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Learn quantum computing with online courses and programs

Quantum computing is a field that pushes beyond the limits of traditional computing. Explore how quantum computing works, and learn more about jobs that use quantum computing with this guide from edX.

What is quantum computing?

In order to perform their most basic operations, traditional computers convert every piece of data using the binary number system. The resulting string, most often in the form of zeros and ones, is known as binary code. A single string of binary code, which represents just one piece of data, is known as a bit.Footnote 1

Quantum computers do not use bits. Instead, quantum computers translate data into qubits, which can be a one or a zero simultaneously – an impossibility for traditional computers that makes quantum computers exponentially faster. For this to occur, quantum computers rely on superposition, a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics that states that some properties of subatomic particles are not known until they're observed. 

Quantum computers have another advantage over traditional computers thanks to a principle of quantum mechanics known as ‘quantum entanglement’, which binds certain subatomic particles to one another when they are close together. Because of entanglement, the power of quantum computers increases exponentially with the addition of each new qubit. This is unlike traditional computers, which only increase in power linearly with the addition of each new bit.Footnote 2

Combined, entanglement and superposition allow quantum computers to achieve what’s known as quantum supremacy or quantum advantage, which is the aim of proving that quantum computers can solve problems that a traditional computer cannot solve in an amount of time that’s practical.Footnote 3 Quantum supremacy, like quantum computing in general, is not something that can be achieved in a regular office space. Instead, quantum computers require highly controlled environments where everything from temperature to noise are regulated. The components of quantum computing are resource intensive, and highly demanding, including the skills needed to work in the field. 

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Why learn quantum computing?

Quantum computing programs tend to be either the sole focus of an organization or something a company puts significant resources into given its potential to transform the world of computing. Quantum computing careers may be an opportunity to conduct well-funded research with teams of highly skilled professionals, and potentially present research at conferences or in peer-reviewed academic journals. 

Practical quantum application development has the potential to create:Footnote 4

  • New pharmaceutical drugs and commercial chemicals 

  • Scientific and mathematical breakthroughs

  • Advances in machine learning

  • Accelerated manufacturing

  • New encryption methods

Quantum computing course curriculum 

Given the interdisciplinary nature of the field, there's no one answer to questions such as, "Where can you learn quantum computing?" or "How to learn quantum computing?" Quantum physics, data analysis, engineering, modeling, math, and coding are some of the areas of expertise for people who have quantum computing jobs. 

Quantum computing training would entail performing the duties of a computer engineer, computer scientist, or program developer, while synthesizing it with knowledge of quantum physics. 

A quantum computing course, either in the form of an in-person class or an online course, may begin with an overview of traditional and quantum computing and quantum physics, followed by a study of the algorithm construction process. A more advanced quantum computing course will dig deeper and require greater knowledge of math, coding, and data science.

Quantum computing jobs 

Companies seeking quantum computing engineers may search for PhD graduates who have achieved a level of specialization and experience that can be difficult for early career professionals.Footnote 5 However, the subjects used in a quantum computing career can be studied as part of bachelor’s degrees or master’s programs, or even with online boot camps

Quantum computing jobs require advanced skills, which makes them competitive. Being able to demonstrate skills is important to begin and advance a career in quantum computing. These skills could be earned by acquiring advanced degrees or completing a relevant boot camp in disciplines like coding, cybersecurity, or data science. Earning a quantum computing certificate by completing a quantum computing online course may also communicate dedication to a hiring manager. 

How to become a quantum computing engineer online

Taking a quantum computing course online is an opportunity for someone interested in quantum computing jobs to learn more about the field and fill in any knowledge gaps. One’s journey can start by earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science or data science. However, each individual’s path will be different and need to be tailored to their own professional goals. 

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