Computer Scientist

Computer scientists tackle complex problems and create new technologies using high levels of theoretical expertise and innovation. Some are employed by academic institutions and may work on projects ranging from complexity theory and programming-language development, to virtual reality or robot design. Others work in the private sector applying theory, developing specialized languages, or designing knowledge-based systems and computer games.

Job Skills

Computer scientists must be logical thinkers and good communicators. They must be able to multitask while, at the same time, pay close attention to minute details. Because they often work in teams, computer scientists must be able to communicate efficiently and effectively with other personnel, such as programmers, managers, users, and other staff with little or no technical background.


In 2002, computer scientists earned a median annual salary of $77,760. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $42,890, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $121,650. The median annual salary was $78,70 in computer system design and related services.

Training and Education

Employers of computer scientists require candidates to have highly-developed skills and related education. They also emphasize the importance of broad background and knowledge, as opposed to the narrower skill sets sought by employers in the past. Doctoral degrees are often required, and relevant work experience will always increase a candidate’s chances. Generally, most employers look for graduates with at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information science, or management information systems. However, when employers are desperately seeking workers knowledgeable in extremely new, cutting edge technologies, formal education and experience requirements can often be partially waived.


In 2002, computer scientists held about 23,000 jobs. The largest numbers of jobs were found in computer systems design and related services. Many computer scientists were employed by Internet service providers, web search portals, and data-processing, hosting, and related services firms. Others worked for government, manufacturers of computer and electronic products, insurance companies, financial institutions, and universities.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of computer scientists is expected to increase much faster than the average. This will be due to continued adoption and integration of new technologies, rapid growth in computer system design and related services, and the need to replace workers who leave the labor force or move to other occupations and positions. Demand for this occupation also will be fueled by increased use of Internet applications in business, the growth of electronic commerce, the introduction of Wireless Internet.

Directory of Schools Offering Computer Science Degrees