A Ph.D. in computer science or a related subject is required for most computer and information research scientist jobs. In the federal government, a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some jobs.
Most computer and information research scientists need a Ph.D. in computer science or a related subject, such as computer engineering. A Ph.D. usually requires 4 to 5 years of study after the bachelor’s degree, usually in a computer-related field such as computer science or information systems. Students spend the first two years in a Ph.D. program taking a range of computer science classes. They then choose a specialty and spend the remaining years doing research within that specialty.
For some computer scientist positions in the federal government, a bachelor’s degree in computer science is sufficient. For computer scientists seeking employment in a specialized field, such as finance or biology, knowledge of that field, along with the computer science degree, may be helpful in attaining a job.
Advanced math skills. Advanced math and other technical topics are critical in computing.
Analytical skills. Computer and information research scientists must be organized in their thinking and analyze the results of their research to formulate conclusions.
Communication skills. Computer and information research scientists must communicate well with programmers and managers, as well as be able to clearly explain their conclusions to people who may have no technical background. They often write for academic journals and similar publications.
Critical-thinking skills. Computer and information research scientists work on many complex problems.
Detail oriented. Computer and information research scientists must pay close attention to their work because a small error can cause an entire project to fail.
Ingenuity. Computer and information research scientists must continually come up with innovative ways to solve problems, particularly when their ideas do not initially work as they had hoped.
Logical thinking. Computer algorithms rely on logic. Computer and information research scientists must have an aptitude for reasoning.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition