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What Computer and Information Research Scientists Do About this section

Computer and information research scientists
Some computer scientists create programs to control robots.

Computer and information research scientists design innovative uses for new and existing technology. They study and solve complex problems in computing for business, science, medicine, and other fields.

Duties

Computer and information research scientists typically do the following:

  • Explore problems in computing and develop theories and models to address those problems
  • Collaborate with scientists and engineers to solve complex computing problems
  • Determine computing needs and system requirements
  • Develop new computing languages, software systems, and other tools to improve how people work with computers
  • Design and conduct experiments to test the operation of software systems, frequently using techniques from data science and machine learning
  • Analyze the results of their experiments
  • Write papers for publication and present research findings at conferences

Computer and information research scientists create and improve computer software and hardware.

To create and improve software, computer and information research scientists work with algorithms: sets of instructions that tell a computer what to do. Some difficult computing tasks require complex algorithms, which these scientists simplify to make computer systems as efficient as possible. These simplified algorithms may lead to advancements in many types of technology, such as machine learning systems and cloud computing.

To improve computer hardware, these scientists design computer architecture. Their work may result in increased efficiencies, such as better networking technology, faster computing speeds, and improved information security.

The following are examples of specialties for computer and information research scientists:

Programming. Some computer and information research scientists study and design new programming languages that are used to write software. New languages make software writing efficient by improving an existing language, such as Java, or by simplifying a specific aspect of programming, such as image processing.

Robotics. These scientists study the development and application of robots. They explore how a machine can interact with the physical world. For example, they may create systems that control the robots or design robots to have features such as information processing or sensory feedback.

Some computer and information research scientists work on multidisciplinary projects with electrical engineers, computer hardware engineers, and other specialists. For example, robotics specialists and engineers who design robots’ hardware may team up to test whether the robots complete tasks as intended.

Work Environment About this section

Computer and information research scientists
Computer and information research scientists improve ways to sort, manage, and display data.

Computer and information research scientists held about 32,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of computer and information research scientists were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service 28%
Computer systems design and related services 19
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 16
Software publishers 8
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 6

Some scientists collaborate with engineers or other specialists or research scientists in different locations and do much of their work online.

Work Schedules

Most computer and information research scientists work full time.

How to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist About this section

computer and information research scientists image
Some computer scientists specialize in computer languages.

Computer and information research scientists typically need at least a master’s degree in computer science or a related field. In the federal government, a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some jobs.

Education

Most computer and information research scientists need a master’s or higher degree in computer science or a related field, such as computer engineering. A master’s degree usually requires 2 to 3 years of study after earning a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, such as computer science or information systems. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who have a Ph.D. Others, such as the federal government, may hire candidates who have a bachelor’s degree.

Computer and information research scientists who work in a specialized field may need knowledge of that field. For example, those working on biomedical applications may need to have studied biology.

Advancement

Some computer and information research scientists advance to become computer and information systems managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Computer and information research scientists must be organized in their thinking to evaluate the results of their research.

Communication skills. Computer and information research scientists must be able to clearly explain their research, including to a nontechnical audience. They write papers for publication and present their research at conferences.

Detail oriented. Computer and information research scientists must pay close attention to their work, such as when testing the systems they design. Small programming errors could affect an entire project.

Interpersonal skills. Computer and information research scientists must work effectively with programmers and managers. They also may be on teams with engineers or other specialists.

Logical thinking. Computer and information research scientists must use sound reasoning when working on algorithms.

Math skills. Computer and information research scientists need a solid grasp of advanced math and other technical subjects critical to computing.

Problem-solving skills. Computer and information research scientists must think creatively to find innovative solutions in their research.

Pay About this section

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Median annual wages, May 2020

Computer and information research scientists

$126,830

Computer occupations

$91,250

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for computer and information research scientists was $126,830 in May 2020. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $72,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $194,430.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for computer and information research scientists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Software publishers $145,920
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 140,000
Computer systems design and related services 136,950
Federal government, excluding postal service 112,930
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 82,220

Most computer and information research scientists work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Computer and information research scientists

15%

Computer occupations

11%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The research and development of computer and information research scientists turns ideas into technology. As demand for new and better technology grows, demand for computer scientists will grow as well.

Rapid growth in data collection by businesses will lead to an increased need for data-mining services. Computer scientists will be needed to write algorithms that help businesses make sense of very large amounts of data.

A growing emphasis on cybersecurity also should lead to new jobs, because computer scientists will be needed to find innovative ways to prevent cyberattacks.

In addition, an increase in demand for software may increase the need for computer scientists who create new programming languages to make software writing more efficient.

Job Prospects

About 3,000 openings for computer and information research scientists are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment projections data for computer and information research scientists, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Computer and information research scientists

15-1221 32,700 37,700 15 5,000 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about computer and information research scientists, visit

Association for Computing Machinery

Computing Research Association

IEEE Computer Society

For information about opportunities for women pursuing information technology careers, visit

National Center for Women & Information Technology

To find job openings for computer and information research scientists in the federal government, visit 

USAJOBS

CareerOneStop

For a career video on computer and information research scientists, visit

Computer and Information Research Scientists

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Computer and Information Research Scientists

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