Want to Work in Artificial Intelligence? 12 AI Careers & Job Outlook [2022]

Women at a computer demonstrating artificial intelligence

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence is all around us, even in places you may not realize. From music preferences to home appliances and healthcare, the power of AI is far reaching. But first, let’s explore the basics of AI with this definition from Investopedia:

“AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associ ated with a human mind such as learning or problem-solving.”

Examples of artificial intelligence include:

  • Smart assistants like Siri and Alexa
  • Pandora and Netflix, which provide personalized song and entertainment recommendations
  • Chatbots
  • Robotic vacuum cleaners
  • Self-driving vehicles
  • Facial recognition software 

Those are just a few of the many, many examples. Needless to say, artificial intelligence is everywhere, and the demand for AI — especially skilled, experienced AI professionals — is growing. Bernard Marr, a business and technology advisor to governments and companies, told  Forbes that we now have access to more data than ever, which means AI has become smarter, faster, and more accurate.

“As a very simple example, think of Spotify recommendations,” he explained in the article. “The more music (or podcasts) you listen to via Spotify, the better able Spotify is to recommend other content that you might enjoy. Netflix and Amazon recommendations work on the same principle, of course.” 

What Does an AI Professional Do?

Since artificial intelligence is an increasingly widespread and growing form of technology, professionals who specialize in AI are needed now more than ever. The good news is that the AI professional field is full of different career opportunities, which means you can take on different roles and responsibilities depending upon the position, your experience and your interests. 

The need for skilled AI professionals spans nearly every industry, including: 

  • Financial services
  • Healthcare
  • Technology
  • Media
  • Marketing
  • Government and military
  • National security
  • IoT-enabled systems
  • Agriculture
  • Gaming
  • Retail

Skills an AI Professional Needs

If you’re looking to enter the professional world of AI, it’s important to make sure you have the right skills, which will set you apart from other candidates and help you land the perfect position. First, competencies with calculus and linear algebra are extremely important. Also, if you’re interested in AI, you should have some knowledge and experience in at least one of the following programming languages:

  • Python
  • C/C++
  • MATLAB

According to ZipRecruiter, these are the top 5 skills required for AI jobs: 

  • Communication skills
  • Knowledge and experience with Python specifically (in general, proficiency in programming language)
  • Digital marketing goals and strategies  
  • Collaborating effectively with others
  • Analytical skills

The  Intellipaat blog also recommends these additional skills for AI professionals: 

  • Solid knowledge of applied mathematics and algorithms
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Industry knowledge
  • Management and leadership skills
  • Machine learning

Steps Toward a Career in Artificial Intelligence

If you aren’t already in the industry, the first step is to conduct research, which includes talking to current AI professionals and researching reputable colleges and programs. According to Springboard, hiring managers will probably require you to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in math and basic computer technology (but in many cases, a bachelor’s degree will only qualify you for entry-level positions).  

Undergraduate degrees in computer science or engineering are a good starting point, but a master’s degree in artificial intelligence can provide firsthand experience and knowledge from industry experts that can help you secure a position and set you apart from other candidates. 

Dan Ayoub, general manager for mixed reality education at Microsoft, explained in a Best Colleges article that AI is still a relatively emerging area, colleges and universities still “differ in how specialized a degree you may be able to get.” He noted that computer science and familiarity with data science, machine learning, and Java are good places to begin, but that degree programs may offer specialized training. “There are a number of new undergraduate and graduate programs popping up every day that are designed to prepare someone specifically to work in AI.”

Those interested in pursuing a master’s in artificial intelligence should have a strong foundation of knowledge and experience consisting of a combination of math, science, computer and data proficiency.

12 Career Paths in Artificial Intelligence

The list below includes jobs in AI but also some positions that work closely with those in AI roles.  

Career Path Description Median Annual Salary
1. Data Analytics 
  • Finding meaningful patterns in data by looking at the past to help make predictions about the future.
$130,136
2. User Experience 
  • Work with products to help customers understand their function and can use them easily.
  • Understand how people use equipment and how computer scientists can apply that understanding to produce more advanced software.
$76,950
3. Natural Language Processing
  • Chatbots
  • Virtual assistants
$108,609
4. Researcher
  • Computer science and AI research.
  • Discover ways to advance AI technology.
$77,576; base-level AI research roles average $93,103
5. Research Scientist
  • Expert in applied math, machine learning, deep learning, and computational stats.
  • Expected to have an advanced degree in computer science or an advanced degree in a related field supported by experience.
$99,809
6. Software Engineer
  • Develop programs on which AI tools function.
$87,403
7. AI Engineer
  • Build AI models from scratch and help product managers and stakeholders understand results.
$118,573
8. Data Mining and Analysis
  • Finding anomalies, patterns, etc. within large data sets to predict outcomes.
$77,586
9. Machine Learning Engineer
  • Using data to design, build, and manage ML software applications. 
$146,085
10.  Data Scientist
  • Collect, analyze, and interpret datasets.
$115,573
11.  Business Intelligence (BI) Developer
  • Analyze complex data sets to identify business and market trends.
$92,278
12.  Big Data Engineer/Architect
  • Develop systems that allow businesses to communicate and collate data.
$151,307

Artificial Intelligence Job Outlook

The job outlook for AI professionals is extremely promising, with ZipRecruiter predicting the industry to “grow explosively as it becomes capable of accomplishing more tasks.”

