Career Guide: How to Determine If You Should Be a Computer Research Scientist
By Andrej Kovačević
 

Throughout this decade, jobs pertaining to computer science and research are expected to grow by over 15%. As you determine the best career path for you, there are a few important factors to keep in mind. First, you need to examine your natural skills to ensure that you will be able to keep up with the pace of the industry. Secondly, you need to look at the market sectors that are expecting to grow. By examining these two factors, you can find a career path that allows you to thrive.

Computer research scientists are constantly working to create new innovations in computing technology, along with solutions that make old technology more efficient. As these scientists gain experience, they typically receive ample compensation, extensive opportunities, and leadership potential. If you are savvy with computers, this career may be the way forward for you. In this article, we will walk through your guide to determining if this is the right industry for you.

Getting the Right Knowledge

If you are expecting to pursue a computing science career, it is important that you receive an undergraduate degree that prepares you for this field. During your undergraduate program, look for a quality school that offers computer science or information technology programs. Some of the most regarded computer science undergraduate programs in the country include:

  • Stanford University
  • University of California – Berkeley
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Princeton University
  • Georgia Tech University
  • Harvard University

These programs are known for graduating students that progress to work for research institutions, government departments, large corporations, and technology companies. Their overall ranking is based on their strong academic courses, advanced team of professors, excellent student recruits, and optimal postgraduate opportunities.

In most situations, scientists must retain a master’s degree in order to pursue the best positions. Most scientists pursue a master’s degree in computer science or computer engineering. These programs typically last two or three years based on the density of the semesters.

Before you determine that you want to be a research scientist, determine if you are able to pursue degree programs for at least six consecutive years. These years will likely be interlaced with internship experiences that allow you to receive relevant, on-the-job training. Due to the demand in this field, it is likely that you can look into scholarship opportunities that will subsidize your expenses. These scholarships may be offered at state or national level.

Day-to-Day Expectations

After you accomplish your degree programs, it is time to get settled into a career. When you are looking to become a research scientist, there are a few industries that you will likely align with. Some of the common industries seeking this professional expertise are business, science, and medicine.

Business

If you work for a corporation, you will likely be monitoring the security and the efficiency of the internal and external software devices. From cybersecurity to integrated databases, corporations are constantly looking for people who can help them stay up to date with the latest and greatest updates in the computing industry. Not only will you be updating new systems and devices, you will be monitoring prior administrations to ensure that they are effectively and efficiently producing the output needed.

Science and Health

In the health industry, the expertise of scientists is needed to encode medical programs and software devices. In order for devices to compute the right answers and measurements, they must be intricately programmed with the technology needed to properly read samples. The skills of a researcher can help ensure the accuracy of these measurements. In addition, healthcare providers manage a large database of information and clientele. Due to the confidentiality and importance of this information, healthcare providers often hire highly-trained professionals to manage and upkeep their database. This industry is always hiring reputable research scientists.

The Key Qualities Required

No matter what area you specialize in, there are certain skills that are necessary for computer research scientists to maintain. As you analyze if this career path is right for you, it is important to determine if you embody this set of skills. If you do not have these skills currently, can you hone your attention and develop these professional capabilities?

1. Determination

Computer Scientists must be determined to find a solution to the toughest problems. These specialists are responsible for providing answers with accuracy and precision. In this industry, many fellow coworkers will not understand the details of your role. You must be determined to pursue the right solution even when the people around you do not understand your processes.

2. Mathematical and Analytical Expertise

Scientists must solve equations on a regular basis. In addition, they must have the ability to analyze data and determine solutions based on the information that is found. The specific math skills that are needed in this industry include linear algebra, number theory, and graph theory. These courses have much relevance in the computer science profession.

3. Detail-Oriented

As a scientist, it is important that you are very observant and attentive to details. Not only must you provide perfect solutions, you must be able to catch discrepancies in patterns, trends and formulas. Whether you are in a corporate, health, or government role, the projects that you are completing require precision and perfection. If you struggle to focus on details, this industry will be difficult for you to excel in.

4. Problem-Solving

As a researcher, you must be able to strategically think outside the box. Instead of seeing information in a linear manner, you must be able to draw connections and ties that pull together pieces of the puzzle. When you can solve problems effectively and efficiently, you will be affirmed in your skill set.

For many of the people that are skilled in this line of expertise, these skills come naturally. For subjects like math and analytics, you can develop your ability to understand equations and think strategically.

Path of Progression

When you become a computer scientist, there are a few specific positions that you can expect to progress through during your career path. In each of these positions, you will gain an increased amount of responsibility and strategic input.

Commonly job titles in relation to computer science include:

  • Business Analyst
  • Systems Administrator
  • Software Engineer
  • Security Lead
  • Application Developer
  • Research Scientist

The first step of your career is the experience gained through useful internship opportunities.

Internships

During your degree program, you will likely have to obtain multiple internships. During these internships, strive to work for a company that offers quality experience. If you find the perfect fit, this company may offer you a career after graduation. Strategically choose your internship opportunities based on the industry that you want to pursue a role in.

Entry-Level Roles

After you complete your degree programs, you can obtain an entry-level position as a computer scientist or engineer. Upon entering the field, you can determine whether you want to work as a third-party consultant or an in-house specialist. There are pros and cons to working in an internal or external role. When you are a consultant, you will have opportunities to manage various clients and accounts. When you are working in-house for a company, you initially start by managing the database, administrative systems, and cybersecurity divisions.

Career Progression

As you gain more experience, you will be trusted with jobs that require more expertise. In addition, you will likely receive an increase in compensation. At a consulting firm, experienced employees get to manage the most important and lucrative accounts. They receive annual bonuses based on their ability to accomplish projects within designated time frames.When working in-house, you will have the opportunity to grow based on the size of the company. At a small company, there may be little room for growth. At a larger firm, you can eventually progress into a management position. In addition, you can offer strategic input into the overall functionality of the software programs that are used.

How to Stand Out

When you are looking for a new position or a promotion, you have the opportunity to stand out from the competition by offering new and unique solutions. When you proactively think of ways that you can better the software systems, you will be looked at with respect. If your ideas are implemented and proven to be successful, you will gain the trust of your employers and coworkers.

Since this industry requires problem-solving abilities, thinking proactively takes you a step above the competition. Due to the attention to detail that is required, you must be prepared to renew your focus and energy towards the job each and every day.

Summary

Many people are experiencing career success as computer research scientists. Although this expertise can be taken into a multitude of different industries, the skill sets required remain the same. If you are looking for a challenging position that offers many opportunities for growth, this career path may be the right one for you. By pursuing a quality degree, obtaining excellent internships, and proactively offering your insight, you have the potential to excel in this field.