If you’re an expert in blockchain, some companies will cheerfully shell out a million-dollar signing bonus (and huge salaries) to bring you onboard, according to a new article in The Wall Street Journal.
Long-established companies and well-funded startups seem equally likely to make those kinds of outsized offers, according to David Schwartz, chief cryptographer at blockchain firm Ripple, who told the newspaper that he saw two seven-figure offers dangled before a promising blockchain developer.
(Just in case your blockchain knowledge is a little rusty, here’s a simplistic definition of the technology: a blockchain is a distributed database that maintains a chain of “blocks,” or records with a timestamp and a link to the previous block. It’s extremely difficult for a user to retroactively alter the data within a block without someone noticing, making it effective for things such as cryptocurrency and online contracting.)
Blockchain isn’t the only type of technology paying out massive salaries and bonuses to tech pros who have mastered it. Artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning experts can easily pull down six- and even seven-figure salaries, provided they have the right mix of skills and experience. When The New York Times recently analyzed a tax filing by OpenAI, a nonprofit that specializes in A.I. work, it noted that the organization’s top researcher, Ilya Sutskever, made nearly $2 million in 2016. Nor was that an anomaly: another OpenAI researcher earned $800,000 that year.
Last year, Tom Eck, CTO of industry platforms at IBM, suggested during the Market Media’s Summer Trading Event in New York that top-tier A.I. researchers could make the “salaries of NFL quarterbacks,” which means millions of dollars a year.
A.I. researchers and blockchain experts, of course, have the added benefit of specializing in technology subcategories with a ton of buzz at the moment. Fortunately, there are lots of other tech jobs that pay substantial salaries, even if they lack multi-million-dollar signing bonuses. Systems architects, senior project managers, product managers, and software engineers can all earn more than $100,000 per year, and most of those jobs enjoy significant year-over-year salary increases, according to the most recent Dice Salary Survey.
But as the Salary Survey makes clear, any tech pro who wants a big salary will need to specialize; for the tech industry in general, salaries have largely stagnated at $92,712 per year, with an extremely modest year-over-year increase of 0.7 percent. Fortunately, if you’re interested in a field like artificial intelligence, there are lots of online courses to help boost your knowledge.