In an article on Built In, Satya Mallick, founder of Big Vision LLC/Interim CEO, OpenCV.org, likened AI to “a rocket ship that is taking off.” He also explained that even entry-level jobs can pay extremely well. The reason is a huge demand for AI talent and not enough people with the right expertise,” he explained. 

The  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of computer and information technology occupations to grow 11% from 2019 to 2029 (projecting to add about 531,200 new jobs).

Companies Currently Hiring AI Positions

A recent search for “artificial intelligence” job openings on LinkedIn revealed more than 45,000 results at a wide variety of companies, some of which are cited below. (You can  see similar LinkedIn search results here.)

  • MIT Lincoln Laboratory — Artificial Intelligence Researcher
  • Walmart — Data Scientist
  • Amazon — Research Scientist
  • Nike — Lead Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Engineer
  • IBM — Conversational Artificial Intelligence Engineer
  • Samsung Electronics America — Machine Learning Engineer
  • Warner Bros. Entertainment — Data Scientist
  • Fidelity Investments — Data Scientist
  • PepsiCo — ML Engineer 

As you can see from the list above, there are many different types of positions within artificial intelligence. The most common AI-related job titles, courtesy of Glassdoor, include:

  • Software engineer
  • Data scientist
  • Software development engineer
  • Research scientist

In general, tech companies (both software and hardware) dominate the list of companies that are hiring AI professionals. Glassdoor lists the following top companies to keep an eye on: 

  • Amazon
  • NVIDIA
  • Microsoft
  • IBM
  • Accenture
  • Wells Fargo
  • Rakuten Marketing
  • Facebook
  • Intel
  • Samsung
  • Uber
  • MoTek Technologies
  • PCO Innovation

Artificial Intelligence Salaries

According to our degree page, the average salary for an artificial intelligence programmer ranges from $100,000 to $150,000. Salaries are significantly higher for AI engineers, averaging $171,715 with the top 25% earning above $200,000.

There are a range of averages, depending on the position and the responsibilities, but here are the most popular:

  • According to  Indeed, “the average salary for ‘artificial intelligence’ ranges from approximately $93,451 per year for research engineers to $150,683 per year for machine learning engineers.”
  • The average annual base pay for artificial intelligence salaries in the United States is $105,669, according to  Glassdoor.
  • According to Talent.com, the average artificial intelligence salary is $140,000 per year. Entry positions start at $110,063, and most experienced employees can make up to $210,000 per year.

Artificial Intelligence Career FAQs

Q: If I’m interested in a career in AI, where do I start?
A: The first step is to conduct research, which includes talking to current AI professionals and researching reputable colleges and programs that offer AI-related degrees. You at least need a bachelor’s degree in math and basic computer technology to start, and an advanced degree in artificial intelligence is also something to consider if you’re looking to stand out from other applicants and learn real-world experience from industry experts. 

Q: What skills and background do I need to pursue a career in artificial intelligence?
A: It’s important to have a strong background in math, science, engineering, and command of at least one of the following programming languages: Python, C and MATLAB.

Q: What is the outlook for a career in AI?
A: Extremely promising. In fact, there are more artificial intelligence jobs than skilled professionals to fill them, and the AI world has shown no signs of slowing down, so the demand is very high. 

Q: Do any AI careers require a master’s degree? 
A: Most top-level AI jobs will typically require a master’s degree, including research scientists, AI engineers and big data engineers. Most AI roles will require applicants to have solid knowledge and skills with MATLAB, C/C++ and Python programming. 

Q: What is the benefit of a master’s degree in artificial intelligence?
A: A master’s degree is a great way to expand the number of available AI job opportunities, especially since an advanced degree is often required, especially for higher-level jobs. A master’s degree will also give you greater earning potential and illustrate that you’re invested in your career and the industry. 

Educational Preparation in Artificial Intelligence

Exciting, high-paying career opportunities in AI continue to expand across a variety of industries. The University of San Diego — a highly regarded industry thought leader and education provider — offers an innovative, online AI master’s degree program, the  Master of Science in Applied Artificial Intelligence, which is designed to prepare graduates for success in this important fast-growing field. This program includes a significant emphasis on real-world applications, ethics, privacy, moral responsibility and social good in designing AI-enabled systems.

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