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IT career roadmap: Research scientist

Sharon Florentine | July 14, 2016
Amanda Stent's interest in music has helped advance her career as a research scientist as much as her mathematics and computer science background has.

While Stent holds a doctorate, some research positions, like data scientist, data analyst, research engineer and research assistant require only a master's or a bachelors; many of these skills are in increasingly high demand, according to's data and research team.

"When we look at the data we've pulled for R&D, data and engineering terms in a posted job title over the past few years, we see a steady demand with a few peaks in May 2015 and January 2016," according to

Research and development is a gateway into entrepreneurship, too, so it's a solid foundation for any up-and-coming startup founders in tech hotspots like Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley and New York City and even Boston, says Agarwal. "The starting point for many innovative, IT companies is, 'I have this idea and can build this technology, but how do I make money with this thing? How would this impact the world?' That's kind of what's happening on a larger scale. Software R & D has many elements of hard engineering but with a major product development and product management function, which the software industry is really struggling to find right now," Agarwal says.

But it's not just in California, New York, Seattle and Boston where research and development are having a major economic impact. Software is a linchpin of almost every business today, nationwide, and demand for innovation and new technology isn't slowing down, no matter where you look, says Victoria Espinel, president and CEO of software industry trade group BSA.

"Software is a major economic contributor to GDP in virtually every state. According to our research, we're seeing approximately $52 billion in research and development investment by software companies nationwide; areas like cloud, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, gaming, enterprise software, predictive analytics, biotechnology, 3D printing -- there's so much innovation and huge technology advances everywhere you look, in almost every industry," Espinel says.

Stent herself is a computational linguist; she works to help computers understand and produce language and facilitate human-machine interactions through technology like chatbots and dialog systems. One application of her research is in analytics of human conversation, as well as how to better interact with and consume media and information, she says.

"Some of the things I've looked into include the structure of a conversation, and how to summarize a developing story that's happening in the news, for example. How to identify and aggregate all the content that's generated around a news story and deliver it in the most impactful and powerful way. What's important to people? What's not? There's also an emerging field called social computer that deals with how people relate to computers while computers are interacting with each other," Stent says.


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