A career in computer science requires an individual to think creatively and logically. The day-to-day work of a computer scientist depends on the employer. Some computer scientists are employed by academic institutions, where they focus on theory. Other computer scientists work in scientific organizations where they focus more on projects that have potential to become profitable. Computer scientists are analytical thinkers who work alone or with a team of other professionals.
Computer scientists design, create, and invent new technology to solve complex business, scientific or general computing problems. Computer scientists can work on projects that require collaborating with engineers and other specialists. They conduct research on a variety of topics including robotics and virtual reality to create real-life simulations and machines that perform tasks on their own. Computer scientists can design new computer chips and processors to make existing technology perform faster and more efficiently. They work mainly in laboratories or office settings and spend many hours in front of the computer. This makes them more susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Most computer scientists hold a Ph.D. in computer science, computer engineering or a similar subject. Some federal government positions only require a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field. Individuals seeking acceptance into a Ph.D. program must have obtained a bachelor’s degree with a strong computer-related component. A Ph.D. beyond a bachelor’s degree normally takes five years to complete. The first two years of the Ph.D. program typically includes classes covering advanced topics in computer science, computer and software systems, artificial intelligence and digital communication. The last years of a Ph.D. program are generally spent performing research on computer science and computer engineering topics.
Computer scientists must understand mathematics and other technical topics, which are critical in their field. They must have an eye for detail and able to multitask due to the fact they often handle several projects simultaneously. Communication skills are needed because sometimes they will have to work in large groups to complete projects. They may also have to communicate with other personnel without technical backgrounds.
Job Outlook and Earnings
Technology is ever increasing and individuals and organizations continue to demand sophisticated technology. Therefore, the demand for computer scientists will continue to increase in the near future. Jobs in the computer science field are expected to grow by 24 percent through 2018. There is a high demand for graduates with a Ph.D. in computer science or computer engineering. Many organizations report difficulties finding high-skilled workers to meet the demand. Jobs openings will also increase because of the number of present computer scientists that are leaving the job force or moving into other fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a computer scientist was $101,570 as of 2009. Salaries can differ slightly depending on employer and region.
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