Artificial intelligence may be the most exciting potential career path for individuals who like being on the cutting edge of technology. Major global companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Google parent company Alphabet invest heavily in AI research and development, driving demand for AI engineers and other related positions.

But how well do these positions pay, and what factors influence an AI engineer’s salary? This article will look closely at what an AI engineer can expect to earn based on experience, location, industry, what exactly AI engineers do, and how you can become one.

How Much Do AI Engineers Earn?

The most straightforward answer to this question is, “It depends on who you ask.” Different sources report different AI engineer salaries, although most are similar. Here’s a look at average AI engineer salaries in the U.S., according to trusted job search and salary reporting sites:

AI Engineer Salary
Source Average annual salary Salary Range
Glassdoor $105,461 $79,000-$212,000
Bureau of Labor Statistics $131,490 $74,210-$208,000
ZipRecruiter $156,648 $79,500-$266,500 $174,533 $144,870-$214,141

These salaries reflect the importance of AI as a fast-growing tech sector and how much companies are willing to invest to attract top talent.

However, students considering a career as an AI engineer should also note that this field often requires investment in education to gain the necessary skills and knowledge. Many AI engineer jobs seek candidates with a master’s degree in AI or a related field. These salaries reflect, in part, the financial investments students must make to become eligible for these jobs.

Education Requirements for AI Engineers

As with most jobs, an AI engineer’s level of education and experience can impact what they earn. According to Glassdoor, the average annual base pay for entry-level AI engineers is $98,824. That jumps to $112,882 for engineers with four to six years of experience and $126,547 for those with more than ten years of experience.

For AI engineers just starting, having various transferable skills can provide leverage for negotiating a higher salary offer while you hone your hard skills with hands-on experience. In AI, valuable transferable skills include creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and time management.

AI engineer salary by location

The geographic location of an AI engineering job may also affect the salary. For example, in San Francisco, a tech industry hub, an AI engineer can expect to earn an average annual salary of $182,600. Meanwhile, in Bridgeport, CT, an AI engineer can expect to earn, on average, $175,275 annually. However, it’s worth noting that San Francisco and the surrounding area are one of the most expensive places in the U.S. to live. Smaller salaries go further in more affordable places.

Outside the U.S., AI engineer salaries vary widely. Australia is most comparable to the U.S., with AI engineers earning around $77,541 annually. AI engineers in the U.K. can expect to earn an average annual salary of $62,995, and those in China earn approximately $45,230 annually.

AI engineer salary by industry

An AI engineer’s salary can also depend on the specific industry in which they’re working. While tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google are still some of the largest employers of AI engineers, several other industries are exploring how to use this technology, including healthcare, retail, finance, and business consulting. Individuals should research jobs in their specific field of interest to clarify what type of salary they can expect.

What Do AI Engineers Do?

If artificial intelligence means programming computers to process information like human brains do, then AI engineers do the programming. AI engineers design the tools, systems, and processes to train AI to learn and function in various real-world settings. While specific responsibilities vary, AI engineers commonly use practices like speech recognition, data processing, data mining, probability analysis, machine learning, and more to develop and improve applications.

There are also several subfields that those interested in AI can explore. Machine learning focuses on training algorithms using data sets to become machine learning models capable of performing specific tasks.

Robotics engineering combines AI and engineering to develop autonomous machines, like self-driving cars and delivery drones. Data science concentrates on developing and testing algorithms to collect and analyze data and uses machine learning to make predictions based on models.

Those who work in natural language processing focus on rule-based modeling of human language to help teach computers how to understand and respond to text and speech, much like humans do.

Regardless of their specific position, AI engineers must have a solid computer science, mathematics, and statistics foundation, as these are integral to most AI-related jobs.

How to Become an AI Engineer

The educational trajectory for an AI engineer typically includes earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, although exact requirements will depend on the specific position.

Bachelor’s degree programs in AI are still rare. Most aspiring AI engineers earn an undergraduate degree in computer science, mathematics, or statistics and pursue AI-focused study at the master’s level, where more targeted programs exist. Graduate students can specialize in AI subfields like machine learning, data science, and robotics engineering. A potential benefit of earning a bachelor’s degree and joining the workforce is that your employer may offer tuition assistance to help you return to school and earn your master’s degree in AI or a related field.

An alternative educational route is attending a certificate or bootcamp program that offers training at a faster pace and potentially lower cost than a full degree program. While these types of programs may not fulfill education requirements for all AI engineer jobs, for individuals who want to jump into the workforce as quickly as possible, they can provide foundational knowledge suitable for an entry-level position.

Read more about How to Become an Artificial Intelligence Engineer.

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