Over the past decade, quantum computing has earned a lot of attention from academic researchers, as well as private industry and the media more recently. This might seem surprising since quantum is a relatively old technology that first appeared in the 1980s. However, recent advancements in quantum computing have helped move it from classroom theory and niche field of research into the mainstream.
Due to this increase in popularity, various companies, such as IBM, Google and Microsoft, have been providing fundamental quantum knowledge for anyone interested in joining the field (or just curious about its current status).
Perhaps the most common problem whenever a person considers joining the field of quantum computing is self doubt. There are mainly two insecurities I’ve seen that plague those who consider joining the field: Some they're not smart enough to learn quantum computing while others think quantum is too complex and requires a lot of technical knowledge. Usually it’s some combination of the two.
Just like any other field, quantum computing is manageable once you know what you need to get started. I’ll walk you through the five foundational skills you’ll need to dive into this quickly growing field.
How Do I Start a Career in Quantum Computing? 5 Skills You Need:
- Basic Electronics
- Linear Algebra and Probability Theory
- Some Physics
- Basic Programming
It may sound cheesy but the first and most important quality you need to have to get into quantum — or any field, really — is curiosity. I know curiosity is not technically something you can obtain. Still, it is crucial if you’re considering quantum computing as a potential profession.
I first got into quantum computing in 2019 because I was curious about how it could make the technologies we work with now even better. How can quantum integrate with technologies we worked hard to develop, like the internet or massive search engines (i.e. Google), and take them a step further? But, if I’m honest, I was the most curious about how quantum computing sounds like science fiction, even though it’s not fiction at all!
2. Basic Electronics
Because quantum computing is, after all, a computing field, we can say it has three primary layers: algorithmic, software and hardware. If you decide to pursue a career in this field, you’ll probably be drawn toward specializing in one of these areas.
Suppose the hardware aspect of quantum computing intrigues you the most. In that case, having a fundamental knowledge of electronics and electrical components can help you take your first step in the field. Of course, if hardware becomes your speciality, developing expertise in electronics will become a necessity.
3. Linear Algebra and Probability Theory
Math is probably the first thing that might discourage someone from getting into quantum computing. That said, math is also an essential part of most technical and scientific fields, including data science, statistics and artificial intelligence.
Linear algebra is the core way of representing all aspects of a quantum system — from the qubits themselves, to their current state and even how the different gates in a quantum circuit behave. Meanwhile, we use probability theory to predict the system’s behavior and its possible outputs.
4. Some Physics
What differentiates quantum computers from the computers we have today is how they use the phenomenon of quantum physics and mechanics, such as entanglement and quantum superposition, to solve problems differently.
In the case of classic computing, you don’t need to know precisely how a computer's hardware works in order to create with it. Mostly, you just need to know how to use it.
Quantum computing is the opposite (at least right now), particularly at the algorithmic and software levels. To be a quantum software programmer, you need to know how a quantum computer works and then use that knowledge to build your applications, which will require you to understand some physics and the mechanics of how quantum algorithms work. This was the case for classical computers in their early stages, and hopefully, as quantum technology advances, knowing exactly how these computers work won't be necessary for people to develop and use these them.
5. Basic Programming
To get started with quantum computing in the current landscape, you’ll probably need to know some programming basics. Currently, some programming languages are entirely designed to program quantum computers. Still, they’re designed to be similar to existing classical programming languages to make the transition to quantum much easier.
Python is one of the most frequently used programming languages to program quantum computers today. Many companies such as IBM and Google have released Python packages that can be used to learn the basics of quantum computers and implement different algorithms.
Quantum computing is no different than any other field but has a bad reputation because the word quantum often equates to esoteric complexity. So, any time anyone mentions quantum, the first thought that comes to mind is that it’s complicated or difficult. The truth is: Getting into quantum computing is just as difficult as entering into any other technical field.
So, if you ever decide to try your hand at quantum computing, do it with the same mindset you do any other field. All fields have challenging topics and a steep learning curve, but they’re worth pursuing. Most importantly, don’t forget to unleash your curiosity. I can assure you that, if you’re curious about getting into quantum computing, you can do it.