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Computer Scientists

Computer Scientists


Degrees and Education

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What you need:

  • A doctorate degree in computer science or a related field is necessary in order to obtain a research position as a computer scientist in top industries.
  • In the government or commercial sectors, a bachelor's degree in computer science, mathematics or engineering can often provide an entry point into computer science fields.

What you study:

Most computer science degree programs offer a practical background in programming languages and algorithm design. A typical course of study in computer science will include the following subjects:

  • Mathematics
  • Introduction to logic
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Computing architecture and structures
  • Theory of electrical engineering
  • Circuits and processes
  • Programming languages
  • Set theory

Specialized computer science programs may include advanced algorithm design, robotics studies, artificial intelligence design and project management courses as part of the overall curriculum.

What courses you'll take

Below are examples of courses that you'll likely take as a computer scientist student.

Course Studies Purpose
Introduction to Computer Science Uses of computers for individuals, organizations and societies (e.g., word-processing, mathematical analysis, database management, online interaction, etc.); ways in which computers make problem-solving more efficient and powerful; basics of hardware and software; technological evolution and current trends in computer science. Provide a broad overview of the computer science field and its applications.
Introduction to Programming Foundational concepts of programming; thinking and problem-solving as a programmer; designing, coding, testing and debugging programs; common programming languages (with an emphasis on simple scripting languages such as Python and JavaScript); practical applications of programming in web design and other multimedia fields. Familiarize students with basic programming concepts and techniques.
Algorithms Theory and application of algorithms (sets of step-by-step instructions that a computer follows), including data sorting, graphing and searching; dynamic programming (solving complex problems by breaking them down into components); designing algorithms that efficiently arrive at optimal solutions to problems. Prepare students to understand and create useful, efficient instructions for computers.
Programming With Data Structures Design and theory of data types (ways of classifying data in a computer) and data structures (ways of organizing various data types), including trees (nested hierarchical data structures) and hash tables (data structures organized as arrays); writing code to implement and manipulate data types and data structures. Give understanding of ideas and conventions underlying the organization of data in a computer.
Computer Organization and Architecture Low-level structure and layout of hardware and software (which correspond closely to the machine's most basic functions, as opposed to higher-level software that's designed for simplicity and ease of use); terms, concepts and principles involved in programming with assembly language (one of the lowest-level types of programming language). Ready students to work closely with a computer's fundamental architecture.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Core concepts and uses of intelligent computer systems; difficulties of designing software and hardware that can reliably carry out tasks that are simple for humans, such as visual recognition and verbal processing; approaches to tackling these problems via machine learning (processes by which computer systems can learn from data). Offer students a practical perspective on the uses of computerized intelligence.

Video Overview

A quick synopsis of the computer science career. Created for the US Department of Labor.


Certifications and Licensing

Although a number of industry-specific certifications are available for computer scientists, no licensing requirements or certifications are necessary in order to qualify for most positions in this technologically advanced field.


Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time: Computer scientists typically work full time in an office or laboratory environment. Some telecommuting positions may be available, and flexible schedules may be allowed or required for independent research projects and time-sensitive computing tasks.


Recommended Websites

For students interested in a career in computer science, these websites can provide added insight into the responsibilities and job prospects in this exciting field.

  • U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Handbook -- The most widely accepted source for information on job prospects, current employment trends and working conditions, the Occupational Handbook provides information on educational requirements and personal attributes that can help aspiring computer scientists succeed.
  • IEEE Computer Society -- The IEEE Computer Society can trace its roots back to the 1940s and the development of the first computer systems. Today, this membership organization publishes a number of scholarly journals and provides support for computer scientists in locating educational and employment opportunities and networking with others in their field.
  • The Association for Computing Machinery -- As the largest computer science membership organization in the world, ACM boasts over 100,000 members and publishes scientific journals in print and online. ACM also hosts numerous conferences throughout the year and provides its members with digital access to many of its proceedings and publications through a Digital Library system.
  • The Computing Research Association -- CRA is comprised of over 200 member academic departments representing computer science educators from throughout North America. As an advocacy group for computer scientists, CRA supports research and works to increase opportunities in the computer science field for women and minorities.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology -- A branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST is a working physical science laboratory and is responsible for creating standards and testing technological advances. NIST sponsors a number of conferences and workshops each year designed to provide training and information for computer scientists and others in the technology industry.
  • Artificial Intelligence Center -- Positioned at the cutting edge of computer science and information research technologies, the SRI International Artificial Intelligence Center is a comprehensive resource for computer scientists interested in the next generation of technological advances. The website offers information and news regarding current AI projects and a useful timeline for charting the progress of research in this important computer science field.


Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column -- for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$85,390$76K - $101K400.02%
ALHuntsville$104,680$65K - $150K2700.13%
AZPhoenix - Mesa - Glendale$95,830$56K - $121K1100.01%
CABakersfield - Delano$104,710$66K - $125K2700.10%
CALos Angeles - Long Beach - Glendale (Metro Area)$111,390$73K - $171KN/AN/A
CAOakland - Fremont - Hayward (Metro Area)$126,110$72K - N/A2900.03%
CAOxnard - Thousand Oaks - Ventura$107,770$74K - $145K1500.05%
CARiverside - San Bernardino - Ontario$84,940$37K - $134K1200.01%
CASacramento - Arden - Arcade - Roseville$103,520$46K - $118KN/AN/A
CASan Diego - Carlsbad - San Marcos$100,630$52K - $133K9300.07%
CASan Francisco - San Mateo - Redwood City (Metro Area)$119,870$70K - $166K7800.08%
CASan Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa Clara$114,510$71K - $179K1,8600.21%
CASanta Ana - Anaheim - Irvine (Metro Area)$110,320$80K - $176KN/AN/A
CASanta Barbara - Santa Maria - Goleta$126,010$83K - $168KN/AN/A
COBoulder$92,820$59K - $152K800.05%
COColorado Springs$92,550$68K - $116K400.01%
CODenver - Aurora - Broomfield$100,700$59K - $149K1000.01%
CTBridgeport - Stamford - Norwalk$58,380$37K - $132K300.01%
CTHartford - West Hartford - East Hartford$112,130$80K - $150K3400.06%
CTNorwich - New London$78,960$53K - $176KN/AN/A
DCWashington - Arlington - Alexandria (Metro Area)$117,990$80K - $171K1,4700.06%
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$82,570$55K - $119K1000.03%
FLJacksonville$90,230$79K - $112KN/AN/A
FLOrlando - Kissimmee - Sanford$82,560$46K - $117K800.01%
FLPalm Bay - Melbourne - Titusville$126,260$83K - $183K600.03%
GAAtlanta - Sandy Springs - Marietta$104,000$79K - $147K4000.02%
HIHonolulu$108,560$70K - $144K700.02%
ILChicago - Joliet - Naperville (Metro Area)$105,050$64K - $163KN/AN/A
INIndianapolis - Carmel$93,120$54K - $152KN/AN/A
MABoston - Cambridge - Quincy (Metro Area)$107,810$63K - $153K7900.05%
MDBaltimore - Towson$99,620$59K - $138K1,5200.12%
MDBethesda - Rockville - Frederick (Metro Area)$114,250$46K - $155K1,2800.23%
MIWarren - Troy - Farmington Hills (Metro Area)$94,850$69K - $116K700.01%
MNMinneapolis - St. Paul - Bloomington$123,850$84K - $185KN/AN/A
MOKansas City$85,780$55K - $123K1700.02%
MOSt. Louis$101,580$61K - $136KN/AN/A
NEOmaha - Council Bluffs$83,960$46K - $151K400.01%
NJAtlantic City - Hammonton$113,480$71K - $144K2100.15%
NJNewark - Union (Metro Area)$85,360$65K - $180K1500.02%
NJTrenton - Ewing$93,870$69K - $143KN/AN/A
NYAlbany - Schenectady - Troy$85,150$63K - $119K1700.04%
NYBuffalo - Niagara Falls$91,860$57K - $118K1200.02%
NYNassau - Suffolk (Metro Area)$99,100$58K - $167K600.00%
NYNew York - White Plains - Wayne (Metro Area)$78,600$36K - $140K4500.01%
NYPoughkeepsie - Newburgh - Middletown$72,050$61K - $106K400.02%
NYSyracuse$75,370$43K - $120K600.02%
NYUtica - Rome$90,540$73K - $133K1300.10%
OHDayton$100,500$64K - $134K1500.04%
OKOklahoma City$79,400$54K - $104K1300.02%
PAPhiladelphia (Metro Area)$90,340$58K - $140K2700.01%
PAPittsburgh$96,480$57K - $176KN/AN/A
RIProvidence - Fall River - Warwick$109,630$76K - $119K3700.07%
SCCharleston - North Charleston - Summerville$79,120$60K - $106K2500.09%
TNKnoxville$87,620$75K - $98K1000.03%
TNNashville - Davidson - Murfreesboro - Franklin$45,280$38K - $87K1600.02%
TXAustin - Round Rock - San Marcos$103,210$67K - $154K4300.05%
TXDallas - Plano - Irving (Metro Area)$44,440$33K - $152K5500.03%
TXFort Worth - Arlington (Metro Area)$97,590$69K - $147K600.01%
TXHouston - Sugar Land - Baytown$92,900$36K - $150K2000.01%
TXSan Antonio - New Braunfels$38,000$33K - $106KN/AN/A
UTOgden - Clearfield$81,810$56K - $97K1900.10%
UTSalt Lake City$66,290$48K - $91KN/AN/A
VACharlottesville$100,660$69K - $132K400.04%
VAVirginia Beach - Norfolk - Newport News$94,540$62K - $126K2900.04%
WASeattle - Bellevue - Everett (Metro Area)$103,400$63K - $154K3500.03%
WIMadison$90,530$54K - $181KN/AN/A