Degrees and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Doctoral or Professional|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||24,880|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||3.4%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||1,060|
What's needed: 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, however, a bachelor's degrees in computer science, mathematics or engineering can often provide an entry point into the computer science field for many applicants.
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:
- 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.
A quick synopsis of the computer science career. Created for the US Department of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a computer scientist specialist, you may work alone or as part of a team to create solutions for a wide range of computing needs. Depending on your area of expertise and your chosen career path, you may perform pure research tasks designed to provide insights into new programming languages, new algorithms for resolving mathematical and scientific questions and new lines of inquiry in the computer science field.
During the course of a typical day, you may take part in any or all of the following tasks:
- Designing new software solutions to meet exact specifications
- Creating algorithms using a wide range of programming languages
- Debugging and modifying code
- Meeting with colleagues to review programming challenges
- Creating mobile versions of software packages
- Developing new programming techniques and processes
- Researching new methods of computing and managing information effectively
- Performing computerized analysis of data
- Sharing your findings with others through online or print publications
As you gain experience and programming expertise, your employer may assign you to a lead position on a team as a software analyst or project manager. These positions will put your people skills to work as you motivate and guide your team through the software development process. At top levels, your job duties may even include start-to-finish software design activities that will challenge your creativity and problem-solving skills.
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.
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.
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.