5 high paying AI jobs and the skills you need to get them

Self-driving cars, websites that recommend products you might like and predicting trading trends – artificial intelligence and machine learning has thousands of applications in hundreds of industries. And as more industries seek to embrace the advantages this technology can bring, more companies are on the hunt for people with AI skills. 

With a shortage of people with skills in this emerging field, companies are competing hard to lure the best available talent to work for them. As a result, they’re pulling out all the stops to attract those with highly sought-after AI skills, including offering six-figure salaries (or close to it).

If you want a slice of the AI pie, take a look at five of the highest-paying AI jobs out there and what skills and experience you need to get into them:


1.    Data scientist

Generally speaking, the role of a data scientist is to analyse and interpret complex data to help an organisation make informed business decisions. Data scientists perform the crucial role of developing algorithms that allow the collection, cleansing and analysis of the data. 

Qualifications and experience required: 

•    A PhD in computer science, maths or a related field is desirable, but a Masters in computer science, maths or electrical engineering may also be suitable depending on the seniority of the role.
•    At least two years’ experience working with machine learning.

Skills required: 

•    Expert knowledge of machine learning 
•    Software development using Python, R, C++ 
•    Good understanding of statistics

Potential pay rates:

Permanent: £75,000 - £150,000 (lead roles)
Contract: £500-£700 daily rate


2.    Big data architect/engineer

Big data architects perform a crucial role in building an eco-system which allows business systems to talk to each other and collate data. More hands-on than the data scientists, big data architects are responsible for planning, designing and building the big data environment on Hadoop systems.

Qualifications and experience required: 

•    Most big data engineers and architects come straight into the position after completing a PhD. Computer science, maths or a related field is desirable.

Skills required: 

•    Expert in Hadoop and Spark 
•    Software development using Python, C++, Java, Scala 
•    Data mining 
•    Data visualisation and migration

Potential pay rates:

Permanent: £70,000 - £130,000 (lead roles)
Contract: £500-£700 daily rate


3.    AI researcher

AI researchers are focused on researching and developing new AI and machine learning algorithms publishing their findings rather than practically applying them. Research can be for any number of fields, including autonomous vehicles, advanced robotics or the Internet of Things (IoT). Researchers are normally hired permanently rather than on a contract basis.

Qualifications and experience required: 

•    PhD in machine learning or computer science is a must for AI researchers
•    Experience working in research and a publication record is sought-after

Skills required: 

•    Expert knowledge in AI, data science and machine learning
•    Understanding of software development 
•    Research skills, critical thinking, documenting and reporting

Potential pay rates:

Permanent: £70,000 - £90,000


4.    Machine learning engineer

Responsible for managing and building the platforms of a machine learning project, the machine learning engineer is at the centre of AI projects. They traditionally have backgrounds in applied research, data science and a strong understanding of coding in multiple languages. 

Qualifications and experience required: 

•    A post-graduate degree such as a Masters in computer science  

Skills required: 

•    Expert in machine learning, deep learning and neural networks
•    Strong software development skills – C++, Python
•    Application of machine learning algorithms

Potential pay rates:

Permanent: £70,000
Contract: £575 daily rate


5.    DevOps architect 

DevOps is about uniting development and operations using practices such as automation, continuous integration and collaboration to improve efficiencies. A DevOps architect is responsible for building and developing an automated environment for these teams to collaborate and improve efficiency.

Qualifications and experience required: 

•    Five years or more experience developing high-performance big data platforms
•    Post-graduate degree (Masters or PhD) in a computer-related field 

Skills required: 

•    Infrastructure automation tools; Puppet, Ansible, SaltShack and Chef
•    Understanding of code in multiple languages; Ruby and Python are a real plus
•    Knowledge of Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) tools like Jenkins and CruiseControl
•    Containers; Docker or Kubernetes
•    Outstanding communication skills 

Potential pay rates:

Permanent: £70,000 - £120,000
Contract: £550 - £750 daily rate


On top of the technical skills needed to excel, businesses are also looking for excellent communication skills as each position will be expected to work collaboratively and report to key stakeholders. If you have the mix of these technical and soft skills, you could be well on the way to unlocking these premium salaries and be on the front line of exciting AI developments.

View our latest AI & Robotics jobs. Or learn more about how to build a career in data science.

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