Computer science is the study of how computers can be used to solve a wide range of problems. At its most basic, computer science looks at how to transmit and transform information using computers. This field integrates topics from mathematics, physics, engineering and design. The field of computer science has been around in some form since as early as the 17th century!
Computer science can be split into practical and theoretical fields. Within these disciplines there are many subfields which look at various computer science concepts. Professional computer scientists generally lean towards the theoretical side of computer science. Other titles such as computer or software engineer deal with the more practical side of computer science.
Theoretical computer science includes abstract topics exploring math, physics and how computers work. These include topics such as computational complexity theory and the theory and design of programming languages. These topics focus on examining how computers can be used to efficiently complete tasks. This requires an understanding of the foundations of computer science such as formal logic, cryptography and probability theory. Though these topics are often abstract, they have real-world applications. Research from these fields enables and improves the technology we use on a daily basis.
Professional computer scientists need experience throughout the field, they should understand:
- Theoretical expertise that they can creatively apply to new problems
- Theoretical basis of their work to develop efficient algorithms
- Practical software engineering tools and patterns used to develop maintainable, interpretable code
- Application domain in order to effectively address problems
Computer scientists have many career options. These range from abstract research to solving real-world problems. Computer scientists are often employed by software companies and research institutions. However, the widespread use of computers means computer scientists work in many diverse fields.
What Does a Computer Scientist Do?
The role of a computer scientist is to apply concepts from computer science to create efficient solutions. The exact goals and responsibilities of a computer scientist vary between organizations and jobs:
- In academia – computer scientists may focus on expanding computational theory as well as educating the next generation of computer scientists.
- Computer scientists in various other industries will focus on finding ways to improve efficiency of real-world computer systems.
- Working alongside computer engineers and software engineers, computer scientists should be able to effectively communicate their work to these teams, as well as to non-technical stakeholders.
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There are a set of core skills needed for computer science – such as the ability to measure and compare the efficiency of programs. This is called analysis of algorithms. A good understanding of the computer architecture, or how computers work is also essential.
Additionally, computer scientists should be familiar with various programming languages such as Python, C, Java and others. Computer scientists will most likely have a passion for technology and enjoy learning about and studying technology.
How to Think Like a Computer Scientist
The book “How to Think Like a Computer Scientist” is a guide to the basics of programming. It is an open source resource published under the GNU Free Documentation License. This means it is freely available for anyone interested in learning the basics of computer science. It is a great resource and a good place to learn the essentials of computer science.
“How to Think Like a Computer Scientist” is not only a guide to the Python programming language, but to many the essential concepts of computer science. It is both a practical guide to learning how to program as well as an introduction to the theory of computation. Covering essential computer science topics through practical programming exercises in the Python language, this book also dives into:
- How computer programs work
- Object-oriented programming
- What a programming language is and the essential components such as syntax, variables, conditionals, iteration and more
“How to Think Like a Computer Scientist” is a great introduction to programming and computational thinking. It provides readers with the essential knowledge to understand computation and to write basic programs. It is a free resource that has inspired many programmers and computer scientists.
Computer Scientist Salary
Computer scientists are in high demand. Computer science jobs in the United States are expected to grow by 19% from 2016-2026 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is well above the average growth rate for other careers.
With increasing utilization of computers in nearly every industry, this trend is expected to continue. Software development companies are continuing to grow and flourish. More industries than ever are integrating computer science concepts into their day to day.
Computer scientists generally make high salaries. The average computer scientist salary in 2018 was $118,370 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries are generally between $70k and $150k according to Glassdoor. Positions in industry generally pay more than jobs in academia with computer science professors make an average of $84k.
Computer science is an exciting field with many opportunities. It has high starting salaries and plenty of room to grow!