Bureau of Labor Statistics

Computer and Information Research Scientists

computer and information research scientists image
Computer and information research scientists study and solve complex problems in computing.
Quick Facts: Computer and Information Research Scientists
2020 Median Pay $126,830 per year
$60.97 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2020 33,000
Job Outlook, 2020-30 22% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 7,200

Summary

What Computer and Information Research Scientists Do

Computer and information research scientists design innovative uses for new and existing computing technology.

Work Environment

Most computer and information research scientists work full time.

How to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientists typically need at least a master’s degree in computer science or a related field. In the federal government, a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some jobs.

Pay

The median annual wage for computer and information research scientists was $126,830 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 3,200 openings for computer and information research scientists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for computer and information research scientists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of computer and information research scientists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about computer and information research scientists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Computer and Information Research Scientists Do

Computer and information research scientists
Some computer scientists create programs to control robots.

Computer and information research scientists design innovative uses for new and existing technology. They study and solve complex problems in computing for business, science, medicine, and other fields.

Duties

Computer and information research scientists typically do the following:

  • Explore problems in computing and develop theories and models to address those problems
  • Collaborate with scientists and engineers to solve complex computing problems
  • Determine computing needs and system requirements
  • Develop new computing languages, software systems, and other tools to improve how people work with computers
  • Design and conduct experiments to test the operation of software systems, frequently using techniques from data science and machine learning
  • Analyze the results of their experiments
  • Write papers for publication and present research findings at conferences

Computer and information research scientists create and improve computer software and hardware.

To create and improve software, computer and information research scientists work with algorithms: sets of instructions that tell a computer what to do. Some difficult computing tasks require complex algorithms, which these scientists simplify to make computer systems as efficient as possible. These simplified algorithms may lead to advancements in many types of technology, such as machine learning systems and cloud computing.

To improve computer hardware, these scientists design computer architecture. Their work may result in increased efficiencies, such as better networking technology, faster computing speeds, and improved information security.

The following are examples of specialties for computer and information research scientists:

Programming. Some computer and information research scientists study and design new programming languages that are used to write software. New languages make software writing efficient by improving an existing language, such as Java, or by simplifying a specific aspect of programming, such as image processing.

Robotics. These scientists study the development and application of robots. They explore how a machine can interact with the physical world. For example, they may create systems that control the robots or design robots to have features such as information processing or sensory feedback.

Some computer and information research scientists work on multidisciplinary projects with electrical engineers, computer hardware engineers, and other specialists. For example, robotics specialists and engineers who design robots’ hardware may team up to test whether the robots complete tasks as intended.

Work Environment

Computer and information research scientists
Computer and information research scientists improve ways to sort, manage, and display data.

Computer and information research scientists held about 33,000 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of computer and information research scientists were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service 31%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 16
Computer systems design and related services 15
Software publishers 9
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 5

Some scientists collaborate with engineers or other specialists or research scientists in different locations and do much of their work online.

Work Schedules

Most computer and information research scientists work full time.

How to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist

computer and information research scientists image
Some computer scientists specialize in computer languages.

Computer and information research scientists typically need at least a master’s degree in computer science or a related field. In the federal government, a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some jobs.

Education

Most computer and information research scientists need a master’s or higher degree in computer science or a related field, such as computer engineering. A master’s degree usually requires 2 to 3 years of study after earning a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, such as computer science or information systems. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who have a Ph.D. Others, such as the federal government, may hire candidates who have a bachelor’s degree.

Computer and information research scientists who work in a specialized field may need knowledge of that field. For example, those working on biomedical applications may need to have studied biology.

Advancement

Some computer and information research scientists advance to become computer and information systems managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Computer and information research scientists must be organized in their thinking to evaluate the results of their research.

Communication skills. Computer and information research scientists must be able to clearly explain their research, including to a nontechnical audience. They write papers for publication and present their research at conferences.

Detail oriented. Computer and information research scientists must pay close attention to their work, such as when testing the systems they design. Small programming errors could affect an entire project.

Interpersonal skills. Computer and information research scientists must work effectively with programmers and managers. They also may be on teams with engineers or other specialists.

Logical thinking. Computer and information research scientists must use sound reasoning when working on algorithms.

Math skills. Computer and information research scientists need a solid grasp of advanced math and other technical subjects critical to computing.

Problem-solving skills. Computer and information research scientists must think creatively to find innovative solutions in their research.

Pay

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Median annual wages, May 2020

Computer and information research scientists

$126,830

Computer occupations

$91,250

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for computer and information research scientists was $126,830 in May 2020. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $72,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $194,430.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for computer and information research scientists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Software publishers $145,920
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 140,000
Computer systems design and related services 136,950
Federal government, excluding postal service 112,930
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 82,220

Most computer and information research scientists work full time.

Job Outlook

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Computer and information research scientists

22%

Computer occupations

13%

Total, all occupations

8%

 

Employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 3,200 openings for computer and information research scientists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

The research and development conducted by computer and information research scientists turn ideas into technology. As demand for new and better technology grows, demand for computer and information research scientists will grow as well.

Rapid growth in data collection by businesses will lead to an increased need for data-mining services. Computer and information research scientists will be needed to write algorithms that help businesses make sense of very large amounts of data.

A growing emphasis on cybersecurity also should lead to new jobs because computer and information research scientists will be needed to find innovative ways to prevent potential cyberattacks. In addition, an increase in demand for software may increase the need for computer and information research scientists who create new programming languages to make software writing more efficient.

Employment projections data for computer and information research scientists, 2020-30

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Computer and information research scientists

SOC Code15-1221
Employment, 202033,000
Projected Employment, 203040,200
Percent Change, 2020-3022
Numeric Change, 2020-307,200
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of computer and information research scientists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Computer and information systems managers Computer and Information Systems Managers

Computer and information systems managers plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization.

Bachelor's degree $151,150
Computer hardware engineers Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components.

Bachelor's degree $119,560
Computer programmers Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly.

Bachelor's degree $89,190
Database administrators Database Administrators and Architects

Database administrators and architects create or organize systems to store and secure data.

Bachelor's degree $98,860
Software developers Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers

Software developers design computer applications or programs. Software quality assurance analysts and testers identify problems with applications or programs and report defects.  

Bachelor's degree $110,140
computer network architects image Computer Network Architects

Computer network architects design and build data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Intranets.

Bachelor's degree $116,780
Computer systems analysts Computer Systems Analysts

Computer systems analysts study an organization’s current computer systems and find a solution that is more efficient and effective.

Bachelor's degree $93,730
Information security analysts Information Security Analysts

Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems.

Bachelor's degree $103,590
Network and computer systems administrators Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of computer networks.

Bachelor's degree $84,810
Web developers Web Developers and Digital Designers

Web developers create and maintain websites. Digital designers develop, create, and test website or interface layout, functions, and navigation for usability.

Bachelor's degree $77,200
Top executives Top Executives

Top executives plan strategies and policies to ensure that an organization meets its goals.

Bachelor's degree $107,680

Contacts for More Info

For more information about computer and information research scientists, visit

Association for Computing Machinery

Computing Research Association

IEEE Computer Society

For information about opportunities for women pursuing information technology careers, visit

National Center for Women & Information Technology

To find job openings for computer and information research scientists in the federal government, visit 

USAJOBS

CareerOneStop

For a career video on computer and information research scientists, visit

Computer and Information Research Scientists

O*NET

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer and Information Research Scientists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm (visited November 25, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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