Question

Why are companies paying so much for AI professionals?

Answer
By Justin Stoltzfus | Last updated: June 30, 2021


Professionals involved in working on
artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have been making a lot of money for a while. The reasons for the current explosion in the salaries of these tech-savvy employees have to do with some trends and developments that have been happening for at least a decade, and some others that are more recent.

One of the biggest reasons for large AI salaries is simply the equation around supply and demand. Since the talent pool is relatively small, it has created what some call a “pay-to-play hiring environment.” Although recent reports show AI salaries in line with some other kinds of technology positions, experts suggest that may not be the real picture, because companies have to pay a premium to get good people on board for specialized AI projects.

There's also the general need for digital transformation which is driving AI demand. Even before the remote and virtual boom of the pandemic, digital sea changes were pushing up the salaries of people who could boast skills and experience related to digitizing and distributing workflows or services. However, with the new demand for remote work models in recent years, that demand for digitized environments has only increased in a big way.

Another factor pointed out by some experts in the industry is that the transparency of remote systems shows AI professionals how highly they are valued, and leads to more universal salary increases. That's one reason why recent surveys have found increases in AI salaries in every region of the country, and in various types of industries where people are applying AI solutions.

Finally, there's the evident reality that AI work requires specific specializations and skills. This is the opposite of unskilled labor that is freely transmittable to different pools of people. The unique nature of an AI professional who can effectively move the ball forward is another pillar of the purchasing power and labor value that these individuals have in the market.

Some of the skills and experience needed are significantly abstract to the point that it can be difficult to really value what an individual offers. The idea of the “10x programmer” or rare unicorn IT wizard is relevant here. What's less debatable is that an individual with significant coding skills, knowledge of machine learning algorithms and the mathematical background to handle progress in this field is worth significant amounts of money compared to any other kind of skilled labor in a modern economy.

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Written by Justin Stoltzfus | Contributor, Reviewer

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Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer for various Web and print publications. His work has appeared in online magazines including Preservation Online, a project of the National Historic Trust, and many other venues.

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