Quantum computing is one of the most talked-about tech fields at the moment. As a result, many universities, research labs and companies worldwide are investing time, money and effort to advance and develop quantum hardware and software. As quantum computing grows in popularity, so does the need for talent.
Although there’s a lot of money and time invested in quantum, people may be hesitant to join the field. That’s often due to the misconception surrounding the word “quantum.” When anyone hears quantum they assume it’s for geniuses only. Before I joined the quantum field, that’s what I thought; after all, quantum physics and mechanics are two fairly complex subjects so, based on that logic, quantum computing must also be complicated.
The difference between quantum computing and quantum physics or mechanics is that quantum computing is moving from research labs to practice. In other words, quantum is more practical, and you can learn it by implementing specific concepts.
All in all, quantum computing is a welcoming field and it’s easier to break into than you may think. This article will go over the main categories of career options in quantum and what skills you need to jumpstart your career.
5 Quantum Computing Careers You Can Break Into
- Software Development
The most obvious and straightforward career option for quantum computing professionals is research. Although quantum computing is moving out of the lab and into industry, the field is still under research. As a result, research opportunities in quantum are vast. Perhaps the easiest way to get involved in quantum research is if you’re a student or you’re already in tech research. Then, all you need to do is learn the basics of quantum computing and switch your focus to quantum. For example, I had my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and my master’s in information engineering; I then decided to switch to quantum computing for my doctorate. As long as you’re curious and willing to learn new things, switching to quantum is possible.
But what if you’re already working or not in a tech field? Can you still join quantum research? The answer is yes, but it will require more work on your part. Get involved in quantum events, conferences or hackathons, build a network and go from there.
Doing quantum research will involve learning (or already possessing expertise in) a specific area. For example, if you join quantum hardware research, having some knowledge about material science and chip manufacturing is a must. However, if you research algorithms, then knowledge of math and physics will help you succeed.
2. Software Development
At the moment, we are starting to build the infrastructure of quantum software but it all started from existing software. So, if you’re already a software developer or a programmer you can get into quantum quite easily. Today, one of the main ways to implement quantum algorithms and execute them on a quantum computer is through Python, C++, Java or any other classical programming language.
The challenge now is to build suites and packages that allow these programming languages to support quantum intuition and make implementing quantum algorithms much better. In addition, an active effort is being put into designing new programming languages that have a similar syntax to existing languages (so they’ll be easy to learn/ use) while supporting what makes quantum special.
Programming quantum computers is an important skill that will only become more important once companies develop fully functioning quantum hardware. This means that the time to design and build software tools to support quantum software — from debugging, testing, packaging and maintaining — is now.
Engineering expertise is highly desired in quantum computing. You can break into quantum computing as an engineer whether or not you have quantum experience. For example, some of the engineering roles needed in quantum that don’t require any quantum knowledge include devices/materials engineer, test engineer, DevOps engineer and database engineer.
That said, some engineering roles require some level of quantum knowledge, such as optics engineer, control systems engineer or cryogenics engineer. Moreover, expertise in other engineering branches can also be helpful in developing hardware for quantum computing with some knowledge of the fundamentals of quantum mechanics and physics, including electrics, electrical engineering and computer engineering.
Since quantum computing (especially the practical aspect) is a relatively new field, marketing has an essential role to play. If you want to be involved in quantum, but you don’t want to be doing anything technical, marketing may be an excellent option for you.
Marketing in quantum is all about spreading knowledge of quantum computing: where it is today, where we hope it will go in the future, and the potential and promise it has to build better technology that will advance our lives.
Often, marketing roles in quantum computing will require you to know the basics of quantum in order to advocate for it with accuracy and confidence. You’ll also need to organize events to seek funding and support for various projects held by the organization to which you belong.
Another essential career option in quantum is education. Educating others about quantum computing is critical for the field to move forward. It’s not just about consciousness raising though; it’s essential that, as a field, quantum has many people who are passionate about educating others about the value of quantum and teaching the field’s core concepts in an accessible way.
Companies like IBM and Google are investing resources to develop curricula to teach people of any age the basic and advanced concepts of quantum computing. IBM is also putting in a lot of effort to make this knowledge free and accessible by anyone anytime and anywhere.
Quantum computing is growing all the time, and with every passing day, the field needs more talent to advance the field. Because quantum computing is still a relatively new field, there are many opportunities to grow and get involved right now.
The good news is that almost everyone in quantum computing is welcoming and supportive of people who want to break in. Most of us were new to the field at some point and even companies understand potential employees will learn most of the required skills required on the job.
So, if you’re curious about quantum and think you don’t have the skills needed to succeed, I am here to tell you that you do; take the first step and attend an online quantum event, connect with others who are already in the field and start your new career journey today.