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We are now almost fully booked for Summer 2024 and expect to close registration in the next few days.

We are now almost fully booked for Summer 2024 and expect to close registration in the next few days.

How to Become a Computer Scientist: Guide for Students

08 May 2024

How to Become a Computer Scientist: Guide for Students


How to Become a Computer Scientist: Guide for Students

Are you an aspiring computer scientist wondering how you can start preparing for your future career?

This comprehensive guide on becoming a computer scientist will tell you all you need to know about entering the field. We’ll cover what qualifications you’ll need, how to get work experience, the key skills required and what you can be doing now to give yourself the best chance of success. 

Read on to find out more, and see how InvestIN can help students gain the ultimate work experience in computer science

How to become a computer scientist

Below, we've outlined some common steps you can take to become a computer scientist. These include:

  • University
  • Consider a specialisation
  • Consider postgraduate study
  • Develop coding skills
  • Get relevant certifications
  • Build experience
  • Look for positions

Let's look at each of these in more detail.


Completing a degree is one of the most common first steps to becoming a computer scientist. Many employers expect applicants to have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a relevant field. During your degree, you'll cover fields like:

  • Coding
  • Data formats
  • Theory of computation
  • Mathematics
  • Programming
  • Software platforms
  • Software development and testing
  • Analytics

A degree in computer science will usually take three years to complete, at which point you can either consider postgraduate options or begin looking for work. Degree apprenticeships are also available for computer science and related subjects, and allow you to gain industry experience alongside your studies

What subjects should I study before university?

It’s useful to study subjects like maths, sciences (particularly physics) and information technology before pursuing a computer science degree, so consider these when selecting your GCSE and A-level subjects.

Learn more about choosing A levels.

Entry requirements?

Entry requirements for computer science degrees vary between universities, but you’ll likely need at least BBC in your A-levels. Higher achievers will be more likely to get onto their desired course.

Be sure to check the entry requirements for each course you plan to apply to with plenty of time.

Do you need a degree to become a computer scientist?

You don’t necessarily need a degree to become a computer scientist if you have the relevant knowledge or experience to land a role in the field. You may study via online courses and tutorials or work in open-source projects. You may self-study and practise the necessary skills in your own time. You may take relevant internships and networking opportunities, or use other methods to get yourself up to a professional standard where a company will employ you. A strong portfolio that highlights your expertise will be beneficial when applying for jobs if you don’t have a degree.

Still, it’s important to note that this will likely be a more difficult route, and lots of employers will specifically look for a degree in a relevant field.

Consider a specialisation

Many future computer scientists find their niche by identifying areas they'd like to specialise in and building plans to do so. Specialisms can be related to personal interests, career aspirations or financial goals, and include things like:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Software design
  • Game design
  • Computer human interface
  • Data science
  • Information security
  • Theory

Specialising isn't essential, but if it's something you're interested in, it'll help focus your next steps and give you a clearer idea of what your career progression may look like. The earlier you can think of a specialism the better, as it'll give you better insights into any potential postgraduate study opportunities.

Consider postgraduate study

Master's and doctorate degrees are ideal if you're looking to specialise in a particular area of computer science, and can open the door to more advanced positions. Students can complete a master's degree in a year; doctorates take longer, but allow students to specialise further, and feature research and training components that can help you become a leader in your field.

Develop coding skills

Many computer scientists are proficient at programming, which means becoming familiar with a range of computing languages will be beneficial. You may cover these in school, college and university, but you should look for opportunities to expand your knowledge. Consider things like:

  • Self-study
  • Online courses
  • Internships or mentorship programmes
  • Networking with professionals who have these skills

Strong coding skills aren't necessary for all entry-level roles, but the better your understanding, the more you'll stand out to potential employers.

Get relevant certifications

More and more individuals are getting computer-science related certifications, so it's important to do the same if you want to compete for roles in the field. For roles related to information systems, design and security, specific qualifications are required. However, not all certifications and qualifications have to be specific to computer science; employers are also interested in fields where you can learn transferable knowledge or skills.

If you've decided on a specialism, do some research to find relevant certificates you’ll need. You can also contact people already working in the field to identify certifications that will be valuable for the career you're looking to pursue.

Build experience

Entry-level computer science jobs don't always require professional experience outside of relevant degrees, knowledge or certifications. However, experience in a relevant role, or roles where skills are transferable, will undoubtedly support your application. Think about the kind of roles you'll be applying for and see what experience they require. Do this before you're ready to apply for roles to give you time to build any experience you need.

Look for positions

Once you've got the relevant knowledge, qualifications and experience, you'll be ready to apply for entry level roles in the field. Common entry level computer science roles include:

  • Computer scientist
  • Computer support specialist
  • Web developer or designer
  • Software developer
  • Data analyst

As you build more knowledge and skills on the job, you’ll be able to apply for more senior roles.

