computer scientists conduct, those with a doctoral degree in either computer science or a related field will have the greatest prospects. If one wishes to specialize in his or her research, choosing a concentration in a particular subfield is ideal.

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