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Dynamic programming is an algorithmic technique that solves optimization problems by breaking them down into simpler sub-problems. The solutions to these sub-problems are stored along the way, which ensures that each problem is only solved once. Dynamic programming has become an important technique for efficiently solving complex optimization problems in applications such as reinforcement learning for artificial intelligence (AI) and genome sequencing in bioinformatics.

The advantages of dynamic programming can be understood in relation to other algorithms used to solve optimization problems. Like divide and conquer algorithms, dynamic programming breaks down a larger problem into smaller pieces; however, unlike divide and conquer, it saves solutions along the way so each problem is only solved once, improving the speed of this approach. By contrast, greedy algorithms also solve each problem only once, but unlike dynamic programming, it does not look back to consider all possible solutions, running the risk that the greedy algorithm will settle on a locally optimal solution that is not globally optimal.

Ultimately, there is no single “silver bullet” algorithm that is best for every application, and different types of problems will require different techniques. However, dynamic programming’s ability to deliver globally optimal solutions with relative efficiency makes it an important part of any programmer’s skill set.

Dynamic programming is a valuable career skill for programmers working on complex optimization problems in high-tech fields such as data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, and bioinformatics. Computer scientists with the ability to find the right approaches to these high-value problems are highly sought after and compensated accordingly by leading companies in these industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information research scientists earned a median annual salary of $122,840 per year in 2019, and these jobs are expected to grow much faster than the average across the rest of the economy.

Yes! There are an incredibly wide range of learning opportunities in computer science on Coursera, including courses and Specializations in algorithms and dynamic programming. Coursera lets you learn about dynamic programming remotely from top-ranked universities from around the world such as Stanford University, National Research University Higher School of Economics, and University of Alberta. And, because learners on Coursera pay a significantly lower tuition than on-campus students, you won’t need to use dynamic programming or other algorithmic techniques to determine whether it’s an optimal investment in your career.

The people best suited for roles in dynamic programming are computer programmers and people with experience working with algorithms. Dynamic programming is an algorithmic technique for breaking down a problem into simpler subproblems, so it’s important that people who pursue roles in dynamic programming have experience working in fields that utilize this technique. People who work as aerospace engineers or in economics are best suited for these roles.

A common career path for someone in dynamic programming is a job as a computer and information research scientist. These scientists design software systems and invent new computing languages, which they later test and present to colleagues in academic journals and conferences. Another common career path for someone studying dynamic programming is working with robotics or in computer programming.

It’s important for learners to have a strong handle on algorithms, so topics related to advanced algorithms and complexity, discrete optimization, data structures and algorithms, algorithms on strings, and algorithms on graphs are extremely useful. Reinforcement learning may explore topics related to AI tools and how it is useful in game development, customer interaction, and supply chain. For learners looking to improve their computer programming skills, the fundamentals of computing may help you program and think like a computer scientist. Competitive programming is the next step up and is a great option if you want to explore topics related to dynamic programming and number and graph theories.

Most people with a background in dynamic programming are hired to work in the federal government, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some people also work for computer systems and design-related services companies. Research and development companies hire people with a background in dynamic programming as well as software publishers.

This FAQ content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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