Information Researcher

What Do Computer Information Researchers Do?

Computer information researchers are at the forefront of computing technology and human-computer interactions. They are responsible for studying and analyzing problems in organizations and designing an approach using computing technology to provide efficient solutions. They may also evaluate the effectiveness of existing computing technologies and work to improve them. Their daily tasks may include testing user needs or operations of a software system, analyzing those results, and presenting them to stakeholders or academic conferences.

As technology develops, there will be an increased demand for computer information researchers and similar occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in computer information research are predicted to grow by 19% between now and 2026, a rate much faster than the average.

Key Skills

Computer information researchers need a foundational understanding of computer systems and should possess a mastery of programming languages. Many of these skills can be learned through degree programs, certifications, and additional training seminars or courses. Online programming bootcamps have become popular and signal a demand for professionals with knowledge of computer information systems. Listed below are a few of the top skills and competencies needed by computer information researchers according to PayScale.

Key Skills for Computer Information Researchers

  • Software Development: Software development is the process of designing, creating, programming, developing, troubleshooting, and fixing components of software. This process encompasses everything from the conception of software that fulfills a particular purpose to its final production. Software development also includes maintaining and writing source code.
  • Machine Learning: Machine learning uses algorithms and statistical models to improve a computer system's performance of specific tasks. Computer and information research scientists build mathematical models to predict and govern behaviors when explicit programming for a given task is not feasible.
  • UNIX: UNIX is family of multiuser operating systems and is a convenient platform for programmers to develop software and run code while sharing it with colleagues. It is considered the first portable operating system and is written almost entirely in C programming language. It can reach across various platforms.
  • C: C is a procedural programming language developed for writing operating systems. Its key capabilities include providing low level access to memory and providing language constructs that match machine instructions. It requires minimal run-time support. It was designed to be cross-platform compatible and can be compiled for various computer platforms and operating systems without significant changes to its source code.
  • Java: Java is a general-purpose programming language often used by application developers. It is one of the most popular programming languages, particularly for client-server web applications. The language shares some of its syntax with C and C++.
  • Data Analysis: Data analysis refers to compiling, modeling, and inspecting data in order to discover useful insights and use those insights to inform decision-making. Computer information researchers may need to use statistical analysis or a combination of quantitative and qualitative data to draw conclusions about how effectively a program or software is running and how it can be improved.

How Much Do Computer Information Researchers Make?

According to the BLS, the average annual salary for computer information researchers in 2017 was $114,520. However, that amount can vary depending on factors like education level upon job entry, years of experience on the job, geographical location, industry, and position within a company or organization. For instance, PayScale found that computer information researchers with five to 10 years of job experience make roughly $22,000 more annually than entry level researchers.

Average Salary of Computer Information Researchers by Job Level

Entry-Level (0-5 Years) $86,000
Mid-Career (5-10 Years) $108,000
Experienced (10-20 Years) $125,000
Late-Career (20+ Years) $140,000

Source: PayScale

How Do I Become a Computer Information Researcher?

Earn Your Degree

No degrees focus specifically on computer information research, so most computer and information research scientists obtain degrees in fields applicable to the position like computer science, computer/software engineering, or information systems. An advanced degree is typically necessary to fulfill a researcher role in any field. According to the BLS, most computer information researcher positions require at least a master's degree in computer science or a related field, although some positions with the federal government require only a bachelor's degree. Obtaining an advanced degree qualifies candidates for more job opportunities and higher potential salaries. Bachelor's and master's degrees related to computer information research, like computer science or computer engineering, can be earned online. Attending an online college is a smart option for future computer information research scientists who need flexibility to balance their studies with other obligations.

Gain Experience

Most employers value experience, particularly field-specific experience. Computer information research is conducted in many industries and field areas so in addition to education, prospective job candidates may be required to have experience in the company's area of specialization. For instance, computer research scientists applying for jobs at a company that develops biomedical applications should have completed some coursework in biology or have experience in the medical industry.

