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Career profile Computer Scientist

Also known as Computer Scientist, Computer Specialist, Control System Computer Scientist, Research Scientist, Scientific Programmer Analyst

Computer Scientist

Also known as Computer Scientist, Computer Specialist, Control System Computer Scientist

Interests Profile
  • Investigative
  • Realistic
  • Artistic
Pay Range
$72,210 - $194,430 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Critical Thinking
  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Judgment and Decision Making
Knowledge Areas
  • Computers and Electronics
  • Mathematics
  • Engineering and Technology
Core tasks
  • Analyze problems to develop solutions involving computer hardware and software.
  • Apply theoretical expertise and innovation to create or apply new technology, such as adapting principles for applying computers to new uses.
  • Assign or schedule tasks to meet work priorities and goals.
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What does a Computer Scientist do?

Computer Scientists conduct research into fundamental computer and information science as theorists, designers, or inventors.

In addition, Computer Scientists develop solutions to problems in the field of computer hardware and software.

What kind of tasks does a Computer Scientist perform regularly?

Computer Scientists are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Analyze problems to develop solutions involving computer hardware and software.
  • Apply theoretical expertise and innovation to create or apply new technology, such as adapting principles for applying computers to new uses.
  • Assign or schedule tasks to meet work priorities and goals.
  • Meet with managers, vendors, and others to solicit cooperation and resolve problems.
  • Design computers and the software that runs them.
  • Conduct logical analyses of business, scientific, engineering, and other technical problems, formulating mathematical models of problems for solution by computers.
  • Evaluate project plans and proposals to assess feasibility issues.
  • Consult with users, management, vendors, and technicians to determine computing needs and system requirements.
  • Participate in multidisciplinary projects in areas such as virtual reality, human-computer interaction, or robotics.
  • Develop and interpret organizational goals, policies, and procedures.
  • Develop performance standards, and evaluate work in light of established standards.

The above responsibilities are specific to Computer Scientists. More generally, Computer Scientists are involved in several broader types of activities:

Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Analyzing Data or Information
Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.

What is a Computer Scientist salary?

The median salary for a Computer Scientist is $126,830, and the average salary is $130,890. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Computer Scientist salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Computer Scientists earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Computer Scientists earn less than $72,210 per year, 25% earn less than $95,340, 75% earn less than $157,720, and 90% earn less than $194,430.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Computer Scientists is expected to change by 21.8%, and there should be roughly 3,200 open positions for Computer Scientists every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$72,210 - $194,430
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Computer Scientists?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Computer Scientist are usually higher in their Investigative, Realistic, and Artistic interests.

Computer Scientists typically have very strong Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Also, Computer Scientists typically have strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Lastly, Computer Scientists typically have moderate Artistic interests. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Computer Scientists typically have moderate Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Computer Scientist tend to value Achievement, Working Conditions, and Recognition.

Most importantly, Computer Scientists strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Second, Computer Scientists strongly value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Lastly, Computer Scientists strongly value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Computer Scientists must consistently demonstrate qualities such as analytical thinking, cooperation, and attention to detail.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Computer Scientists, ranked by importance:

Analytical Thinking
Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.

What education and training do Computer Scientists need?

Many Computer Scientists have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Computer Scientists may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Computer Scientists

  • 0.7% completed high school or secondary school
  • 5.0% completed some college coursework
  • 2.2% earned a Associate's degree
  • 34.8% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 36.6% earned a Master's degree
  • 20.8% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Computer Scientists

Computer Scientists may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as computers and electronics, mathematics, or engineering and technology knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Computer Scientists might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Engineering and Technology
Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
Administration and Management
Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.

Important Abilities needed by Computer Scientists

Computer Scientists must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Computer Scientists need abilities such as deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, and oral comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Computer Scientists, ranked by their relative importance.

Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
Inductive Reasoning
The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.

Critical Skills needed by Computer Scientists

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Computer Scientists frequently use skills like critical thinking, complex problem solving, and judgment and decision making to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Computer Scientists, ranked by their relative importance.

Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Complex Problem Solving
Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
Judgment and Decision Making
Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.