Computer and Information Scientists - What They Do

The widespread and increasing use of computers and information technology has generated a need for highly trained, innovative workers with extensive theoretical expertise. These workers, called computer scientists, are the designers, creators, and inventors of new technology. By creating new technology, or finding alternative uses for existing resources, they solve complex business, scientific, and general computing problems. Some computer scientists work on multidisciplinary projects, collaborating with electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, and other specialists.

Computer scientists conduct research on a wide array of topics. Examples include computer hardware architecture, virtual reality, and robotics. Scientists who research hardware architecture discover new ways for computers to process and transmit information. They design computer chips and processors, using new materials and techniques to make them work faster and give them more computing power. When working with virtual reality, scientists use technology to create life-like situations. For example, scientists may invent video games that make users feel like they are actually in the game. Computer scientists working with robotics try to create machines that can perform tasks on their own—without people controlling them. Robots perform many tasks, such as sweeping floors in peoples’ homes, assembling cars on factory production lines, and “auto-piloting” airplanes.

Computer science researchers employed by academic institutions have job functions that are similar in many ways to those employed by other organizations. In general, researchers in academic settings have more flexibility to focus on pure theory, while those working in business or scientific organizations, covered here, usually focus on projects that have the possibility of producing patents and profits. Some researchers in non-academic settings, however, have considerable latitude in determining the direction of their research.

Work Environment

Computer scientists normally work in offices or laboratories in comfortable surroundings. Like other workers who spend long periods in front of a computer terminal typing on a keyboard, computer scientists are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Education & Training Required

Most computer scientists are required to possess a Ph.D. in computer science, computer engineering, or a closely related discipline. For some positions in the Federal Government, a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field may be adequate.

In order to be admitted to a Ph.D. program, applicants generally are required to obtain a bachelor’s degree with a strong computer science or computer engineering component. Popular undergraduate majors for Ph.D. program applicants include computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, information systems, and information technology. A bachelor’s degree generally takes 4 years to complete. A Ph.D. generally requires at least 5 years of study beyond the bachelor’s degree. Ph.D. students usually spend the first two years taking classes on advanced topics, including computer and software systems, artificial intelligence, digital communication, and microprocessors. Students spend the remaining years conducting research on topics in computer science or computer engineering.

Other Skills Required (Other qualifications)

Computer scientists must be able to think logically and creatively. They must possess a strong aptitude for math and other technical topics, as these are critical to the computing field. Because they often deal with a number of tasks simultaneously, the ability to concentrate and pay close attention to detail also is important. Although computer scientists sometimes work independently, they frequently work in teams on large projects. As a result, they must be able to communicate effectively with computer personnel, such as programmers and managers, as well as with users or other staff who may have no technical computer background.

Computer and Information Scientists - What They Do - Page 2

Academic Programs of Interest

Cognitive Science
Cognitive science is most simply defined as the scientific study either of mind or of intelligence. It is an interdisciplinary study drawing from relevant fields including psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, computer science, biology, and physics.

Cognitive science is a large field, and covers a wide array of topics on cognition. However, it should be recognized that cognitive science is not equally concerned with every... more
Computer and Information Science
Information and Computer Science (ICS) or Computer and Information Science (CIS) is a field that emphasizes both computing and informatics, upholding the strong association between the fields of information sciences and computer sciences and treating computers as a tool rather than a field.

Some universities teach computer science as a theoretical study of computation and algorithmic reasoning. These programs often feature the theory of computation,... more
Information Technology
Information Technology encompasses many aspects of computing and technology, and the term is more recognizable than ever before. The information technology umbrella can be quite large, covering many fields. IT professionals perform a variety of duties that range from installing applications to designing complex computer networks and information databases. A few of the duties that IT professionals perform may include data management, networking, engineering computer... more
Management Information Systems
Management Information Systems (MIS), sometimes referred to as Information Management and Systems, is the discipline covering the application of people, technologies, and procedures - collectively called information systems - to solving business problems.

Management Information Systems are distinct from regular information systems in that they are used to analyze other information systems applied in operational activities in the organization. more
Webmaster and Web Management
The Webmaster, also called the system administrator, the author, or the website administrator, is the person responsible for designing, developing, marketing, or maintaining a website.

Webmasters are practitioners of web communication. Typically, they are generalists with HTML expertise who manage all aspects of Web operations. On a smaller site, the webmaster will typically be the owner, developer and/or programmer, in addition to the author of... more