Employers often want to see examples of an individual's work as related to their field. Some of this can be demonstrated through schoolwork. For instance, many degree programs require a capstone research project or thesis where students must design, write, and implement the code for an application or conduct a research project on an aspect of user experience for an existing program. These can be used on a job application or in an interview. Those who have job experience should provide more about the projects they worked on for their previous companies and how they approached specific problems.

Earn Credentials

In addition to a college or graduate degree in the field, certifications and other credentials can strengthen a job candidate's resume. For computer information researchers, most of these certifications are in particular programming languages that demonstrate on paper the individual's command and expertise in that language. For example, there are certifications in C, in Java, Python, and more. There are even certifications offered in the broader area of software development that do not focus solely on one language but evaluates knowledge of several.

While certifications are not required for computer information research careers, some employers may look for them as proof of computer programming skills. Certifications in programming or software development are most useful for individuals who graduated with a degree in areas other than computing. This gives employers confidence in a candidate's programming skills even without a degree in computer science.

Types of Careers in Computer Information Research

Careers available to computer information researchers vary based on the degree they hold. Most occupations involving computer information research require a computer science or related degree. For instance, computer programmers need to obtain a degree in which they learn a variety of programming languages and should tailor their studies for this purpose, choosing programming courses over other options when possible.

In addition to the area of study, education level also matters. Computer programmers typically hold a bachelor's in computer science, but employers may accept an associate degree or certificate from an accredited programming bootcamp. Software developers, on the other hand, must have a bachelor's in computer science, software engineering, or a related field and possess strong computer programming skills. A degree in an area like computer science can also be paired with a minor or concentration in other fields to better prepare for specific occupations. Computer and information systems managers and database administrators, for example, may benefit from courses in business administration or management.

These occupations are related to computer information research.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Also referred to as information technology (IT) managers, computer and information systems managers are responsible for overseeing computer-related goals and activities within an organization. They help analyze the needs of their organization and implement the computer systems necessary to meet those needs.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree

Median Annual Salary

$139,220

Computer Programmers

Computer programmers are responsible for writing and evaluating code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. They translate program designs created by software developers and engineers into a variety of computer programming languages, including C and Java.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree

Median Annual Salary

$82,240

Computer Systems Analysts

Sometimes also known as systems architects, computer systems analysts act as the bridge between business operations and information technology. They analyze a company's current computer systems and information technology structure and work to design solutions for greater efficiency. They help IT department staff understand how computer systems can best serve their company.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree

Median Annual Salary

$88,270

Database Administrators

Database administrators are essentially guardians of data for a company or organization. They are responsible for storing and organizing data, as well as making sure data is secure from unauthorized access. They monitor databases to ensure they are operating smoothly and maintain them, updating when needed.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree

Median Annual Salary

$87,020

Software Developers

Software developers are innovators who design and create computer programs and software. Some might work on developing applications for mobile or computer use while others specialize in developing underlying systems. They are responsible for studying user needs, analyzing the data, and then designing and implementing a program to meet those needs.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree

Median Annual Salary

$103,560

Where Can I Work as a Computer Information Researcher?

Computer information researchers are in demand and have many options available when choosing where to work. The number of available jobs in computer information research varies by state and industry, but computer information researchers have some degree of flexibility in work location since there are technology companies all over the world. For even more flexibility, computer information researchers can choose to freelance and work remotely.

Locations

Geographic location can affect salary potential and job prospects for computer information research scientists. Some cities have higher levels of employment while others provide higher levels of pay. These two categories do not usually overlap since areas saturated with computer information research scientists also tend to pay a lower average salary relative to cities with fewer computer information research scientists. Location details like salary potential and cost of living are important to consider during your job search.

Metropolitan Areas With the Highest Employment Level of Computer and Information Research Scientists

Location Employment Annual Mean Wage
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division 2,610 $130,970
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 1,260 $158,170
New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division 1,250 $136,230
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division 1,070 $144,530
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division 1,040 $125,660

Source: BLS

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Computer and Information Research Scientists

Location Employment Annual Mean Wage
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 50 $159,380
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 1,260 $158,170
Huntsville, AL 1,200 $144,580
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division 1,070 $144,530
Boulder, CO 140 $139,650

Source: BLS

Settings

The industry computer information researchers work in also affects their salary and career trajectory. The largest employer of computer and information research scientists is the federal government. However, the industry or setting with the highest average median annual salary is research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences. Each sector uses the same base skills but applies them differently. This means each sector requires a slightly different set of experiences and expertise. For instance, working in research and development in the physical, engineering, and life science will likely require an educational background in those areas as well as an advanced degree or research experience.

