What you need to know
Computer and information research scientists invent and design new approaches to computing technology and find innovative uses for existing technology. They study and solve complex problems in computing for business, medicine, science, and other fields.
Most computer and information research scientists work full time. About 3 in 10 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2016.
Some of the things a computer or information research scientist might do:
- Explore fundamental issues in computing and develop theories and models to address those issues
- Help scientists and engineers solve complex computing problems
- Invent new computing languages, tools, and methods to improve the way in which people work with computers
- Develop and improve the software systems that form the basis of the modern computing experience
- Design experiments to test the operation of these software systems
- Analyze the results of their experiments
- Publish their findings in academic journals and present their findings at conferences
- Analytical skills: Computer and information research scientists must be organized in their thinking and analyze the results of their research to formulate conclusions.
- Communication skills: Computer and information research scientists must communicate well with programmers and managers and be able to clearly explain their conclusions to people with no technical background. They often present their research at conferences.
- Critical-thinking skills: Computer and information research scientists work on many complex problems.
- Detail oriented: Computer and information research scientists must pay close attention to their work because a small programming error can cause an entire project to fail.
- Ingenuity: Computer and information research scientists must continually come up with innovative ways to solve problems, particularly when their ideas do not initially work as intended.
- Logical thinking: Computer algorithms rely on logic. Computer and information research scientists must have a talent for reasoning.
- Math skills: Computer and information research scientists must have knowledge of advanced math and other technical topics that are critical in computing.
The average pay for computer and information research scientists in the United States ranges from $69,230 to $183,820 as of May 2018.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.
The research and development work of computer and information research scientists turns ideas into industry-leading technology. As demand for new and better technology grows, demand for computer scientists will grow as well.
Most computer and information research scientists need a master’s 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.