HomeCareersWhat Is an AI Engineer? (And How to Become One)

    What Is an AI Engineer? (And How to Become One)


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    Written by Coursera

    Learn all about what an artificial intelligence engineer does and how to get into this exciting career field.

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that involves programming machines to think like human brains. While simulating human actions might sound like the stuff of science fiction novels, it is actually a tool that enables us to rethink how we use, analyze, and integrate information to improve business decisions. AI has great potential when applied to finance, national security, health care, criminal justice, and transportation [1].

    By 2030, AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy, which is more than China and India’s combined output today, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Global Artificial Intelligence Study [2]. This projected growth means organizations are turning to AI to help power their business decisions and increase efficiency.

    For an AI engineer, that means plenty of growth potential and a healthy salary to match. Read on to learn more about what an AI engineer does and how to get started.

    What is AI engineering?

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    Artificial intelligence engineers are individuals who use AI and machine learning techniques to develop applications and systems that can help organizations increase efficiency, cut costs, increase profits, and make better business decisions.

    AI engineering focuses on developing the tools, systems, and processes that enable artificial intelligence to be applied in the real world. Any application where machines mimic human functions, such as solving problems and learning, can be considered artificial intelligence. Algorithms are “trained” by data, which helps them to learn and perform better.

    You may have encountered the results of AI engineering when you use Netflix, Spotify, or YouTube, where machine learning customized suggestions based on your behavior. Another popular example is in transportation, where self-driving cars are driven by AI and machine learning technology. It’s especially useful in the health care industry because AI can power robots to perform surgery and generate automated image diagnoses.

    Is AI for me?

    The course AI for Everyone breaks down artificial intelligence to be accessible for those who might not need to understand the technical side of AI. If you want a crash course in the fundamentals, this class can help you understand key concepts and spot opportunities to apply AI in your organization.

    AI engineer responsibilities

    AI engineers play an important role in organizations that use AI. They chart the AI strategy and define the problems to be solved with AI. They’re in charge of building AI development and production infrastructure, and then implementing them. Here are some specific tasks and responsibilities of an AI engineer:

    1. Create and manage the AI development and production infrastructure
    2. Conduct statistical analysis and interpret the results to guide and optimize the organization’s decision-making process
    3. Automate AI infrastructures for the data science team
    4. Build AI models from scratch and help product managers and other stakeholders with analysis and implementation
    5. Transform machine learning models into APIs that can be integrated with other applications
    6. Collaborate across teams to help with AI adoption and best practices

    Salary and job outlook

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    AI engineering is a specialized field that has promising job growth and tends to pay well.

    According to Glassdoor, the median base salary for an AI engineer is $101,991 in the United States [3]. Falling under the categories of Computer and Information Research Scientist, AI engineers have a median salary of $131,490, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [4].

    There is a projected job growth of 22 percent between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the average for all occupations (8 percent) [4].

    AI engineers typically work for tech companies like Google, IBM, and Meta, among others, helping them to improve their products, software, operations, and delivery. More and more, they may also be employed in government and research facilities that work to improve public services.

    Hiring growth for artificial intelligence specialists, including engineers, has grown 74 percent annually for the past four years, according to LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs report [5].

    How to become an AI engineer

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    Becoming an AI engineer requires basic computer, information technology (IT), and math skills, as these are critical to maneuvering artificial intelligence programs. Here’s how you can get started in AI engineering.

    1. Learn the skills needed.

    You’ll need to build your technical skills, including knowledge of the tools that AI engineers typically use.

    Programming: You’ll want to learn programming languages such as Python, R, Java, and C++ so you can build and implement models.

    Probability, statistics, and linear algebra: These are needed to implement different AI and machine learning models.

    Big data technologies: AI engineers work with large amounts of data, so you’ll be required to know Apache Spark, Hadoop, and MongoDB to manage it all.

    Algorithms and frameworks: You’ll want to understand machine learning algorithms such as linear regression and Naive Bayes, as well as deep learning algorithms such as recurrent neural networks and generative adversarial networks, and be able to implement them with a framework. Common AI frameworks include Theano, TensorFlow, Caffe, Keras, and PyTorch.

    You can learn these skills through online courses or bootcamps specially designed to help you launch your career in artificial intelligence.

    Do I need a degree to become an AI engineer?

    No, you don’t need a degree to become an AI engineer. Increasingly, people are using professional certificate programs to learn the skills they need and prepare for interviews.

    Still, many companies require at least a bachelor’s degree for entry-level jobs. Common majors include computer science and information technology. Jobs in AI are competitive, but if you can demonstrate you have a strong set of the right skills, and interview well, then you can launch your career as an AI engineer.

    2. Apply for jobs.

    When you have little to no experience in a field, it can be intimidating to apply for a job. But it might be helpful to know that people get hired every day for jobs with no experience. There are many ways to enhance your resume for success in the job search. For AI engineering jobs, you’ll want to highlight specific projects you’ve worked on for jobs or classes that demonstrate your broad understanding of AI engineering.

    Once you’ve applied for jobs, you’ll hopefully get an interview. Don’t be discouraged if you apply for dozens of jobs and don’t hear back—data science in general is such an in-demand (and lucrative) career field that companies can receive hundreds of applications for one job.

    Preparing for the interview requires practice and preparation, especially for tech jobs like AI engineer. You’ll want to brush up on your interview skills, so you can prove to hiring managers that you’re perfect for the job. You’ll be expected to explain your reasoning for developing, deploying, and scaling specific algorithms. These interviews can get very technical, so be sure you can clearly explain how you solved a problem and why you chose to solve it that way.

    3. Get work experience.

    There may be several rounds of interviews, even for an entry level position or internship. But if you land a job, then it’s time to prove yourself and learn as much as possible. You’ll be able to apply the skills you learned toward delivering business insights and solutions that can change people’s lives, whether it is in health care, entertainment, transportation, or consumer product manufacturing.

    Explore artificial intelligence with Coursera

    Launch your career as an AI engineer with the AI Engineer professional certificate from IBM. You’ll learn how to generate business insights from big data using machine learning techniques, and gain essential skills needed to deploy algorithms with Apache Spark and models and neural networks with Keras, PyTorch, and TensorFlow. Start today and finish in nine months or less.

    IBM Skills Network

    Article sources

    1. Brookings Institution. “How artificial intelligence is transforming the world, https://www.brookings.edu/research/how-artificial-intelligence-is-transforming-the-world/.” Accessed June 26, 2022.

    2. PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Sizing the prize: What’s the real value of AI for your business and how can you capitalise?, https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/issues/analytics/assets/pwc-ai-analysis-sizing-the-prize-report.pdf.” Accessed June 26, 2022.

    3. Glassdoor. “AI Engineer Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/ai-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,11.htm.” Accessed June 26, 2022.

    4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Computer and Information Research Scientists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm.” Accessed June 26, 2022.

    5. LinkedIn. “2020 Emerging Jobs Report, https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/business/en-us/talent-solutions/emerging-jobs-report/Emerging_Jobs_Report_U.S._FINAL.pdf.” Accessed June 26, 2022.
    Written by Coursera • Updated on Jun 27, 2022

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