Artificial intelligence is all the rage, and there’s good money to be made in an industry that’s still largely emerging from its infancy. But, the problems that AI solves are not easy, and to work in the AI industry you will need a strong and focused set of skills.
Here’s the good news: We live in a society where a shocking number of people would rather have a robot boss than a human one. We would rather be led by machines.
This means that most of us are accepting of the idea of artificial intelligence, or AI.
In many sectors, machines have already taken over monotonous jobs. Manufacturing is a prime example. Auto and aerospace manufacturers use machines heavily in their assembly lines. In fact, machines completely transformed the way that our cars are built.
Artificial intelligence isn’t just a fad. It’s here to stay.
And, that means the industry will need a skilled workforce to build, test and deploy more and more artificial brains around the world. Get in early and you’ll stand to make a lot of money.
Not to mention help change the world.
If you are interested in a career in artificial intelligence, then you’re in the right place.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence attempts to mimic (and surpass) the power of the human brain using nothing but machines. “Machine learning” is another common term in AI.
The primary goals of artificial intelligence are:
- Speed up repetitive procedures by using robots or machines instead of humans
- Out-smart human brains through “learning” and memory
- Recognize patterns and make decisions instantly and efficiently
Artificial intelligence attempts to build machines that think and reason rather than operate in a relatively confined space with pre-built routines, procedures and outcomes. Smart AI systems recognize patterns and remember past events and learn from them, making each subsequent decision smarter, logical and more organic.
AI is a giant paradigm shift in modern computing and requires a deeply scientific and logical approach to design computer systems that think and learn. In other words, build robots that aren’t just “robots”.
And believe it or not, AI capabilities are all over the place.
A few examples of artificial intelligence systems include speech recognition (available on many cell phones and smart home devices), email spam blockers, plagiarism checkers, language translation services (like Google Translate) and the auto-pilot system on airplanes.
Companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Accenture, Boeing and so many others are hiring for artificial intelligence roles. AI salaries are typically higher than average because good AI talent can be hard to find.
Artificial intelligence is everywhere in society, and the industry is growing rapidly in 2020. Here is exactly what you need to know to pursue a career in AI.
The Skills You Need to Work in Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence is highly scientific. After all, mimicking the human brain using machines is a very tough problem to solve, much less master. The skills that you will need to pursue AI as a career are varied, but all of them require a great deal of education, training and focus.
That said, there is a wide variety of career types available in AI and machine learning, and they range from higher-level research to low-level programming and implementation.
For example, researchers use their breadth of knowledge in theory and study to reveal new types of systems and capabilities. Researchers hypothesize new or different ways for machines to think and test their research for real-world feasibility.
Algorithm developers take AI research and transform that research into repeatable processes through mathematical formulas that can be implemented using hardware and software.
Software developers and computer scientists use those algorithms to write sophisticated pieces of software that analyze, interpret and make decisions.
Hardware technicians build pieces of equipment (like robots) to interact with the world. Robots use its internal software to move and operate.
Most careers in artificial intelligence require coursework and experience in a variety of math and science-related topics like:
- Math: statistics, probability, predictions, calculus, algebra, Bayesian algorithms and logic
- Science: physics, mechanics, cognitive learning theory, language processing
- Computer science: data structures, programming, logic and efficiency
Want a career in AI? Then read. A lot.
Read papers and case studies. Experiment with technologies like Map-Reduce, PHP, MySQL, Postgres and “Big Data”, especially if you are targeting a computer science-related career in AI. Expose yourself to as many technologies as you can.
Pro tip: Browse through AI job opportunities. Read the job descriptions and especially the requirements to get a feel for specific qualifications that you need for that job.
For example, some might need experience in low-level programming languages like Python or MatLab. Others, especially in the healthcare industry, need expertise in data services like Spark and Blockchain.
Regardless of the type of job that you’re after in artificial intelligence, there is no better way to figure out the exact skills you need than to read job requisitions and stay as up-to-date in the industry as possible.
Use the Job Search tool here on The Ladders to find AI and machine learning jobs.
The Best Non-Tech Skills for Artificial Intelligence
Though the types of careers in the AI industry are varied, most professionals in AI possess five key skills and capabilities, regardless of their individual roles.
Most AI professionals:
Are highly critical thinkers. They take nothing at face value and are naturally curious. They believe in trial and error and must test and experiment before making a concrete decision.
Like to push the envelope. AI is all about pushing the boundaries. Pegging the capabilities of hardware and software to their max, always looking for more. More ways to improve existing systems. More ideas for inventing new ways to live.
Live naturally-curious lives. Always wanting to know more, artificial intelligence pros want to know how things work. They don’t just look. They observe. They don’t hear. They listen.
Don’t get easily overwhelmed. They understand that artificial intelligence is highly technical, but also realize that venturing into uncharted waters is difficult and mysterious. They enjoy the process rather than getting frustrated by it.
Love math and science. AI is highly technical and it’s a natural good fit for those who are gifted and interested in hard sciences and mathematics.
Artificial intelligence is not just about replacing the human component of the industry. It’s also about making it easier to make decisions based on observable patterns, use logic and reasoning to form conclusions and build pathways to boost efficiency and production.
It is not an easy discipline, but that’s also why salaries in the AI industry are much higher than average. It takes the right type of person with the right skill set to excel.
Are you the type of person who’s right for a career in AI? If you have many of these skill sets, then you just might be.