How to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist

Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep

The role of a computer and information research scientist differs greatly from most computer science professionals. They work on a theoretical level to invent technology based on new discoveries. If your desired career path is along these lines, then this guide on how to become a computer and information research scientist is for you.

As the job title suggests, you can expect to do a lot of math and science research as you try to discover more about how computers work and what more they can do. This job requires higher-order thinking and computer skills. It takes serious commitment and continuous effort.

This guide contains information about salaries, skills and expectations, degrees that you can consider, and more.

What Is a Computer and Information Research Scientist?

A computer and information research scientist researches new ways to use technology. They also look for ways to upgrade existing technology. An offshoot of computer science, this career path focuses on testing and development as integral parts of research.

Computer and information research scientists play a huge role in leading technological advancements. They also provide solutions for computer-based problems and tend to thrive in different kinds of industry.

Some areas of knowledge that you need to master to become a computer and information scientist are programming, robotics, and data science. It is a job that requires intelligence and focus.

Computer and Information Research Scientist Salary and Job Outlook

In 2020, the median salary for a computer and information research scientist was $126,830, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2019 alone, there were 32,700 Americans working in this profession. The outlook for this field is also promising, with a projected 15 percent increase in the number of jobs by 2029.

The top five places where computer and information research scientists work are the federal executive branch, scientific research and development services, computer systems design, software publishers, and colleges and universities.

With a higher-than-average job outlook, you can expect more doors to open in the computer and information research science field. More of these professionals will be needed to innovate and improve the computing technology that continues to be central to our lives.

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Entry-Level Computer and Information Research Scientist Job Requirements

Computer and information research scientists work on complicated technologies and as such, they require a mastery of relevant theoretical concepts. Because of this, employees typically hire individuals with a master’s degree for this role.

According to PayScale, an entry-level computer and information scientist makes about $105,000, so there is room to work your way to a higher salary once you’ve made it into the profession. California, Virginia, and Maryland are the three states with the highest employment rate for this role, per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How to Ace Your Computer and Information Research Scientist Job Interview

To ace an interview for this role, you need to demonstrate that you are well versed in computer science and in various approaches to computing technology.

Additionally, you need to polish your soft skills and tackle the interview confidently. Interviews can sometimes get technical, so do not be surprised if you’re asked to explain specific computer science topics. Below are some commonly asked questions that will give you a rough idea of what to expect in an interview.

Common Computer and Information Research Scientist Job Interview Questions

  • What are the primary and most significant parts of a computer?
  • What programming languages do you use commonly and why?
  • What is multiple inheritance and can you cite its advantages and disadvantages?
  • Can you describe a computer science project that you were able to accomplish, either with a group or individually?

What Degree Should I Get to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist?

A majority of employers looking to hire would expect applicants to have completed a master’s degree. Hence, you need to have a good foundation to excel in graduate school. While it may be possible to qualify with a relevant bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree is preferred.

Associate Degree in Computer Science or Information Sciences

An associate degree in information science or computer science helps expand your skillset. It can also help prepare you for a bachelor’s degree and increase your job prospects. This program involves understanding and solving software and program issues.

You will learn the inner workings of different systems. This will lead you to provide effective solutions when software or hardware fails. The topics will help you get familiarized with computer work and network issues.

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering

Part of a computer and information research scientist’s job is to understand how a computer works. One of the undergraduate degrees that you can consider is computer engineering as it deals with designing and developing new technologies.

Through this degree, you will get in-depth insights into how networks and programs work. You can also master programming languages like Python, JavaScript, and C#.

Master’s Degree in Computer Science

Once you have completed your undergraduate degree, it would be best to take it up a notch and explore a master’s degree in computer science. You will learn complex mathematical and scientific concepts that are integral to computing and information technology.

You will also learn how to develop critical and strategic thinking as you discover several ways to design computer systems. You will gain experience conducting research into how to apply computing techniques to real-world problems.

Computer Science Doctoral Degree

It would take around four to five years of study to obtain a doctoral degree in computer science. However, a PhD could help propel your career as a computer and information research scientist. Research is heavily involved in attaining a PhD, so you can take this as an opportunity to complete an original research project.

Moreover, a PhD in computer science allows you to specialize. Some of the specializations you can dabble in are software engineering, computational biology, robotics, machine learning, and more.

What Does a Computer and Information Research Scientist Do?

A computer and information research scientist deals with data science, robotics, and more. All the tasks involve higher-order thinking since much of the work is theoretical. The following responsibilities are what your master’s program will train you to do.

