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
2019 Median Pay $122,840 per year
$59.06 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2019 32,700
Job Outlook, 2019-29 15% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 5,000

Summary

What Computer and Information Research Scientists Do

Computer and information research scientists invent and design new approaches to computing technology and find innovative uses for existing technology.

Work Environment

Most computer and information research scientists work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist

Most jobs for computer and information research scientists require 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 $122,840 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects are expected to be excellent.

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 invent and design new approaches to computing technology and find innovative uses for 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 fundamental issues in computing and develop theories and models to address those issues
  • Help scientists and engineers solve complex computing problems
  • Invent new computing languages, tools, and methods to improve the way in which people work with computers
  • Develop and improve the software systems that form the basis of the modern computing experience
  • Design experiments to test the operation of these software systems
  • Analyze the results of their experiments
  • Publish their findings in academic journals and present their findings at conferences

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

Creating and improving software involves working with algorithms, which are sets of instructions that tell a computer what to do. Some computing tasks are very difficult and require complex algorithms. Computer and information research scientists try to simplify these algorithms to make computer systems as efficient as possible. The algorithms allow advancements in many types of technology, such as machine learning systems and cloud computing.

Computer and information research scientists design new computer architecture that improves the performance and efficiency of computer hardware. Their work often leads to technological advancements and efficiencies, such as better networking technology, faster computing speeds, and improved information security. In general, computer and information research scientists work at a more theoretical level than do other computer professionals.

Some computer scientists work with electrical engineers, computer hardware engineers, and other specialists on multidisciplinary projects. The following are examples of types of specialties for computer and information research scientists:

Robotics. Some computer and information research scientists study how to improve robots. Robotics explores how a machine can interact with the physical world. Computer and information research scientists create the programs that control the robots. They work closely with engineers who focus on the hardware design of robots. Together, these workers test how well the robots do the tasks they were created to do, such as assemble cars or collect data on other planets.

Programming. Computer and information research scientists design new programming languages that are used to write software. The new languages make software writing more efficient by improving an existing language, such as Java, or by making a specific aspect of programming, such as image processing, easier.

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 32,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of computer and information research scientists were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service 28%
Computer systems design and related services 19
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 16
Software publishers 8
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 6

Some computer scientists may work on teams with electrical engineers, computer hardware engineers, and other specialists on multidisciplinary projects.

Work Schedules

Most computer and information research scientists work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Computer and Information Research Scientist

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

Most jobs for computer and information research scientists require 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 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.

Computer scientists who work in a specialized field may need knowledge of that field. For example, those working on biomedical applications may need to have taken some biology classes.

Advancement

Some computer scientists may become computer and information systems managers.

Important Qualities

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

Communication skills. Computer and information research scientists must communicate well with programmers and managers and be able to clearly explain their conclusions to people with no technical background. They often present their research at conferences.

Critical-thinking skills. Computer and information research scientists work on many complex problems.

Detail oriented. Computer and information research scientists must pay close attention to their work, because a small programming error can cause an entire project to fail.

Ingenuity. Computer and information research scientists must continually come up with innovative ways to solve problems, particularly when their ideas do not initially work as intended.

Logical thinking. Computer algorithms rely on logic. Computer and information research scientists must have a talent for reasoning.

Math skills. Computer and information research scientists must have knowledge of advanced math and other technical topics that are critical in computing.

Pay

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Median annual wages, May 2019

Computer and information research scientists

$122,840

Computer occupations

$88,240

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for computer and information research scientists was $122,840 in May 2019. 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 $69,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $189,780.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for computer and information research scientists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Software publishers $141,820
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 134,490
Computer systems design and related services 129,290
Federal government, excluding postal service 109,370
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 81,910

Most computer and information research scientists work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Computer and information research scientists

15%

Computer occupations

11%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The research and development work of computer and information research scientists turns ideas into industry-leading technology. As demand for new and better technology grows, demand for computer scientists will grow as well.

Rapid growth in data collection by businesses will lead to an increased need for data-mining services. Computer scientists will be needed to write algorithms that help businesses make sense of very large amounts of data. With this information, businesses understand their consumers better, making the work of computer and information research scientists increasingly vital.

A growing emphasis on cybersecurity also should lead to new jobs, because computer scientists will be needed to find innovative ways to prevent cyberattacks.

In addition, an increase in demand for software may increase the need for computer scientists who create new programming languages to make software writing more efficient.

Job Prospects

Computer and information research scientists are likely to have excellent job prospects.

For applicants seeking employment in a specialized field, such as finance or biology, knowledge of that field, along with a computer science degree, may be helpful in getting a job.

Employment projections data for computer and information research scientists, 2019-29

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

Occupational Title

Computer and information research scientists

SOC Code15-1221
Employment, 201932,700
Projected Employment, 202937,700
Percent Change, 2019-2915
Numeric Change, 2019-295,000
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) 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 2019 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 $146,360
Computer hardware engineers

Computer Hardware Engineers

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

Bachelor's degree $117,220
Computer programmers

Computer Programmers

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

Bachelor's degree $86,550
Database administrators

Database Administrators

Database administrators (DBAs) use specialized software to store and organize data.

Bachelor's degree $93,750
Software developers

Software Developers

Software developers create the applications or systems that run on a computer or another device.

Bachelor's degree $107,510
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 $112,690
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 $90,920
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 $99,730
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 $83,510
Web developers

Web Developers

Web developers design and create websites.

Associate's degree $73,760
Top executives

Top Executives

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

Bachelor's degree $104,690

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer and Information Research Scientists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm (visited October 25, 2020).

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

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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