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Become A Research Scientist

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Working As A Research Scientist

  • Getting Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $59,500

    Average Salary

What Does A Research Scientist Do

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 computer 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.  

Many people with a computer and information research science background become postsecondary teachers. In general, researchers in an academic setting focus on computer theory, although those working for businesses or scientific organizations usually focus on projects that may produce profits.

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:

Data mining. Computer and information research scientists write algorithms that are used to detect and analyze patterns in very large datasets. They improve ways to sort, manage, and display data. Computer scientists build algorithms into software packages that make the data easier for analysts to use. For example, they may create an algorithm to analyze a very large set of medical data in order to find new ways to treat diseases. They may also look for patterns in traffic data to help clear accidents faster.

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 and 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.

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How To Become A Research Scientist

Most jobs for computer and information research scientists require a Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. in computer science or a related field, such as computer engineering. A Ph.D. usually requires 4 to 5 years of study after earning a bachelor’s degree, typically in a computer-related field, such as computer science or information systems. During their first 2 years in a Ph.D. program, students take a variety of computer science classes. They then choose a specialty and spend the remaining years in the program doing research within that specialty.

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

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Research Scientist jobs

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Real Research Scientist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Research Scientist, Dept. of Civil & Environ. Engi The George Washington University Ashburn, VA May 01, 2013 $91,612
Research Scientist, Dept. Civil & Environmental EN The George Washington University Ashburn, VA May 01, 2011 $86,986
Research Scientist, Dept of Civil & Environ Engine The George Washington University Ashburn, VA Mar 08, 2012 $83,200
Research Scientist Howard Hughes Medical Institute Ashburn, VA Oct 01, 2016 $75,000
Research Scientist Howard Hughes Medical Institute Ashburn, VA Jan 10, 2016 $75,000
Research Scientist Howard Hughes Medical Institute Ashburn, VA Aug 03, 2015 $70,000 -
$80,000
Research Scientist Howard Hughes Medical Institute Ashburn, VA Mar 02, 2015 $65,000 -
$75,000
Research Scientist Howard Hughes Medical Institute Ashburn, VA Oct 01, 2017 $63,500
Research Scientist Howard Hughes Medical Institute Ashburn, VA Oct 01, 2017 $63,000
Research Scientist Howard Hughes Medical Institute Ashburn, VA Jan 05, 2016 $60,000 -
$70,000

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Top Skills for A Research Scientist

LaboratoryEquipmentCellCultureLabAnalyticalMethodsProteinExpressionMethodDevelopmentProceduresSynthesisHplcResearchProjectsChemistryRSafetyDNADataAnalysisDiseaseElisaRt-PcrCellLinesFDA

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Top Research Scientist Skills

  1. Laboratory Equipment
  2. Cell Culture
  3. Lab
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Designed and developed software for automation of laboratory equipment, database design.
  • Planned and conducted experiments to develop and optimize process for viral production in mammalian cell culture system.
  • Collaborated with the University of Minnesota and Milwaukee School of Engineering - research on exposure to pesticides and volatile chemicals.
  • Test experimental food products for safety according to FDA and Corn Refiners Association bacteriological analytical methods.
  • Optimized and detected protein expression using protein immunoassay technologies.

Top Research Scientist Employers

Research Scientist Videos

Educational Research Scientist, Career Video from drkit.org

Day in the Life: Planetary Research Scientist

Research Scientist, Career Video from drkit.org