The Five Largest Employers of Computer and Information Research Scientists

Setting Percent Employed Median Annual Salary
Federal government, excluding postal service 28 $108,270
Computer systems design and related services 20 $114,790
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 17 $125,420
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 8 $77,240
Software publishers 6 $132,190

Source: BLS

Continuing Education for Computer Information Researchers

Continuing education for computer information researchers will depend on the individual, company of employment, and industry. There are no state or federal stipulations for licensure or recertification for computer and information research scientists. However, some employers may require some level of continuing education to keep up with technological advances. This may take the form of training seminars, conferences, or online courses. In addition, individuals may decide to further their education by pursuing a doctorate, which can result in new and higher paying job opportunities.

How Do I Find a Job in Computer Information Research?

As a graduate of a computer information research program, make sure to use the resources available to you as a student to start your job search. Many universities and degree programs offer internship opportunities or advertise jobs through student job boards. Schools also host job fairs and recruitment events where companies come to campus to recruit new hires.

Professional Resources for Computer Information Researchers

Professional Organizations

  • Association for Computing Machinery ACM is a professional organization comprised of computing educators, researchers, and other industry professionals dedicated to providing career growth and networking opportunities to its members. They host more than 170 events worldwide.
  • Computing Research Association The CRA is an organization that unites academic, government, and industry professionals to strengthen research and higher education in the field of computing. Their website has a job board for computing research positions.
  • IEEE Computer Society The Computer Society is a networking, career development, and community-focused organization dedicated to advancing the field of computer science and technology. They sponsor over 200 technical conferences each year and publish scholarly journals.
  • Association for Women in Computing The AWC is a professional organization dedicated to the advancement of women in computing related professions. They provide networking, continuing education, and mentoring opportunities.

Professional Development

  • National Science Foundation Research Traineeship Program The NSF Research Traineeship is a program dedicated to training graduate students in STEM areas. The program focuses on workforce development and partnerships with public and private sector organizations.
  • IEEE Computer Society Summer Research and Internships The IEEE website offers summer research and internship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students studying computing.
  • ACM Learning Center The Association for Computing Machinery Learning Center provides resources for continued learning and professional development. Their website includes webinars, distance learning courses, interviews with professionals, podcasts, research articles, and more.
  • CRA Career Building for Researchers The Computing Research Association provides professional development and career building resources for researchers in the field of computing research. This includes best practice memos and career mentoring workshops.

Finding a Job

  • CRA Job Board The Computing Research Association offers a job board that is searchable by location and keyword and even allows prospective employees to submit their resumes.
  • IEEE Computer Society Job Board The IEEE Computer Society has a job board that advertises job listings and is searchable by job title, key word, or location.
  • DevOps Institute Job Board DevOps Institute features a job board that contains job listings which can only be accessed by members of the Association of DevOps professionals.
  • Mathjobs.org Mathjobs.org is an employment services platform provided by the American Mathematical Society geared toward matching qualified candidates with math-related occupations. While many of the jobs are academic positions, there are some industry and outside research positions listed.

Continuing Education

  • Udacity Udacity provides online courses and “nanodegrees” in artificial intelligence, data science, programming, autonomous systems, and business. These courses help students build their portfolios.
  • Bloc Bloc provides online coding programs and is one of the most renowned coding bootcamps. Their web developer and designer programs are for beginners, so this training is best for individuals who may have studied an adjacent field like engineering and are moving into more programming-heavy work.
  • DevOps Institute DevOps institute is a continuous learning platform that offers certifications in areas related to computer systems and systems administration. They aim to foster a community of development operations professionals.
  • Microsoft Certifications Microsoft offers a variety of certification paths and has one for application building, which may be useful to computer and information research scientists. They also have certifications for web applications, SharePoint applications, and the Windows platform in general.