Computer scientist: job description

Last updated: 21 Jun 2023, 15:37

Computer science forms the backbone of many jobs in the IT sector, from cyber security to software development and robotics.

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Computer scientist : Duties | Salaries | Employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Computer science is the study of how information is stored, presented and made use of by computing devices. It involves both theory, such as exploring the nature of computation, and practice, such as applying theory to building hardware and computer systems.

While there are few jobs with the words ‘computer scientist’ in the title, there are many roles for computer science graduates, and you can apply your knowledge of the subject to a wide range of industries.

Jobs in computer science typically involve :

  • thinking about and conceptualising computational and maths-related problems and challenges.
  • working on projects to design, code, test and install new software.
  • developing new products and solving practical computing problems.
  • liaising with vendors and suppliers.
  • conducting research involving experimentation and modelling.
  • working as part of a research team with programmers, IT professionals, and mechanical, electrical or software engineers to solve problems and create new products.
  • studying, experimenting and investigating technological fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics and virtual reality.
  • improving the performance of existing computer systems and software.
  • developing new hardware or computing techniques and materials.

Graduate salaries

New Scientist puts starting salaries for computer scientist jobs in the region of £27,000. Earnings can grow considerably with experience: you can earn upwards of £50,000 in some roles – as suggested by salary survey websites. See our article on graduate IT salaries for more information.

Typical employers of computer scientists

Computer science graduates can find employment at:

  • Research companies.
  • Large computer and software companies.
  • Defence organisations.
  • Central and local government organisations.
  • Manufacturers.
  • Financial service providers.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into IT for both graduates and school leavers; however, computer science is a subject that you will need to study at university via a computer science or computer science and information technology degree to progress into the more technical/specialist roles in the industry.

Some IT employers will take graduates from any degree subject, but others seeking to fulfil specialist or technical roles may look for computer science degrees and those that do often pay more. Closely related degrees include electronic engineering, software engineering, physics and mathematics.

Graduate computer scientists can work across a vast array of career fields with plenty of scope for specialisation and career advancement. Postgraduate study to PhD level is common in the profession, especially for those who want a long-term career in academic research.

For school leavers, there are apprenticeships available in information technology roles, but these are likely to be less technical than those offered to graduates.

Key skills for computer scientists

Computer scientists must have:

  • Excellent maths and numerical reasoning skills.
  • Excellent technology knowledge and skills.
  • An ability to anticipate and analyse problems and to trace them to their root cause.
  • A systematic approach to work and problem solving
  • Meticulous attention to detail.
  • The ability to organise and classify large amounts of information.

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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