What Does the Future Hold For AI Salaries?

Artificial intelligence (AI) – an up-and-coming sector with an ever increasing demand for scarce talent. Yes, when we consider the laws of supply and demand, its fair to say that anything artificial intelligence-related is in demand… (possibly the understatement of the year!). AI Salaries do vary and can run into the mid $100k range for a mid level engineer. It can, however, go much higher if you have the credentials firms need.

Key Sectors for AI Salaries

Obtaining a top AI salary means working in the correct sector. Although jobs seem plentiful, AI jobs are mainly in just a few sectors – technology – and mainly found in the large and expensive cities. Glassdoor, a popular job search site, notes that in the US, 67% of all AI jobs listed on its site are located in the Bay Area, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York City.

It also lists Facebook, NVIDIA, Adobe, Microsoft, Accenture and Uber as the five best AI companies to work for in 2018, with almost 19% of open AI positions. The average annual base pay for an AI job listed on Glassdoor is $111,118 per year.

Glassdoor also highlighted that financial services, consulting and government agencies are actively hiring AI engineering and data science professionals. This includes top firms like Capital One, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, Booz Allen Hamilton, EY, and McKinsey & Company, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the U.S. Army, and the Federal Reserve Bank.

However, expect that number of jobs and fields to expand considerably in the near future. We all know of the recent reports which say that AI will kill off many jobs, mostly low paid labour, but the field will create circa 2.5 million new jobs by 2020. Indeed some reports suggest that 80-85% of companies using AI say they are adding jobs because of AI.

Highest Paying AI Jobs

“AI” covers a very wide area including comprehension, speech recognition, chatbots, machine learning, decision management, deep learning, biometrics, natural language generation and text analysis and processing. With the level of specialization each area requires, not many professionals can master more than one discipline.

Generally speaking… In order to develop your AI salary, you must select and master the right career path. Become the expert in your field, no less. There’s not many competitors!

To make the big money its suggested that you might want to become an AI engineer. According to jobsites, an artificial intelligence engineer earns an average of $171,715 ($124,542 to $201,853) with top earners earning more than $257,530.

The reason for these high salaries? Because many come from non-programming backgrounds. It has been noted that many candidates with Ph.Ds in sciences like biology and physics are returning to school to learn AI and apply it to their field. They need to straddle the technical, knowing a multitude of languages and hardware architectures, with an understanding of the data involved. It’s the latter that makes engineers rare and therefore expensive.

So, Why Are AI Salaries So High?

AI is not a discipline you can teach yourself like many developers do. A large portion of Developers are self taught… But that’s for languages like Java, Python, and PHP, not the esoteric art of artificial intelligence.

It requires advanced degrees in computer science, often a Ph.D. Indeed these Ph.D’s and Master’s degrees seem to almost be the ‘rule of thumb’ when educating-up for these well paid roles. Why? Because AI is a rapidly growing field and when you study at the Ph.D. level and participate in academic projects, they tend to be cutting edge if not bleeding edge, and that gives the student the experience they need for the work environment.

And it requires multiple disciplines, including C++, STL, Perl, Perforce and APIs like OpenGL and PhysX. And because the AI is doing important calculations, a background in physics or some kind of life science is also necessary.

So to be an effective and in-demand AI developer you need a lot of skills, not just one or two. Indeed lists the top 10 skills you need to know for AI:

1) Machine learning

2) Python

3) R language

4) Data science

5) Hadoop

6) Big Data

7) Java

8) Data mining

9) Spark

10) SAS

None of the above are learned overnight folks…. and to make matters worse (or better)… there’s only circa 10-11000 qualified AI specialists in the world! Demand and Supply… And all that.

Competing Employers Drive Salaries Higher

With so few AI specialists available, tech companies seem to be raiding academia em masse. In the process, they are limiting the number of professors who can teach the technology, causing a vicious cycle.

With universities being raided, alternatives do seem to be appearing. Google, which is hiring any AI developer it can find, offers a course on deep learning and machine-learning via its Google Cloud Platform Website. Facebook, also deep in AI, hosts a series of videos on the fundamentals of AI such as algorithms. There’s also a number of online courses you can take.

Clearly there are things that can’t be taught. Working with AI doesn’t mean you get to offload the work to the machine. It requires analytical thought processes, foresight about technological innovations, technical skills to design, the skill to maintain and repair technology and software programs as well as algorithms. So it’s easy to see why skilled people are so rare – which will drive AI salaries only higher.

AI Recruitment professionals must be rubbing their hands with delight.

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