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How to become a computer scientist.

As computers have become a requirement for so many devices, activities and professions the people who specialize in them have been broken into multiple categories.  Database administrators, information technologists, system designers, network analysts and data security experts are all important and fast growing job sectors.  Perhaps the original professional role from which these job titles grew is the computer scientist.

Computer science work is essentially research, theory development or product innovation and invention. The job requires a relatively high level of theoretical expertise coupled joined to the fascination with gadgetry that characterizes all inventors.  Computer science jobs involve solving problems through the adaptation of current tools or the creation of new technology.

Computer scientists in academic institutions work in areas ranging from complexity theory to hardware to programming-language design.  That’s the academic level, frequented by PhDs.  There are plenty of opportunities for people with bachelors’ or masters’ in computer science.  Some may work in developing specialized languages or new programs (such as with Java); some might design programming tools to be incorporated into software; some may work in computer forensics, in data security or in the development of knowledge-based systems.

Generally, a bachelors’ degree in computer science is a fork in the road for the recent graduate.  The degree can lead into a plethora of important business functions such as network design; information systems; database management; or information security.  A masters’ degree may elevate you to a systems design or management role in a large corporate structure.  According to the Labor Department, the median annual salary of computer scientists and ‘information scientists’ was $85,000 in May of 2004.

There are a number of professional titles that fall under the educational basket labeled Computer Information Science.  Those include database administrators; network administrators; systems analyst; information management and data communication analyst – and several others that haven’t come into common use yet.

Just about all of them fall under the umbrella of Information Technology as well.  Generally though, the concept of information science has to do with the transmission, use of and security for databases.  There is a high demand for trained personnel for all of these job categories. 

According to the Department of Labor database administrator positions usually require a bachelor’s degree in computer science, in information science or in management information systems (MIS).  People working at this level are generally involved not only in the mere storage of data, but also in the methodology and tools required to put that data to work.  MIS programs in particular have a lot of classes devoted to business and management oversight of database tools – perhaps marketing, perhaps sales; perhaps customer relations and even investor relations.

Many schools have developed MBA programs with an emphasis on information systems management and employers attempting to utilize the new generation of customer management software are looking for graduates with these academic credentials.  An MBA with specialization in computer information science may not be as difficult to achieve as you might think.

Take a look at some of the online programs that are at the forefront of MBA specialization and see how many college credits you can transfer into the required curriculum.  Employers are looking for technically adept employees, but those with real experience in similar or related fields are important too.

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Salaries with Computer Information Science Degrees

Average annual earnings of Computer Information Scientists in May 2004.

  • Lowest 10% earned $48,930
  • Median $85,190
  • Highest 10% earned $132,700

Related occupations with Computer information Science Degrees:

  • Wired telecommunications carriers: $65,130
  • Insurance carriers: $64,660
  • Management of companies and enterprises: $64,170
  • Computer systems design and related services: $63,910
  • Local government: $52,300