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Computer Scientist

Computer Scientists are professionals in algorithms, software development, computational theory, artificial intelligence, data sciences and analyses.




Computer Scientists are the broad group of individuals who utilize their skills to perform, develop, and improve computation. Computation is all around us: On our laptops, in our phones, running web services, sending text messages, and more. The needs for computation also grow as we continue to expand into diverse areas, such as computational research and the growing need to protect computational systems from cybersecurity threats.

Computer Scientists are individuals who work to address computational systems. Areas of specialization allow Computer Scientists to work in completely different lines of work, despite sharing a title! Some areas of specialization include:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): AI and ML systems utilize learning algorithms to allow the data and programs do the computing in place of a human. A human may have minimal interaction in these tasks, with Computer Scientists developing softwares that utilize these AI and ML methods to allow computers perform the work themselves.

Cloud Computing: Web based systems, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, are becoming the default for many businesses to run their operations. Computer Scientists work to implement algorithms that utilize these services to outsource computation, allowing powerful computation that does not require in-house resources.

Computer Graphics: The Graphical User Interface (GUI) was the founding invention of computers, allowing users to simply drag and drop files, type into websites, and perform tasks with a visual feedback. Computer Graphics specialists work to create and manipulate images and videos on devices to optimize for all uses, from business to entertainment.

Cybersecurity: As the world continues to invest in relaince in computational systems, computers have become an increasingly valuable target to cybersecurity attacks. Malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks are used to convince both digital citizens and companies to exchange money and/or information, or face consequences. Computer Scientists and IT specialists in Cybersecurity focus on securing computational systems to protect and prevent these attacks.

Data Science: Due to the increasing presence of computers in the world, data is being produced at unprecedented rates from these systems and is known as "Big Data". Companies work to utilize Big Data in conjunction with other data sets for enhanced decision making. Computer Scientists work to collect this data, aggregate it, and ultimately make sense of it using statistical methods and visualization.

Networking: Computer networks are a collective of devices that exchange resources and data to make their processes more efficient. For example, businesses or even a campus such as Purdue University often rely on creating a computer network to share information between their devices. For these systems to work, a Computer Scientist or IT specialist must build and enhance data transport methods to keep systems running at their best, at all times. 

Software Engineering: Companies who focus on app or product development for very specific purposes will employ Software Engineers for their programming skills. These individuals will be responsible for building the program itself!


Educational Requirements

Many of the requirements to enter the field of Computer Scientist are specific to role and discipline an individual is interested in. At the core, the best foundation is to start with a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science, Data Science, Mathematics, Information Technology, or a related field. Coursework and developed skills are a main focus, therefore taking courses in Computer Science that cover Computer Science Principles, Compilers, Data Science, Data Structures, Systems Programming, and courses that apply to the field of interest are a good start. While an advanceed degree, such as a Master's or Ph.D. in Computer Science, is not required it may be beneficial to the role or career advancement.

An important quality to employers is the ability to validate computational skills. This is often done in the form of a technical interview. One way that job applicants and early graduates choose to demonstrate their skills is through a public Github repository. This allows outside viewers to log in and view previous projects that you have developed, including downloading and running your code.


Salary Information 2022

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a Computer and Information Research Scientist in 2022 was $136,620.


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Information retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET: Computer and Information Research Scientists

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