What Do Computer Scientists Do

Learn about the various roles that a computer scientist could fill, as explained by experts.

Aaron Yoshitake

Aaron Yoshitake

Bachelor’s Degree Holder in Computer Science, University of California at Berkeley | Builder, Pick A Kit

Computer science is a broad field, and those of us who hold degrees in CS do countless different jobs, so I can’t speak for most of my fellow computer scientists, but here’s what I do:

Build custom websites and apps for businesses

While most blogs are built with Wordpress and many small businesses use website-builders like Squarespace and Wix, websites with highly custom functionality require developers who understand web architecture well enough to optimize and secure them.

We, web developers, are often expensive to hire, so most such bespoke websites are developed for large enterprises and growing startups, who have the cash (and the profit incentive) to bankroll them. Viasat Internet, where I work alongside a team of other software engineers, falls into the former category.

By the way, what I’ve written about websites applies equally to apps.. just replace “Squarespace and Wix” with “Zoho Creator, Appy Pie, Appery, and many others”.

Stay near the cutting edge

Modern web development is constantly advancing and seems to be accelerating. To remain relevant, I’ve had to learn and use new technologies on a yearly basis, usually writing or rewriting code to use them – the only way I can truly assimilate the knowledge.

It’s easy to find well-designed tutorials and “Getting Started” guides for tech that’s on the rise, and there are plenty of online educators teaching the latest and greatest to the software engineer masses. The tricky part is figuring out what to learn in the first place; there’s a ton of noise and hype out there, and you could spend all day every day learning stuff that you’ll never need.

In general, I try to avoid learning new technologies until I’m ready to use it right away, but in my experience, once a library, framework, language, or paradigm reaches a certain popularity threshold – like React in 2016-17, or GraphQL now – using it is often a good idea, and learning how and when to use it is critical.

I build custom websites for myself

When it comes to my side interests and businesses, the only cost for my labor is an opportunity cost. I’ve designed and developed many sites for myself and my friends over the last 9 years, and being able to launch these side projects is easily my favorite thing about being a web developer.

Building these projects is an amazing way to stretch my abilities and try out new things in a low-pressure environment, all while having fun and trying out ideas

The sites I’ve worked on range from whimsical (wishing well and fortune cookie sites) to practical (productivity tracker and text editor) to fun (bitcoin poker and board game clones). My current projects are two collaborations with friends: a personality magazine with a custom personality test and a meal kit menu aggregator.

So, what do I do with my computer science education and experience? I build things, and I love it.

Joe Flanagan

Joe Flanagan

Lead App Developer, GetSongBPM

A computer scientist uses technology in the form of a custom-developed computer program to assist in solving a specific problem

Today, however, computer scientists do more than just develop programs for computers. They are now also extending their expertise to assist in the development of websites and mobile apps.

The goal of a computer scientist is to use mathematics in the form of programming.

The idea here is to ensure a computer-person interaction is possible, and that the computer (which can also be a mobile device) can solve a particular issue that the person is facing, based on their interaction.

Many computer scientists extend their reach toward computer vision, programming theory, database theory, and data algorithms.

Computer scientists use programming skills to help develop software, apps, or websites that can solve issues through mathematical models.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What skills do I need to become a computer scientist?

To become a computer scientist, you must develop several technical and non-technical skills. Some of the key skills that are important for a career in computer science are:

Strong foundation in programming and computer science fundamentals: This includes knowledge of programming languages, algorithms, data structures, and computer architecture.

Mathematical and analytical skills: Computer science involves a lot of complex problem-solving, so you need to be familiar with mathematical concepts such as calculus, statistics, and linear algebra.

Critical thinking and creativity: To succeed as a computer scientist, you need to be able to look at problems from new angles and think creatively to find innovative solutions.

Communication and collaboration: Computer science is a field where collaboration matters. Therefore, you must be able to communicate effectively with others, including technical and non-technical stakeholders.

Adaptability and lifelong learning: The field of computer science is constantly evolving. Therefore, you must adapt to new technologies and approaches as they emerge and continue to learn and grow professionally.

Attention to detail: Computer science involves a lot of detail-oriented work, such as debugging code and testing software applications.

Perseverance and problem-solving skills: Computer science projects can be complex and challenging, so you must persevere and find creative solutions to complex problems.

By developing these skills through education, practice, and continuous learning, you can prepare yourself for a successful career in computer science.

Can I work remotely as a computer scientist?

Yes, it is possible to work remotely as a computer scientist. In fact, many computer science jobs can be done completely remotely, provided you have a computer and a reliable internet connection. 

Some of the factors that determine whether remote work is feasible to include:
– The nature of the job
– The company’s policies
– Your location
– Your skills and experience

Remote work in computer science is becoming increasingly common, and there are many opportunities for those who prefer to work outside a traditional office environment.

However, it’s essential to research and ensures that remote work is possible and appropriate for your specific job and situation.

How do I know if computer science is right for me?

Deciding if computer science is the right major for you can be a difficult decision. Below are some factors that can help you determine if computer science is a good match for your interests and abilities:

Interest in technology: Are you naturally interested in technology, and do you enjoy exploring how different technologies work?

Problem-solving ability: Are you good at breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable parts and finding creative solutions to challenges?

Mathematical aptitude: Are you familiar with mathematical concepts and enjoy solving mathematical problems?

Programming experience: Have you ever programmed and enjoyed it, or are you interested in learning how to code?

Communication skills: Can you communicate effectively with both technical and non-technical people and collaborate with others on complex projects?

Curiosity and willingness to learn: Are you excited about constantly learning and keeping up with the latest technological developments?

If you answered “yes” to many of these questions, computer science might be a good fit for you. However, it’s important to note that there are many different areas of computer science, and your specific interests and skills may be better suited for one area than another.

If you’re still unsure if computer science is right for you, talk to computer science professionals, attend events and workshops in the field, or take an introductory course to see if you like the subject.

What is the relationship between computer science and other disciplines, such as engineering or mathematics?

Computer science is a field that overlaps with many other fields, including engineering and mathematics. Below are some examples of the relationships between computer science and these fields:

Engineering: Computer science is critical in many engineering disciplines, such as electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering.

Computer scientists develop software, and tools engineers use to design and analyze systems. For example, computer-aided design (CAD) tools allow engineers to create 3D models of products or structures before they are built.

Mathematics: Computer science relies heavily on mathematical principles and concepts such as algorithms and logic. Many problems in computer science can be solved using mathematical techniques. Some computer scientists even consider themselves mathematicians first and foremost.

Conversely, the development of computers has also led to new areas of mathematics, such as computational geometry and cryptography.

Other fields: Computer science also intersects with many other fields beyond engineering and mathematics. For example: 
– Bioinformatics uses computer science techniques to analyze biological data
– Digital humanities apply computer-based methods to humanities research
– Financial modeling uses algorithms to predict stock prices

Computer science is a highly interdisciplinary field that draws on many different areas of knowledge. As technology continues to advance, we can expect to see even more overlap between computer science and other fields in the future.

What is the future of computer science?

The field of computer science is rapidly evolving, with new technologies and applications emerging all the time. Some of the significant trends that will shape the future of computer science include:

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: These fields rapidly evolve, with new breakthroughs in natural language processing, computer vision, and autonomous systems.

Quantum computing: Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize areas such as cryptography and optimization and is likely to become increasingly important in the coming years.

Cybersecurity: With the increasing threat of cyberattacks, there is a growing need for computer scientists who can develop new security technologies and protect against threats.

Computer science is a field that offers tremendous opportunities to those with a passion for technology and problem-solving.

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