Provide Solutions to Complex Computing Problems

Part of your job is to assist scientists and engineers to develop solutions for real-world computing problems. There are a lot of issues with computing technology that still require attention. Hence, your goal as a computer and information research scientist is to constantly seek ways to simplify models, find solutions, and make computing less complicated.

Invent New Computing Technologies

Technological advancements are a must in today’s age. Scientists always seek new ways to use existing technology and this would be one of your primary duties as well. Aside from utilizing existing technologies, you are also expected to develop new ones that could potentially bring positive impacts to more people.

Develop Software Systems

There are a lot of organizations and businesses that turn to software to streamline their processes. One of your main responsibilities is to develop software systems that could potentially be used by a specific group of people or the general public.

Essential Computer and Information Research Scientist Skills

You should be able to exhibit critical and analytical skills in your work as a computer and information research scientist. Other essential skills require knowledge of programming, data science, and robotics and machine learning.

Programming Skills

Learning how to code using various programming languages is a must for this job because you need to be able to feed instructions to a computer. You have to be able to communicate with a computer to conduct information research.

Data Science Skills

Data plays a huge part in being a successful computer and information research scientist because you deal with numbers at every turn. You need to be able to manage, process, visualize, and interpret data effectively. This would also come in handy when you need to present your data and justify your findings.

Robotics and Machine Learning Skills

Automation is important in the computer science field. Oftentimes, computer and information research scientists deal with robotics and machine learning when looking to simplify processes. Building a solid foundation in these areas is highly advantageous as it allows you to explore more topics as a researcher.

How to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist:
A Step-by-Step Guide

The road to becoming a computer and information research scientist may be challenging, but this step-by-step guide is designed to help you map out a clear path. It will take discipline and commitment to make sure that you stay on track.

1

Excel in Your Undergraduate Degree

It is not enough to complete your undergraduate degree. You need to build a strong foundation in all the essential topics. You also need good grades to qualify for a master’s degree, which is a minimum requirement for most organizations looking for a computer and information research scientist.

2

Apply for a Master’s Degree

Most employers seek candidates with a master’s degree because they have a deeper understanding of more complex topics. A master’s degree can also strengthen your foundation and improve your research skills. There is a slew of specializations to choose from, including computer engineering, computer science, information technology, and more.

3

Look for Internship Opportunities

Learning practical skills is a must to prepare you for the job. An internship in a computer science field could help manage your expectations and help you envision what life would be like with such a career. Additionally, you can treat internships as on-the-job training, which is something that most recruiters like to see on a candidate’s resume.

4

Take Continuing Education Courses

There are several online certificate programs on topics like programming, data science, data analysis, and machine learning. These programs can help expand your knowledge and polish your technical skills. The certificates also help verify your competence and therefore boost your job prospects.

5

Get Your Research Published in a Journal

Having your work published in a peer-reviewed journal increases your credibility as a researcher and scientist. This means that you are already doing the work even before you get hired. This is also a good indication that you are comfortable doing research.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist?

A bachelor’s degree often takes between four and five years to complete, while a master’s degree takes around two to three years. In total, it would take about six to eight years to become a computer and information research scientist.

The number of years should not discourage you because you will be acquiring high-level skills that can transform you into a reliable researcher and scientist. You can also take advantage of your time in school by working on research projects and aiming to get your research published.

Should You Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist in 2021?

The journey to becoming a computer and information research scientist is long and may take a while. Still, it will be fruitful especially if it is something that you are passionate about. With the world still facing a pandemic in 2021, you have more motivation to make the best use of your time by slowly but surely working towards your goal.

More than ever, our technologized world needs scientists. Digitalization connects more people thanks to the tireless improvements provided by researchers and scientists. Take this opportunity to be one of the heroes that spark positive social impact.

Computer and Information Research Scientist FAQ

What is the minimum educational requirement to become a computer and information research scientist?

A master’s degree in computer science or computer science-related field is usually the minimum education requirement for this job. While some organizations accept bachelor’s degree holders, it is usually for entry- to mid-level positions only. You need a master’s degree if you are aiming for a higher position.

What are the skills that I need to become a computer and information research scientist?

Some of the skills that you need to excel at are programming, data science, robotics, and machine learning. Programming is a basic requirement for all IT or tech careers. Meanwhile, data science, robotics, and machine learning are important in computing-related research.

What would be my primary duties if I become a computer and information research scientist?

You are expected to improve technologies out of the already existing ones and make sure to maximize their use. Aside from this, you must also be able to invent new technologies, create and understand software systems, and contribute to technological advancements.

Is the interview for a computer and information research scientist difficult?

Expect interviews to be more technical. You need to be able to immediately demonstrate that you are knowledgeable and capable in the computer science field. While they still ask questions that assess your interpersonal skills, your technical skills are of the utmost importance.

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