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AI engineers: Your career guide

AI engineers apply artificial intelligence to the real world. What's the typical AI engineer salary and lifestyle, and is this in-demand role right for you?
Written by Melissa Sartore, Contributor on

AI engineers lead technology's charge into the future. AI engineering was among 2021's top emerging jobs, according to LinkedIn. With an increasing demand for trained artificial intelligence professionals, AI engineer salaries and job outlook are as strong as ever. 

AI engineers combine engineering, computer science, and machine learning principles to give machines problem-solving abilities. Read on to learn more about life as an AI engineer.

Day in the life of an AI engineer

As experts in programming, software engineering, and data science, AI engineers find work across industries. 

AI engineers typically work in an office setting as part of a team. They collaborate with fellow engineers, data scientists, and information technology experts to design, create, and implement systems and applications capable of completing complex tasks. 

Common responsibilities of an AI engineer include:

  • Develop algorithms
  • Convert machine learning models to application program interfaces
  • Build, test, and initiate AI models
  • Set up and manage AI development processes
  • Develop and maintain AI systems

AI engineers create advanced learning models applicable to finance, manufacturing, healthcare, and business enterprises alike. 

Additional areas of influence include:

  • Transportation (think self-driving cars)
  • Sports (through automation and predictive analysis technologies)
  • Entertainment (with user-behavior AI-generated video and music suggestions)

Lifestyle of an AI engineer

AI engineers usually work traditional business hours. However, remote work and flexible hours may be possible. AI engineers also collaborate with team members in labs.

As an interdisciplinary field, AI engineering requires knowledge of computer science and engineering fundamentals. AI engineers must also follow trends and changes in the tech industry.

As AI science evolves, keeping up with competitors and user demand makes AI engineering a fast-paced and exciting job.

Salary expectations as an AI engineer

The average AI engineer salary exceeded $97,000 in 2022, according to Payscale. AI engineers earn the highest salaries at computer manufacturing companies, financial investment firms, and wholesale businesses.

Education, experience, and location factor into AI engineer salaries. California, New York, and Washington are the top-paying states for AI engineering professionals. 

What does it take to become an AI engineer?

Becoming an AI engineer requires at least a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, software engineering, computer science, or a related field. Many employers prefer candidates with a master's degree in software engineering or a comparable discipline. 

AI engineers need advanced programming abilities plus a solid understanding of machine learning, statistics and mathematics, and data science. 

Coursework and practical requirements during a degree set the foundation for the workforce.

Experience working in software development, data analysis, and business is vital to an AI engineer. Project management experience and industry certifications may help you on your career path.

What skills do I need as an AI engineer?

As an AI engineer, you need a mix of hard and people skills. 

Hard skills include abilities related to computers, mathematics, and engineering. Coding, statistics, algorithms, and big data technologies are especially important for AI engineers. 

People skills, also known as soft skills, help you work with others, relate to your colleagues, and thrive in the workplace. These include communication, analytical, and problem-solving abilities. Soft skills matter even in computer science careers.

Hard skills

  • Software languages like Python, C++, and Java
  • Linear algebra, probability, statistics
  • Physics, cognitive language theory, mechanics
  • Data structures, logic and efficiency
  • Robotics, machine learning

People skills

  • Verbal and written communication
  • Active listening
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Curiosity and creativity

In conclusion

AI engineering jobs unite software engineering, computer technology, and data science at the forefront of the tech industry. 

Becoming an AI engineer opens opportunities to work in positions across industries. With a strong projected job outlook and lucrative AI engineer salaries within your grasp, it might be time to take the next step and enter the field of AI engineering.

This article was reviewed by Brian Nichols

A head-and-shoulders photo of a bearded white man in a grey suit with a blue tie.

Born and raised in upstate New York, Brian Nichols began his IT education through a vocational high school where he focused on computer science, IT fundamentals, and networking. Brian then went to his local community college, where he received his associate of science in computer information science. He then received his bachelor of science in applied networking and system administration from a private college. Brian now lives in Kansas City, where he works full-time as a DevOps engineer. Brian is also a part-time instructor in cybersecurity. He's passionate about cybersecurity and helping students succeed. 

Brian Nichols is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network. 

Last reviewed March 10, 2022.

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