How To Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientists develop new computing methods to solve problems in countless industries, as well as find innovative new uses for existing technology. Of all the occupations stemming from computer science, this path is the one a prospective computing student should take if they want to be a true scientist. Researching, testing and development are all major parts of the occupation.

This role might be less well-known than that of a typical programmer or IT professional, but it has the potential to offer great pay and benefits. If you are interested in pursuing a career as a computer and information research scientist, here are some things you should know.

Types of Computer and Information Research Scientists

There are many different types of computer scientists that operate within various specialties, including:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) research scientists develop and test various forms of AI.
  • Data scientists analyze data to identify patterns and make future predictions.
  • Natural language processing (NLP) research scientists develop ways to allow computers to better understand, process and emulate human languages.
  • Network research scientists develop, manage and optimize computer networks.
  • Security research scientists assess rising security risks and develop options for addressing them. They then implement and manage security systems and protocols.
  • Software engineering research scientists review software technologies and develop and test new systems.
  • Quantum computing research scientists conduct research in the field of quantum computing and use the information that they glean to develop algorithms and find new applications for the technology.

Your particular duties and responsibilities will depend on your specialization. However, some duties are universal.

Duties and Responsibilities

While following a similar education and career path to that of information systems managers and computer programmers, computer and information research scientists have a specific subset of skills and duties that sets them apart from other computing professionals.

Information research scientists work to advance the field of computing and create new computing-based solutions to problems in countless industries. Their role is as a trailblazer: The development and design of new digital technologies, such as data mining software, is the quintessential duty of a computer research scientist.

Repurposing older technology to work in specific contexts is another frequent activity of a research scientist. They research, test, and create, whereas other CS disciplines might focus on information systems management or programming software. Notable historical figures in computing, such as Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing, would be classified as computer and information research scientists today. The advancement of the field is the mission for those in this career.

Where Do Computer and Information Research Scientists Work?

Due to the broad applicability of computing technology to various fields, computer and information research scientists can be found in almost every industry. From food service to aerospace engineering, nearly every line of work can use these research scientists. As a result, duties for this career can vary greatly.

Many computer research scientists can be found in the field of robotics, where software combines with mechanical hardware to create machines that are more efficient and viable for commercial use. Others might find themselves in the medical field, creating new systems for collating and analyzing patient data. The ubiquity of computing technology means that a typical day for a computer and research scientist is almost impossible to define, and this makes the field quite exciting and dynamic.

There are some common trends, however. Computer and information research scientists should expect to become familiar with machine learning and artificial intelligence. This emerging field of computing is perceived as the iconic technology of the future. The demand for computer scientists experienced in machine learning and AI is growing fast. As research scientists, those in this career will be hard-pressed to avoid work that involves AI.

Many roles in academic and private settings focused on the research and advancement of artificial intelligence can be found. This field is slowly dominating the focus of many different industries: Automotive, healthcare, marketing and even private military companies all have their hands in the world of AI, and that list is growing bigger each day.

The basic idea of the occupation is that information scientists invent new computing technologies in response to various needs. Invention naturally leads to technological advancements in many different lines of work.

Salary and Job Outlook

Of course, one of the largest concerns prospective computer and information research scientists will have is just how good the jobs are in terms of pay, benefits and security. The outlook is very positive, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that the median annual salary for computing and information research scientists was $131,490 per year as of 2021. As computer scientists advance in their careers, salary numbers continue to rise, with the top 10% reportedly making an average of $ 232,010 annually.

Furthermore, the BLS reports that the job market for these scientists is expected to grow at a rate of 21% from 2021 to 2031, which is much higher than the average for most jobs. When you consider the ubiquity of computers in everyday society, this certainly rings true.

Nearly every field needs new ways to do business and solve complex issues through computing and will need to protect against digital attacks. Sales companies need cutting-edge customer database management software, while robotics manufacturers need innovative tools to control and develop mechanical devices.

And the rise of AI means that everyone who can afford to is looking for ways to augment their standard operating procedures with machine learning. All of this requires a level of expertise in computer science that goes beyond the background of a typical programmer.

Computer and information research scientists can expect to receive generous benefits. In addition, a perk of work involving computers and information technology is the ease of remote work. Those concerned about tight commuting schedules will be happy to know that many computing and technology companies allow telecommuting.

Overall, computer and informational research careers have a lot to offer. Careers in the powerhouse field of computing are in demand, and there are too few doctorate-holding computer scientists to go around. If you pursue this option, you are not likely to have an issue finding work. Taking part in the field of the future is an exciting prospect, one that comes with numerous advantages, including high salaries.

Education Requirements

Computer and information research scientists are considered the preeminent experts in computing innovation, and as a result, their educational background is extensive.

Most jobs employing these scientists require a master’s or Ph.D. in computer science or a related field, such as management information systems. A bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for low to mid-level work, however, such as in entry-level federal government roles.

Additional education in other areas may also be necessary depending on the area of work. For instance, a degree (possibly even an additional master’s or Ph.D.) in physics may be required if pursuing scientific computing jobs at aerospace companies.

Master’s programs take around two years to complete. While the time and monetary commitment to this level of education is certainly high, the benefits of becoming a computer research scientist more than make up for this. Meanwhile, a typical MIS curriculum for a bachelor’s degree has a heavy focus on logical reasoning. Courses will cover specialized topics such as programming languages, software engineering, algorithms, business computing, data structures and much more.

From there, students can specialize in advanced disciplines, such as software development, game design, databases or cybersecurity. These high-level programs can take on many different forms depending on personal preference. Some might focus on furthering students’ knowledge of business database systems or algorithms, while others might specialize in emerging fields such as machine learning.

Training and Experience

On-the-job training and experience are vital for individuals in this field. You need to hone your analytical skills and gain familiarity with various systems. You can accomplish this through internships or entry-level positions in the industry. It is particularly important to ensure that you get experience and develop skills specific to the specialization that you are interested in.

Important Skills

Many professionals wonder just how difficult being a computer and information research scientist can be, and whether it would be a good career fit for them. There are many traits that students should embody if they want to pursue a career in this science.

The work can be quite difficult, requiring a strong grasp of computing and programming theory, as well as advanced knowledge of high-level mathematics. In addition, the career requires a large amount of time and effort to get to the point where students can be considered optimal candidates.

In terms of character, computer and information research is best suited to people with analytical minds. Those who can thrive in situations that employ a mix of theory and established practice to get the job done are best suited to these roles. Much of this job involves programming, data mining and algorithms, so if a professional is looking to do more tangible work that doesn’t involve lots of data, computer science might not be a good fit.

Computer literacy is also highly recommended due to the inherent need for those in the occupation to use advanced technologies. Ideal candidates should be interested in developing the field of computer science as well as related disciplines, as contributing new doctrines to CS is an inherent part of a computer and information research scientist’s career.

There are several skills that an individual should have if they wish to be a computer and information research scientist. Computer engineers and scientists must possess analytical minds and be able to comprehend and organize large amounts of data to reach appropriate conclusions. This, in turn, requires a strong grasp of mathematical concepts and logical reasoning. Computer science is very numbers-oriented, and those who struggle with mathematics would not be a good fit in the field.

Also needed is the ability to work through and solve complex problems, as much of the work of scientists is researching new and efficient methods of computing. Prospective students must be resourceful and know how to find answers to questions, as well as adapt this information into their current models. All in all, computer research scientists need a wide problem-solving skill set to succeed.



The New Yorker, “Ada Lovelace, The First Tech Visionary”

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Alan Turing”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Computer and Information Research Scientists”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2022: Computer and Information Research Scientists”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Computer and Information Research Scientists: Job Outlook”