A.I. Engineers are in demand in most industries, and there's a good reason for this. If you're wondering what an A.I. Engineer does, we'll break it down for you.
Businesses can use the massive amounts of data they generate daily to improve and simplify common, everyday tasks. With the right A.I. systems, companies can take these tasks off the hands of their teams so they can focus on more important work. Technologies like speech recognition, business process management, and image processing are only some of the A.I. technologies changing the world.
Companies need A.I. Engineers to put these systems in place, maintain them, and adapt them to changes in the business. In this article, we'll explore what A.I. Engineers do, what kind of skills they need, and how you can get started on the A.I. engineering career path.
But first, let's examine what A.I. engineering is and how it relates to machine learning.
What is artificial intelligence?
A.I., or artificial intelligence, uses computers and machines to emulate how the human mind operates to accomplish problem-solving and decision-making tasks. It combines the robust data sets we generate daily with computer science to achieve this goal in its simplest form.
In A.I., machines learn the outcomes of specific actions by crunching mountains of past data. They then use the insights gained from this process to make decisions about future actions and solve problems. At the same time, data is collected on the machine's decisions and is used to correct and perfect future actions and decisions.
What's the difference between A.I. and machine learning?
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are often lumped together in the same definition, but they aren't necessarily the same. In our forums, one of our learners, J, provides a helpful explanation:
"Artificial intelligence can be described as when machines carry out tasks in an intelligent or smart way, based on set rules to solve certain problems. Artificial intelligence, or A.I., makes decisions, learns, and solves problems similar to how humans would.
Machine learning, on the other hand, is a subset of artificial intelligence. It's when we give machines data and have them learn from that data on their own, without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning models learn from the data and try to make improvements to its predictions over time."
So machine learning is a subset of the A.I. field, but not all A.I. is machine learning. A.I. is a broader field. Check out our article on what a Machine Learning Engineer does to learn more.
What does an A.I. Engineer do?
A.I. Engineers develop new applications and systems to:
- Enhance the performance and efficiency of business processes
- Help the business make better decisions
- Lower costs
- Increase revenue and profits
Simply put, they use software engineering and data science to streamline a business with automation.
Many of an A.I. Engineer's tasks overlap with those of a Machine Learning Engineer. Some of the responsibilities of an A.I. Engineer include:
- Coordinating with business leaders and software development teams to determine what business processes can be improved by using A.I.
- Creating and maintaining the A.I. development process and the infrastructure that it runs on.
- Applying machine learning techniques for image recognition.
- Applying natural language processing techniques to text and voice transcripts to pull insights and analytics from this data.
- Building and maintaining chatbots that interact with customers.
- Developing AI-driven solutions that mimic human behavior to accomplish repetitive tasks currently done by people.
- Building, training, and perfecting machine learning models.
- Simplifying the machine learning process so that other business applications can interact with them using APIs.
- Building recommendation engines for shopping sites, streaming services, and other applications.
- Developing data pipelines that streamline the process of transforming raw data into the structured data necessary for A.I. processes.
Required skills for an A.I. Engineer
An A.I. Engineer definitely needs to know at least one programming language and will usually end up learning multiple during their career. Many of the tools that A.I. Engineers use to make their job easier will require knowledge of Python, R, or Java.
To build and work with machine learning models, an A.I. Engineer will also need to know the fundamentals of various machine learning frameworks, like TensorFlow, Theano, PyTorch, and Caffe. They'll also need to know how to turn raw data into the features that machine learning models use.
Additionally, an A.I. Engineer must have experience with a variety of machine learning model types and what type of jobs they work best for. These types include:
- Neural networks
- Recurrent neural networks
- K-nearest neighbors algorithms
- General adversarial networks
- Supervised learning
- Unsupervised learning
- Random forests
- Reinforcement learning
To actually create new models and understand how they work, an A.I. expert may have to know linear algebra, probability, and statistics instead of using pre-built models. These topics help you understand hidden Markov models, Naive Bayes, Gaussian mixture models, and linear discriminant analysis — the techniques used in machine learning.
Data is also a vital part of an A.I. Engineer's job. A lot of that data is stored in relational database management systems, so having a basic knowledge of SQL, the language of databases, comes in handy. Still, some of this data will be stored in unstructured or semi-structured data stores — so knowing big data technologies like Apache Spark, Apache Hadoop, Cassandra, and MongoDB is a big plus.
A.I. Engineers require more than technical skills, though. They must also:
- Be meticulous and detail-oriented because small inconsistencies in data can cause big discrepancies in machine learning models.
- Have excellent communication skills because many of the people they work with won't understand much of what they do. They'll have to explain the results of their tasks in a way that anyone can understand.
- Be good at big-picture thinking so they can understand business needs and build A.I. systems that benefit the company.
A.I. Engineer salary
A.I. Engineers make good money. The average salary for an A.I. Engineer in the U.S. is over $160,000. In states like California, the average reaches close to $200,000.
The demand for A.I. Engineers has always been high, so expect job openings and pay to increase in the future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects all Software Developer jobs to increase by 22% over the next decade, and this includes A.I. Engineers.
How to become an A.I. Engineer
Gone are the days when a computer science degree or even any college degree would be required to become an A.I. Engineer. Good Artificial Intelligence Engineers are just in too much demand to require a degree, and employers have learned that many skilled A.I. experts don't even need one. They do it because they love the work.
If A.I. is the career path for you, and you don't have a degree or want to spend four years learning artificial intelligence, you don't have to. There are plenty of educational opportunities to learn A.I. online whenever you have the time and wherever you are in the world. Plus, most of the tools you need for the learning process are open-source and freely available online.
If you're new to artificial intelligence and looking for the best place to start your journey, why not try Codecademy? Since knowing at least one programming language is a prerequisite for becoming an A.I. Engineer, a great place to start is our Learn Python 3 course.
Python is one of the top languages used by Data Scientists and A.I. Engineers. It's also a requirement of our Learn the Basics of Machine Learning course, which will introduce you to the field. You can also check out our Data Scientist Career Path that covers many of the skills you'll need as an A.I. Engineer.
While taking these courses, make sure to also learn and work on custom A.I. projects on your own time and add both your course projects and side projects to your portfolio. Also, keep your LinkedIn profile updated with your new learning achievements and projects to make it stand out for recruiters and companies looking for A.I. Engineers. It also pays to practice interviewing skills to be ready when you get a call from a recruiter.
Keep learning today
Never stop learning. A.I. is a broad field, and learning Python and machine learning fundamentals is a great start, but each skill you add to your resume can increase your value to a company. Building Chatbots with Python will teach you how to build software that can carry on conversations like a human. Learn to Program Alexa will teach you how to write software for Amazon's bot.
For even more courses to build your A.I. skills, check out our machine learning course catalog and revisit the skills section of this article. Good luck with your A.I. career path!