How can I get work experience in computer science?

Some work experience in a field related to work experience will support you in job applications. Consider options such as:

InvestIN’s summer programme

We offer the ultimate work experience in computer science for students looking to build a career in the field. You'll programme robots, design your own video game, meet senior computer scientists and more.

InvestIN features as an official activity provider on the UCAS application form, and almost 80% of our surveyed alumni who referenced InvestIN on their application form received a place at their first-choice university.

Find out more today, or contact us if you have any questions.

Tutors and mentors

Tutors and mentors are perfect as you look for experience, as they're likely to have knowledge and connections that can support your progression. Think of people you already know that could become mentors, from school teachers to people you know working in the field; if you don't know anyone, seek out professionals who can help you learn.

Look for relevant jobs and companies online

Use online job sites and resources like LinkedIn to identify companies or individuals who can help you gain experience. You may be able to attend events, shadow employees, volunteer to help or more. You'll also build professional networks that'll be helpful as you pursue a career in the field.

Take online courses

Online courses help you build skills that'll be helpful in potential roles, and demonstrate a willingness to learn to employers. Look for reputable courses that offer certificates upon completion, and choose courses that align with your interests where possible.

Look at university course curriculums

Researching relevant university course curriculums is a great way to see what the key areas of focus will be in your future studies. Many will be available online, so having a look at what courses cover and studying them before you attend university will set you up perfectly for your degree. It'll also highlight your desire to learn to any companies where you're looking for internships or employment.

Work on an open-source project

Open-source projects allow you to gain experience working with other developers all over the world. Look for projects that align with your interests and contribute to them to develop relevant skills and learn industry-standard practices.

Build your own hardware

Building your own computer or hardware project will help you solve problems and overcome challenges relevant to a future role. It's also a great way to show you're passionate about computer science

Build an app

Similarly, building an app will help you develop coding and creative skills that will support future job applications. Anything you build can form part of a portfolio that'll set you apart from other candidates.

What are some common roles in computer science?

Common jobs in computer science include:

  • Software developer
  • Web developer
  • UX designer
  • Mobile app developer
  • IT project manager
  • Information security analyst
  • Systems architect
  • AI engineer
  • Computer hardware engineer
  • Video game developer
  • Cybersecurity analyst
  • Penetration tester
  • Forensic computing analyst

Common employers and industries

Typical employers for roles related to computer science include IT consultancies and IT providers. You'll also likely find jobs in IT departments in industries like:

  • Retail
  • Finance
  • Healthcare
  • Telecommunications
  • Manufacturing
  • Public sector
  • Agriculture

What skills are required for computer science?

Key skills and knowledge for careers in computer science include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Software development skills
  • An understanding of computer architecture
  • Coding skills
  • Mathematical knowledge
  • Computer language proficiency
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Programming skills
  • Technical writing skills
  • Data analysis skills
  • Time management skills

Learn more about general employability skills.

What do jobs in computer science involve?

Roles in computer science involve:

  • Creating and improving software and hardware
  • Finding solutions to computing-related problems
  • Designing and testing new systems
  • Working on product development projects
  • Testing and debugging computer software
  • Building and testing algorithms
  • Working alongside computer programmers and coders
  • Making the computing power of systems more efficient

Get ahead with InvestIN

With InvestIN, you'll get a unique opportunity to experience your dream career before you've even left school. You'll gain expert insights into the field and build a professional network that'll support you in your future. Get a head start today and grow in confidence and ability in your chosen field. 

Our computer science programme is just one of several unique experiences on offer. You may also be interested in:

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.


What is computer science?

Computer science covers the study of computers and computational systems, particularly hardware and software. Particular areas of focus include theory, design, development and application. Computer scientists use various algorithms, coding methods and programming skills to analyse computer processes and develop new software.

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

You'll likely enjoy computer science if:

  • You like solving puzzles
  • You're organised and detail oriented
  • You're an analytical thinker
  • You have an interest in computers, hardware and software

What qualifications do you need to become a computer scientist?

Common qualifications for computer scientists include A-levels in subjects like maths and sciences, in addition to an undergraduate degree in computer science or a related field. While a degree isn't an absolute necessity for prospective computer scientists, many employers prefer candidates with a relevant degree.

What's the difference between computer science and software engineering?

The main difference between computer science and software engineering (or software development) is that computer science covers a broad understanding of all interconnected aspects of modern computers, whereas software engineering mainly covers design and implementation of large, complex software systems.

Should I study computer science or software engineering?

If you're more interested in computers and systems, including how software and hardware work together to ensure programmes run effectively, then you'll likely prefer computer science; if you prefer learning about real-world application approaches to software development then software engineering is likely to be a better choice.


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