Artificial Intelligence Consultant Jobs and Salary Guide

Written by Scott Wilson

ai consultant job

Every industry that has ever existed ends up having consultants. Artificial intelligence is no different.

In every field, there are challenges that are too tough for existing teams to take on, yet not so common that it makes sense to hire full-time staff to handle them. To bring in the expertise that is needed or to scale up for a sudden push, it just makes sense to bring in AI consulting firms.

For experts with the right qualifications who enjoy moving quickly and fixing problem after problem, AI consulting is bound to be a rewarding field.

What Is an AI Consultant?

There’s no one answer to what an AI consultant is. Artificial intelligence itself is a broad science, and careers in AI span everything from research and development of new tools and capabilities to implementation and use of popular applications already on the market. Yet it has extremely detailed and complex niches. There’s an opportunity to consult in almost every corner.

In general, you can break AI consulting into two categories:

AI and consulting work is like consulting in any other industry. For reasons of cost or convenience, sometimes it just makes more sense for organizations to outsource certain work. Big consulting firms like Deloitte or KPMG are sometimes brought in to take on entire AI projects; individual consultants may offer more niche expertise, breaking down a single tough scientific or engineering problem. Or they may come in with a broad overview, delivering perspective that company insiders can’t quite get their heads around.

AI Consulting Services Within the AI Industry

ai consulting servicesConsulting within the AI industry isn’t as big or organized as AI business consulting for two reasons.

First, the technology hasn’t been around long enough for many people to truly gain the kind of specialist expertise people look for in consultants. For that matter, the technology changes so quickly it’s hard to pick out an expert who stays at the top of their game.

Second, the AI industry really isn’t that big yet. It’s primarily a handful of hot startups, which may not really have the budget to bring in consultants, and big players like Microsoft or Intel, who have resources internally.

Still, in cases where they are needed, hotshot engineers, scientists, and prompt engineers are already available to consult on tough problems facing AI companies.

AI Business Consulting Services for Organizations New to AI

These types of AI consulting company roles are growing faster and have a broader audience than the specialists. They might include:

What Do AI Consultants Do?

consultants working togetherThe short answer to the question is that AI consultants solve problems.

No one calls in an AI consultancy unless they are up against something they can’t solve in-house. Consultants bring expertise, fresh eyes, and creativity to the table.

The specifics will vary quite a lot between, say, someone consulting in computer vision engineering and a consultant brought in to look at hold-ups in an AI process automation project. But at least at first, most of what consultants do is look and listen. The art of absorbing a lot of information and assessing it quickly is key to the job.

Brainstorming and researching are also important tasks. Consultants have the advantage of drawing on their experience in many other companies and situations, but they also have to stay in touch with new developments elsewhere. The key to making the leap that other staff couldn’t is all about what you know.

Finally, consultants need to communicate. Without any authority, the only way to be successful is to convey your ideas accurately and convincingly to the people who matter.

How to Become an AI Consultant

working on tabletThe steps to becoming an AI consultant go up a couple separate flights. First you have to take all the steps necessary to becoming a professional in an AI niche, then comes the process of turning that expertise into a thriving consulting career.

Your first step, then, is to do all the steps necessary to become an AI engineer, a respected AI researcher, an AI training expert, or a top-notch AI product manager… whatever your area of expertise will be.

That’s going to involve extensive education and practical experience on the job in every case. By the time someone becomes a consultant in anything, they typically have years of experience in their field behind them. They’ve seen everything you can see and thought of every solution you can think of. There’s no way to get this kind of valuable expertise without earning it the hard way: working your way up through the ranks of the profession.

That also helps you build your network, which is often crucial, especially to independent consultants. When hard problems come up, you need your name to be the one people start talking about. That only happens if they know who you are and what your reputation is. So participating in industry groups or going to conferences is going to be part of your journey.

Freelancing as a consultant is high-risk but comes with the potential for huge rewards.

Finally, you’ll need to make a choice about how you want to practice. You can take a position at one of the many AI consulting companies that are springing up. Or you can choose to open your own AI consulting firm.

The perks of flexibility and the freedom to choose your own engagements are powerful. This makes consulting unique among all career tracks in AI. But it also requires business skills, marketing moxie, and a willingness to take some risks. Jobs at top AI consulting firms will have you marching to the beat of someone else’s drums… but also result in a regular and predictable paycheck.

AI Consultant Salaries Reflect Expertise and Industry

ai consulting in production facilityWhat exactly will that paycheck look like? Well, as with everything else about AI consulting, it’s even more up in the air right now than other pieces of the AI industry.

That’s because consulting salaries will tend to reflect common pay levels in their area of expertise. There’s a big range between what AI programmers are making versus AI researchers. Clearly, as a consultant, you’ll be on the same track as other professionals in your field.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does have a separate category that it uses to classify salary and employment data for most consultants. For 2022, the average annual pay rate for management analysts was $95,290 per year.

Because it’s AI, though, with higher qualifications and fewer people to compete with, you can expect to pull down more than the average. Looking at the top ten percent of those analysts, the pay rate goes into six figures, at $167,650 per year.

For a better idea of what you might command in the consulting market as an expert in your niche, check out our AI salaries page.

What Are the Best Degrees for AI Consultant Jobs?

earning degree in ai consulting You’ve already got the idea that there are all kinds of consulting opportunities in every aspect of artificial intelligence design and implementation. So you already know what the answer is to finding the top degree for AI consulting jobs: it depends on the job.

That opens up a wide range of educational opportunities in different majors. But it also leads you only toward more advanced degrees. Few companies are interested in hiring someone for AI consultation who is less qualified than current employees. And in most areas of artificial intelligence today, graduate degrees are already the rule.

So you are probably looking at something like a Master of Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence Emphasis, or a Master of Science in Intelligent Systems for consulting in tough AI research and design issues. Something like a Master of Science in Machine Learning, with advanced algorithm and neural network training, could also work.

For anyone leaning more toward the business applications side of the field, more emphasis on strategy and communications skills is always good in consulting. So a Master of Science in Business Analytics, AI in Business Track, or even an MBA in AI could be your best bet.

Since you’ll tend to come to consulting later in your career path than otherwise, educational certificates may also be a good way to improve your expertise. Either graduate or postgraduate certificate options exist in every kind of AI application, from a Visual Computing Graduate Certificate to an Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare Certificate. Taking less than a year to complete and costing much less than a complete degree, these can really hone your AI + consulting skillset.

What’s the Benefit of Becoming a Certified AI Consultant?

certified consultant meetingA certificate is different from a professional certification. An educational certificate program offered by a college delivers knowledge… a professional certification, from an independent third party like an industry organization or software vendor, validates that knowledge and the practical skill to go with it.

There’s no such thing as a universal AI consultant certification, however. Like everything else in this line of work, it’s heavily task dependent. So head over to our page on AI certifications to see some of the options.

If there is anything that’s certain about the wave of artificial intelligence fast approaching modern industry and society, it’s that there will be problems when it hits. Consultants will be the vital troubleshooters and solution finders who are there to fix things when it happens… and to make the transitions smoother for everyone.

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Management Analysts reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed December 2023.