What Do Computer Scientists Do? Are you excited by the opportunity to code software solutions that will drive the next generation of search engines?

Would you like to conduct research on a wide array of topics, including computer hardware architecture, virtual reality, and robotics?

Do you want an exciting career where you can create machines that can perform tasks on their own — such as sweeping floors in people’s homes, assembling cars on factory production lines, and “auto-piloting” airplanes?

The rapidly-evolving field of computer science offers unique opportunities to make a real difference by using the principles of computer and information technology to design, create, and invent new technologies that will help benefit humanity!

Computer Scientists

  • Solve complex business, scientific, and general computing problems.
  • Work on multidisciplinary projects, collaborating with electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, and other specialists.
  • Research hardware architecture to discover new ways for computers to process and transmit information.
  • Design computer chips and processors, using new materials and techniques to make them work faster and give them more computing power.
  • Use technology to create life-like situations with virtual reality, such as video games that make users feel like they are actually in the game.


  • Artificial intelligence: incorporates the principles of human intelligence and reasoning into computing systems.
  • Computer information systems: integrates the computer applications of data processing with problem solving to improve the efficiency of organizations.
  • Computer graphics: combines video and computer technologies to produce 2D, 3D, or even 4D graphic images, such as those seen in video games.
  • Data processing: involves the study of how data is stored and computers, and how it can be processed to solve account and management problems.
  • Database systems: involves the study of systems, called databases, that can efficiently store, process, and retrieve information.
  • Robotics: applies artificial intelligence and engineering concepts to create and program mechanical devices, called robots, that are able to perform a variety of tasks.
  • Systems analysis: involves the analysis of existing computer systems and the design of new systems.

Famous Computer Scientists

  • Grace Murray Hopper – American computer scientist who was responsible for developing the first compiler for computer programming language
  • Marisa Mayer – spent 13 years at Google, where she led the development of Google’s most successful products, before being appointed CEO of Yahoo
  • Erna Schneider Hoover – worked at Bell Laboratories, where she invented a computerized switching system for telephone traffic, which replaced hard-wired, mechanical switching equipment
  • Jean Sammet – spent 27 years at IBM, where she developed FORMAC, the first widely used computer language for symbolic manipulation of mathematical formulas
  • Alan Curtis Kay – American computer scientist best known for his pioneering work on object-oriented programming and windowing graphical user interface design
  • Larry Page – American entrepreneur and computer scientist who co-founded Google Inc., the search engine giant that offers a wide range of internet products and services
  • Judea Pearl – Israeli-American computer scientist who gained international reputation for his work in the field of artificial intelligence
  • Tim Berners-Lee – English computer scientist best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web

Areas of Employment

  • Academic settings
  • Research institutions
  • Computer systems design and related services
  • Software publishers
  • Finance and insurance
  • Computer and electronic product manufacturing
  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • Consulting firms
  • Local, state, or federal government
  • Animation programmer
  • Information security engineer
  • Cyber security management
  • Java developer

Career Guidance Suggestions for Pre-University Students

Coursework to consider:
  • Pre-algebra
  • Geometry
  • Advanced algebra
  • Engineering fundamentals
  • Chemistry
  • Calculus
  • Trigonometry
  • Statistics
  • Computer applications
  • Physics
  • Robotics
  • Programming
  • Data structures
  • Digital design
  • Performance analysis
  • Circuits and systems
  • Applied algorithms
  • Machine vision
  • Network administration
Suggested extracurricular activities:
  • Competitions
  • Summer programs
  • Afterschool programs
  • Clubs
  • Internships
  • Online puzzles and games
  • Online courses
  • Maker Faires
  • Design projects
Local programs offered by:
  • Science centers and museums
  • Professional societies like IEEE
  • Universities
Important Skills
  • Analytical skills: analyze the needs of customers to design appropriate solutions.
  • Communication skills: be able to express themselves clearly and seek others’ ideas and incorporate those ideas into the problem-solving process.
  • Math skills: use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in mathematics, as well as statistics, for analysis, design, and troubleshooting.
  • Computer skills: understand computer capabilities and programming languages in order to design new computer technologies.
  • Interpersonal skills: must be able to work well with others who contribute to designing, developing, and programming.
  • Problem-solving skills: solve complex business, scientific, and general computing problems.
  • Detail-oriented: work on many parts of an application or system at the same time, and must therefore be able to concentrate and pay attention to detail.

Links and Resources

  • Association for Computing Machinery: the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society focused on advancing computing as a science and a profession.
  • American Association for Artificial Intelligence: a nonprofit scientific society devoted to advancing the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines.
  • Association for Women in Computing: one of the first professional organizations for women in computing focused on promoting the advancement of women in the computing professions.
  • Computing Research Association: focus is to enhance innovation by joining with industry, government, and academia to strengthen research and advanced education in computing.
  • Institution of Engineering and Technology: inspires, informs, and influences the global engineering community, supporting technology innovation to meet the needs of society.
  • IEEE Computer Society: the world’s leading membership organization dedicated to computer science and technology; the trusted information, networking, and career-development source for a global community of technology leaders.