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Hot Jobs in AI/Data Science for 2024

AI exploded onto the scene. ChatGPT lit the LLM fuse, and the fire is still burning across models and brands. Here are the key jobs needed to turn the aftermath into a constructive force for the companies that deploy them.

Pam Baker

December 20, 2023

5 Min Read
heart in fire
Ivan Kmit via Alamy Stock

At a Glance

  • Prompt engineer job roles also see a wide swing in job descriptions and pay scales.
  • The demand for large language model engineers and natural language processing engineers is on the rise.
  • Some of the most sought-after AI positions today include machine learning engineer, AI engineer, and AI architect.

It’s not a surprise that AI and data science professionals remain in demand given the explosion of AI models on the market, and the rapid-fire advancements since. But just as companies are still struggling to figure out business use cases for LLMs, they also struggle to identify corresponding job roles. To make matters worse, there are additional obstacles popping up along the way.

“There’s the acceleration of AI-adjacent talent wars: It’s not just AI,” says Babak Hodjat, CTO of AI at Cognizant Technology Solutions.

What types of job roles fall into the category of AI-adjacent talent?

At Persado, according to Frank Chen, the company’s head of natural language processing, that list includes:

  • Research scientists who conduct cutting-edge research to develop new models and techniques for generative AI tasks.

  • Machine learning/NLP/data/software engineers who build and deploy GenAI models.

  • Data scientists and analysts who experiment and analyze model results.

  • Content specialists who create guidelines to control the generated content, collaborate with the AI development team to refine the generated content, evaluate the quality of generated content, and provide feedback to improve GenAI models.

  • Experienced UX/UI designers who ensure the designed AI interface aligns with user needs.

Related:Prompt Engineering: Passing Fad or the Future of Programming?

But job competition is also heating up elsewhere.

“In 2024, we’ll also see the war for cyber and software development talent grow more contentious as a result of major privacy concerns and savings-driven budget reallocations born from the generative AI boom,” Hodjat says.

No doubt more job roles will emerge while others will soon fade away as AI matures, and companies become more adept at using it.

“Data science and AI continue to be industries with strong growth projections, but there are a few jobs in particular that should be in demand for the foreseeable future,” says Richard Gardner, CEO of Modulus, which touts a client list including NASA, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.

Prompt Engineers and AI Content Editors

Some job titles are already familiar such as prompt engineers and AI content editors. But those roles do not have standard descriptions or pay scales. For example, job boards are filled with ads for AI content editors at a mere $20 to $40 an hour. These are typically posted by employers who think these jobs require simple skills and little effort. But that is blatantly untrue. Depending on the complexity of the subject matter, it can actually take humans longer and exert more effort to edit and fact-check GenAI outputs than it does to write the thing from scratch.

Related:Hire or Upskill? The Burning Question in an Age of Runaway AI

Prompt engineer job roles also see a wide swing in job descriptions and pay scales. Sometimes vague job descriptions and low pay offers are due to an employer’s lack of experience in working with AI or a general cluelessness of what use cases they have for AI. Other times, it’s the opposite. The employer knows exactly what technical and linguistic skills they need from this group of job candidates and the pay offered better reflects the level of complexity.

In any case, according to ZipRecruiter, “as of Nov 29, 2023, the average annual pay for a Prompt Engineering in the United States is $62,977 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $30.28 an hour.”

Eventually the job of prompt engineer will likely disappear as AI agents can already write their own prompts. But for now, most companies are looking to hire prompt engineers to get the most out of AI while also keeping token costs down.

LLM Engineers and NLP Engineers

As many would expect, the demand for large language model (LLM) engineers and natural language processing (NLP) engineers is on the rise.

Related:The IT Jobs AI Could Replace and the Ones It Could Create

“The new and highly specialized role known as the ‘LLM Engineer’ is primarily found within organizations that have reached an advanced stage in their AI journey, having conducted numerous experiments but now facing challenges in the operationalization of their AI models at scale,” says Kjell Carlsson, head of data science strategy and evangelism at Domino Data Lab.

Glassdoor reports that as of November 2023, the estimated total pay for a LLM engineer is $164,029 per year in the United States area, with an average salary of $129,879 per year.” The range of total pay is between $123k and $224k. ZipRecruiter pegs average total pay for this group at $142,663 per year, or $69 per hour.

NLP engineers are seeing an uptick in demand for AI and non-AI based projects but is itself continuing to evolve.

“For example, Natural Language Processing Engineers, which essentially work to make applications that process human language, are currently in high demand for chatbots, but, over time, will continue to see demand for sentiment analyses and content recommendation systems,” Gardner says.

Glassdoor reports the pay range for NLP engineers to be between $130k and $180k per year. Talent.com reports a wider pay spectrum of between $100k and $210k a year.

Emerging AI and Data Science Jobs

A range of other jobs are emerging, too. Topping this list is AI agent jobs and skills.

“The agent view of AI [autonomous AI agents] will take on an increasingly significant role in AI-enablement projects, becoming a sought-after skill,” Hodjat says. “Various orchestration frameworks and platforms will vie to become the standard and software engineering will move towards adopting LLM-based agents into the fabric of software systems.”

Other emerging job roles are harder to define and peg to a salary range.

“Some of the most sought-after AI positions today include machine learning engineer, AI engineer, and AI architect,” says Shmuel Fink, Chair Master of Science in data analytics, Touro University Graduate School of Technology. “Nevertheless, several other AI roles are also gaining prominence, such as AI ethicist, AI product manager, AI researcher, computer vision engineer, robotics engineer, and AI safety engineer. Moreover, there are positions that require industry-specific expertise, like a healthcare AI engineer.”

But back at the ranch, employees in any job role will become more valuable if they possess AI skills. As they gain those skills, some specialized job roles will evolve while others disappear. The one thing that is certain is that there’s far more AI-driven and AI-adjacent change to come.

About the Author(s)

Pam Baker

Contributing Writer

A prolific writer and analyst, Pam Baker's published work appears in many leading publications. She's also the author of several books, the most recent of which are "Decision Intelligence for Dummies" and "ChatGPT For Dummies." Baker is also a popular speaker at technology conferences and a member of the National Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists, and the Internet Press Guild.

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