AI Engineers’ Career Paths: Roles and Salaries


Published: 27 Mar 2019

Machine Learning

AI Career Roles and Salaries

Sizeable salaries of machine learning engineers and AI experts are now getting close to the average earnings of some of the best-paid American entertainers and professional athletes.

A really experienced AI specialist by the end of 2020 will have good chances to land a contract worth $300K and even up to half a million USD which is not so outrageous in the context of big tech companies.

Market demand is expanding and it sets the bar pretty high. AI still remains to be the hottest trend in tech and there is a huge growth in job postings. And we’ll continue to see an acute lack of resources in this field unless there’s a sudden exponential growth of the number of a highly skilled tech talent.

Needless to say, such talent shortage is driving salaries up and hourly rates of AI engineers are spiraling so fast that in 2020 they are expected to be sky-high.

Read on to get a scoop on the latest AI salary trends and various roles that artificial intelligence engineers consider while finding the right career path.

The foundational skill set for AI

AI and Machine learning are inter-related but ML merely is a subfield of AI. Both fields are huge and both are in high demand. Everyone going into AI needs to be well-grounded in machine learning.

For anyone who is venturing into the AI/ML area, Python makes sense to start with. Also, a little knowledge in other languages might be necessary: R, C/C++, Java, also Scala is getting really high in demand.

But AI is actually so broad and there are so many layers of knowledge it relies on. Aside from knowing these current data science languages, other technical skills are required such as statistical learning, decision trees, neural networks (also deep learning), etc.

Good paycheck – no degree required?

AI roles

Historically we are so used to believe that engineer’s career starts with a four-year university degree but it’s so far from the truth. The ongoing hunt for a scarce AI talent allows to “cheat the system” that only rewards to top computer degree graduates

Engineering education and a degree from a reputed institute have lost its old sheen. Now the market reality is that a Master’s degree in computer science is deemed unnecessary and is merely taken as a nice to have a bonus.  

 Most successful AI engineers say that they wouldn’t bother getting too much education in this area: your best trump card is a track record of successfully completed projects. What’s valued is a hands-on experience in solving real-world AI business problems.

AI has a plethora of applications in several areas

There are so many various branches and subfields of AI. Some of the most “hot” and trendy areas of applications of Machine Learning and AI are:

  • Language Processing (aka speech recognition and natural language processing) 
  • Computer Vision ( recognizing faces, style detection or multimedia processing )
  • Deep learning and robotics
  • Industry 4.0 (workflows automation)
  • Predictive marketing and social agents (bots)

Artificial Intelligence Roles

An AI software engineer doesn’t even need a massive resume of technical experience to tap into the potential of all the different facets of AI. The combination of some technical experience (at least a basic understanding of Python) and expertise (in one of the above mentioned applied fields) would suffice.

Most of the current craze around Artificial Intelligence is focused on Computer Vision applications. Applied mathematics is getting less and less important for these roles, what’s more important is to understand all the different algorithms and libraries. What’s nice to know is that you actually can code learning algorithms in any language.

Those who want to stand out from the crowd should have at least two programming languages under their belt since you never know what might be required when you walk into a job. For some projects, a solid knowledge of data analysis and data modeling might be required.

The most valued are professionals who can convey the experience and demonstrate their hands-on involvement in solving the problem related to the company’s project. The highest-paid engineers in this field have an extensive portfolio, always keep working on small personal projects, showcase them online, sharing their knowledge and pushing that information out on platforms like Github.

AI engineer salary: How much they cost

The average salaries drawn by ML developers are based on three factors: experience. location and skill-set/role. AI jobs salary varies drastically: Infosys, for example, will offer a 20 K per annum in India, whilst Microsoft would be open pay up to 4K for experienced AI scientists in the US. But in general, an ML/AI developer in India earns a very decent salary in terms of local purchasing power that ranges between 25K and 80K in USD per year

Average Salaries for AI Experts

Artificial intelligence software engineer salary might be slightly different in various subdomains of AI and may also vary depending on the role and title of the engineer, for example, Machine Learning analyst may earn less than deep learning guy. A career in AI usually starts from the role of Machine Learning engineer, building a solid foundation to grow into a Machine Learning scientist and AI researcher.

Artificial Intelligence Job Salary on North American labor market

AI engineer salary

In the United States, monetary compensation is as high as the demand for these professionals.

Astounding salaries and super generous employee benefit packages on top – AI scientists are doing so good that they are now being compared to elite professional athletes in the tech industry.

The annual salary for these demanding professionals is starting from 83K. Junior level engineers who are just getting into this field and looking to get more experience can expect up to 100 000 USD, speaking of entry-level positions.

For those who are still developing their skills in AI but already have some experience, the average base pay is 121 000 USD annually and up. A mid-level AI engineer with much higher levels of experience or a specialized experience can expect to make even more.

Once they have high-end expertise, the average annual income is reaching 160K, which is higher than average jobs in the US. For some AI experts, the salaries are spiraling so fast because companies are struggling in hiring AI talent: the required skills are changing as the discipline matures.

The most coveted individuals in the tech sector: machine learning engineer salary and AI scientists salary can expect to be paid 170 K and more.

Hiring data and market predictions

Tech giants are not stingy about lavishing a fortune on its top talent and placing huge bets on artificial intelligence. The truth is that only a few people on earth have the skills necessary to tackle serious artificial intelligence research. Such roles as AI Researcher and Algorithm Developer are considered to be rare and highly-trained engineering talent.

This is also true of markets or AI areas where have a lot of job openings and an acute lack of technical talent. The emergence of new job opportunities for Machine Learning and AI engineers is anticipated to grow by 20%. Needless to say, is also likely to boost the growth of salaries even more.

It is observed that the AI field has a 344% growth of job postings from 2016 to 2020, according to the employment projections program of US Buro of Labour statistics. Research by Linkedin reveals that there are currently over 14K open positions that are to be filled in the United States.

IBM predicts that by the end of this year the count of AI jobs is projected to grow to somewhere around 2,5 or 3 million vacancies for AI-related technical roles.

The spread of AI will grow as the years will pass

This field and technical skill will continue to rule the job market in 2020. Worth mentioning that we are only at this infant stage of Machine Learning and it is only going to keep rising.

It is predicted that 31% of tech companies will start using AI in the current year and the leading players are already on the lookout for the smartest professionals with AI skills.

That’s a good reason enough to dive deep into AI right now and soon join the “elite league” of the most sought-after professionals.

If you are at that point of gearing up to that market, now it is a good time to grow a career in these thriving fields and hopefully make a difference to the society.


Reading now Benefits of Agile Nearshore Development 
Advantages and Disadvantages of Offshore Software Development Services