How Do I Become a Computer Scientist?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A person who wants to become a computer scientist will need formal educational training in this field and may need to pursue an advanced degree to have access to the most job opportunities. Computer scientists also need to have strong math skills, good logical abilities, and a knowledge of computer systems and infrastructure. The precise qualifications necessary to work can depend on the type of employment a computer scientist has an interest in. For tasks like software development, an advanced degree may be needed.

Computer science students may focus on different areas of interest within this large field.
Computer science students may focus on different areas of interest within this large field.

High school students with an interest in computer science can pursue some options to get a head start on the path to become a computer scientist. They should take as many advanced math classes as they can, and if a school has computing classes, they may want to take advantage of those as well. It can also help to take care of some college prerequisites ahead of time, if possible, to provide more room for computer science classes. Some colleges accept test scores to allow students to bypass low-level classes, and students may also be able to take courses at local colleges and transfer them when they go to college full time.

High school students interested in computer science should take advantage of any computing classes offered.
High school students interested in computer science should take advantage of any computing classes offered.

In college, a computer science degree is most appropriate for a student who plans to become a computer scientist. Students may be able to focus on different areas of interest within this large field. They should identify a specific interest, as this will be important on graduate school applications. If opportunities to participate in research, take internships, and pursue other training opportunities are available, students should take them.

Computer scientists typically hold at least a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, or another relevant area.
Computer scientists typically hold at least a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, or another relevant area.

After students graduate with a four year degree in computer science, they may be able to apply for some open positions. They can perform a variety of tasks, including monitoring some kinds of systems, doing some software development, and other activities. One option is to enter the workforce while also taking graduate-level courses to obtain more qualifications to become a computer scientist in a more advanced field in the future. Practical experience in the field can be helpful for some graduate scholars.

Other students can choose to apply directly to graduate school to become a computer scientist. They will need to complete a master's degree in their area of focus, and then they can perform doctoral research. It may take five years or more to graduate with a PhD, and some students go on to postdoctoral work. This can be especially important for computer scientists who want to teach in the field or work on cutting edge research at advanced facilities.

A computer scientist who wants to teach generally needs a PhD.
A computer scientist who wants to teach generally needs a PhD.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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