Is It Worth Learning A.I. and Machine Learning Skills Right Now?

Despite the hype surrounding artificial intelligence and machine learning, A.I. remains a relatively specialized job. The latest edition of CompTIA’s monthly jobs report shows only a few thousand postings for A.I.-related jobs in some of the biggest tech states (California, Texas, Washington, and so on). What does this mean for anyone interested in A.I. as a career?

First, the CompTIA chart. If all the A.I.-related jobs seem concentrated in places like California, there’s a reason for that. These states boast massive tech hubs filled with a combination of tech giants and aggressive startups, and these companies have the resources to afford expensive A.I. talent (as well as the tech infrastructure needed for those specialists to do their jobs):

Given the high degree of specialization, it’s not a shocker that A.I. jobs tend to draw high salaries. Last year, O’Reilly estimated the average salary of data and A.I. professionals at $146,000 per year (that’s from 2,778 respondents in the U.S. and 284 in the U.K.); salaries increased an average of 2.25 percent annually. It’s also a profession likely to expand rapidly in coming years: According to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, job postings requesting artificial intelligence skills will increase nearly 300 percent over the next two years.

While the number of A.I. jobs remains relatively small, in other words, the need for A.I. skills in the context of other, “regular” technology jobs is much larger. According to Lightcast, some 142,346 job postings asked for artificial intelligence skills of some kind over the past 12 months. From data science to software development, there’s more emphasis on knowing everything from TensorFlow to how ML models work.  

And which jobs are asking for those A.I. skills? Let’s break it down:

If you’re a data scientist or researcher, you’ll definitely want to study how A.I. can impact your workflow—the arc of your career might depend on it.