How to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientists seek out new innovations in the computing field. Discover what steps you need to take to enter this world.

portrait of Doug Wintemute
by Doug Wintemute

Published November 16, 2022

Edited by Cameren Boatner
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How to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist
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Computer and information research scientists revamp the way we use our computers. They experiment with algorithms and programming languages to develop new software that makes our lives easier.

If this sounds like a career you'd be interested in, read on to learn how to become a computer and information research scientist.

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What Is a Computer and Information Research Scientist?

Computer and information research scientists solve problems through new computing methods, technologies, and applications. They identify and investigate issues individuals, organizations, and industries face and develop and test solutions to overcome them. They seek out ways to increase performance, effectiveness, and efficiency via computers.

Their innovations may include new programming languages, hardware, or software. They also find new ways of using current technologies, such as applying them to a new industry or upgrading or repurposing them. Computer and information research scientists also test and analyze their innovations' performance.

What Are Some Key Computer and Information Research Scientist Skills?

  • Computer programming, systems, and applications
  • Calculus, statistics, arithmetic, and other advanced mathematics disciplines
  • Analytical and deductive reasoning
  • Data mining and analytics
  • Engineering, computer science, and telecommunications
  • Computer design and management
  • Communication and reporting
  • Organization and categorization

How to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist

To become a computer and information research scientist, you need a mix of education, skills, and experience. The following steps can help you enter the field via the most direct path.

Step 1: Learn Programming Languages

Computer and information research scientists need a strong grasp of multiple programming languages. Learning coding can start anytime and may include languages such as:

These languages cover mobile and web applications, web development, and database access.

With a foundation in one or several of these languages, you may find the introductory stages of your bachelor's program easier. Programming skills may also help in other classes or even with the application process. In addition to learning coding expertise, focus on building good programming habits and following the best practices.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Computer and information research scientists need a bachelor's degree. These professionals usually earn a computer-related degree, such as computer science or computer engineering.

Computer and information research scientists learn:

Step 3: Gain Some Job Experience

Many organizations prefer computer and information research scientists with more than five years of experience. You can build experience in many ways, including through internships and entry-level positions. Any job that introduces the design and development process, troubleshooting and technical issues, and computer support carries value.

You can pursue work in data analysis or computer systems and network administration. Professional experience informs many of the innovations and developments computer and information research scientists study.

Step 3: Get Certified

While computer and information research scientist careers don't need certifications, these credentials can help you promote your expertise and land your dream job. Certifications validate your experience and knowledge and can give you an edge in the job market. Some helpful certifications include:

The requirements to earn certifications vary, but they usually include a holding degree, having multiple years of experience, and passing an exam.

Step 4: Get a Master's Degree

Most computer and information research scientist positions require a master's degree at a minimum. Professionals in this field hold degrees in computer science, data science, computer engineering, and other computer-related areas.

These programs cover advanced topics in systems operations and management, programming, and design and development. They also provide research, analytical, and leadership skills.

At the master's level, you can usually specialize your studies in a computer subfield, such as software development, artificial intelligence, or databases. Specializations can improve your expertise and chances of getting a job in those fields.

Step 5: Start Applying for Computer and Information Research Scientist Jobs

After gaining the right education, experience, and credentials, prospective computer and information research scientists can start job searching. To best prepare for this step, refine and update your resume. You should also ensure you have a portfolio that showcases relevant and diverse projects.

Additional prep might include filling out social media and networking site profiles. Joining professional associations can also provide aspiring computer and information research scientists with access to valuable networks and job assistance.

How to Find Computer and Information Research Scientist Jobs

To find a computer and information research scientist job, you may follow leads from your professional network or association. Or, you may earn a full-time position from an internship employer. You can also send in job applications through major job boards, attend career fairs, or find a position with the help of your school's career services department.

Fortunately, the career outlook for these professionals looks strong. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 21% growth for computer and information research scientists from 2021-2031. This growth is over four times faster than the projected growth rate of 5% for all occupations.

What's the Average Computer and Information Research Scientist's Salary?

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for computer and information research scientists was $131,490 in May 2021. That works out to over $85,000 more than the median annual wage for all occupations. The top 10% of earners in the field made more than $208,000 annually.

Location also impacts your earnings, as per the BLS. In Oregon, the highest-paying state for these professionals, the mean annual wage was $166,450 in May 2021. In Louisiana — the lowest-paying state — the mean annual wage was $75,600.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Computer and Information Research Scientist

What do computer and information research scientists do?

Computer and information research scientists innovate the computing field. They design and develop new technologies, find new applications for current technologies, and look for computing solutions for people and organizations.

These professionals work with computer software and hardware, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and robotics. They may also specialize in certain industries or organizations. Computer and information research scientists perform a lot of research, testing, and reporting for their innovations.

How long does it take to become a computer and information research scientist?

Computer and information research scientists typically need a master's degree and computing experience to enter the profession. The length of time required to earn these credentials varies.

A bachelor's degree takes about four years to complete, and a master's degree takes about two years. Many organizations require a minimum of 3-5 years of experience or more.

Where does a computer research scientist work?

Computer and information research scientists can apply their skills to most computer occupations. According to the BLS, however, the federal government employs the largest workforce in this field. The next largest employment industries include computer systems design services and physical, engineering, and life sciences research.

Professionals looking for the highest wages may pursue careers in industries like information services, electronic component manufacturing, and controls instrument manufacturing.

Is computer science a good career?

Yes. Professionals trained in computer science can access a wealth of opportunities in computing. Those pursuing computer and information research scientist careers enjoy nearly triple the average wage and more than four times the average growth rate, as per the BLS.

This field also greatly contributes to society, solving our biggest computing problems and improving our effectiveness and efficiency. These professionals impact our manufacturing, healthcare systems, finances, and businesses.

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