How to Become a

Computer Scientist

The complete career guide to be a Computer Scientist: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $115,580
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 10.5%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute

Computer scientists study how computer data and instructions are processed, stored and communicated to and from different computers.  It involves designing software, and helps answer some fundamental scientific questions regarding the nature and theory of computation.

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What is a Computer Scientist?

The following responsibilities are common for Computer Scientists:

  • Identifies and solves complex technological and computation problems in businesses and corporations
  • Applies and adapts theoretical principles to develop new computer software and hardware solutions
  • Consults with end-users, managers and clients to determine computing goals and system requirements
  • Conducts research involving computation experimentation and modeling
  • Develops new software and/or hardware, computing techniques and  systems materials

A Day In The Life

Computer scientists research and develop new computer technologies in order to solve software and hardware issues in a variety of industries.  Businesses usually hire these individuals to solve computing problems or to develop new software or products.  These individuals are generally found involved with more theoretical aspects of computing issues, often times using experimentation and modeling in their research.

These scientists typically work along side computer programmers, IT specialists and mechanical and software engineers.  They often work in teams and their research is directed towards developing new technology.  Their research usually involves subjects like artificial intelligence, robotics and virtual reality.  Through their research, these scientists attempt to improve things like, improved performance of existing software, larger data capacity, development of new and improved computing techniques and development of new hardware and materials.

Typical Work Schedule

Most computer scientists work full-time following the regular working schedule of 40 hours per week. However, as you get more and more experienced and have more important positions in whatever organization you work for, longer hours will be needed to meet deadlines. This includes working on evenings and weekends as well as being ready and on-call whenever needed. In addition, working in the field of computer science requires constant improvement and self-study to be able to keep up with the continuous advances in technology and produce good results for your organization. This may include constant research, study as well as attending meeting, conferences and other professional gatherings which will also increase the working hours beyond the standard schedule.

Projected Job Growth

According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, the employment of computer scientists is expected to increase by about 15% from 2009 to 2019. This rate is much faster than the average expected growth rate for other jobs. The field of computer science is fueling many of the recent life-changing technologies and will continue to do so in the coming years. This explains why the demand for computer scientists will only continue to increase. In addition, the huge technological shift that happened in recent years due to the huge amount of data collected and analyzed will need the proper algorithms that will enable companies to extract the vital information companies need. Another increasingly important field is cybersecurity which will provide computer scientist with more job opportunities.

Typical Employers

The value of the computer industry in the US is estimated to be more than $1.8 trillion with more than 11.8 million jobs. Computer scientists have a wide range of employers that seek their skills to secure an edge in today’s constantly changing economy. Employers include the Federal government itself which employs computer scientists for different purposes. Other employers include corporations working in computer systems design and other related fields which ranges from the huge corporations like Google and Facebook, or smaller companies. Some computer scientists may prefer working in Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences while others will prefer working for Software publishers. Another option is freelance work which has been on the rise in recent years. Finally, many computer scientists and researchers will prefer working for Colleges, universities, and professional schools where they can instruct the coming generations on this important field.

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How To Become a Computer Scientist

Individuals that want to pursue a career in computer science must have a deep understanding and interest in computers.  Computer scientists positions, particularly in business and academics, requires at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, systems analysis or a related field of study.  Such a degree typically takes anywhere from three or more years to complete.  Coursework should include classes in computer hardware, software systems, program languages, data analysis and computation modeling.  They need to be able to apply the fundamental application of solutions to practical problems involving the computer’s hardware and software and study algorithms and data structures. Individuals can specialize in a vast array of fields including but not limited to, smartphones, airplanes or medical robotics.  These individuals must also have the capability of anticipating and diagnosing problems.  As well as the ability to take a systematic approach to their research and and problem solving and working well individually or in a team with other professionals.

Computer Scientist Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Computer Scientist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Computer Scientist's can make an average annual salary of $115,580, or $56 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $86,570 or $42 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #37 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Computer Scientist. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Computer Scientists

  • 25.9%   Doctorate
  • 28%   Masters
  • 38.3%   Bachelors
  • 2.1%   Associates
  • 4.7%   College
  • 1.1%   High School
  • 0%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Computer Scientist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 2,700 jobs for a total of 28,300 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 10.5% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #172 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Computer Scientists

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Federal government, excluding postal service 7,100 -700 -1%
Computer systems design and related services 4,700 1,000 1%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 3,000 200 0%

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