AI Developer Salary and Jobs Guide

Written by Scott Wilson

ai developer job

There’s little question that AI software development is on the fast-track to changing the world. Applications seem like they are popping up everywhere… more exciting, dynamic computer games, better health care services, and automated business processes that take the drudgery out of office work.

Many of those applications are part of current software applications, though. Everyone is so eager to have artificial intelligence tools built into their software that they are missing an important step: who is going to put the AI into the package?

While AI has already proven to be an adept coding partner, it’s not good enough yet to know how to program itself. Instead, dedicated AI programmers will have to do the heavy lifting of understanding new AI and ML tools, planning integration, and putting their nose to the grindstone to do the work.

That means AI software development jobs and AI software development companies are going to be hiring for decades to come. And you could be one of the programmers they hire.

What Is an AI Developer?

First, let’s be clear: there’s no widespread agreement on what the terms AI developer or AI programmer mean. AI development companies are forging new ground. Similar to what you’ll find with AI jobs more broadly, the job titles that are springing up around AP programming and development don’t always come with consistent labels.

You’re just as likely to find positions in AI dev with traditional titles like application programmer or software developer as with AI on the sticker.

There’s also not a lot of title-based distinction between the role of the engineers who are working to build the minds of the machines and those developers who are simply putting those systems in play with commercial products yet.

But that’s where we’re drawing the line for the purposes of describing these distinct roles. If you are interested in the development of AI itself, check out our guide to AI engineering jobs.

AI developer jobs, on the other hand, are aimed not at building core AI systems, but at building software around them. That may involve integrating AI capabilities, like generative chat tools, into existing software like websites or office productivity suites. Or it can mean putting together entirely new apps, rooted in new AI developments that allow software companies to scratch new itches for their customers.

AI Developer Job Description – What Do Programmers Do in AI Development?

Like existing positions in software development, the essential work of most AI developer jobs is a sort of creative, iterative loop of problem solving.

Writing code, even with the assistance of AI development tools, involves the process of:

It’s meat and potatoes work for any software developer. But AI programmers must do it all with new, groundbreaking systems that aren’t yet fully understood.

In a typical development environment, there’s a standard playbook of solutions and recipes to turn to, accumulated over decades and bringing together the work of very smart people finding clever solutions to common problems.

In an AI software development company, those tricks and tools are still being discovered. It’s up to AI programmers to find them.

How to Become an AI Programmer or AI Developer

ai programmer touching robot handIt’s still early days in the AI development services game. There’s no yellow brick road that leads you directly from high school or college into AI programming jobs just yet.

But the good news is that, within a few years, most programming and development roles are going to revolve around recent developments in AI. That’s going to mean that not only will demand rise for programmers with AI skillsets, but that more and more of the educational path and hiring expectations will move in that direction.

For now, the best way to get into AI/ML development services closely resembles the steps that any programmer takes on the way to a job:

You can satisfy most of those steps with a bachelor’s degree.

A Look at the Best College Degree Programs for Developing AI

ai project togetherWhile it’s been possible even since the earliest days to become an accomplished software programmer without the benefit of a college education, that’s a less common path today. As AI becomes a bigger and bigger part of coding projects, a university education is going to become even more critical.

That’s because AI is one of the most complex technologies that humankind has ever developed. It might seem a bit counterintuitive at first, but working with AI should be less complicated for users than dealing with less sophisticated systems for the simple fact that machine intelligence has the reasoning and flexibility to better understand meaning and intent.

But for the developers putting those AI tools into place, a better understanding of how they work will be key. That will come through degrees like a Bachelor of Computer Science, AI Specialization, or a Bachelor of Science in Computing and Machine Learning.

Most AI degrees at the bachelor’s level include quite a lot of software development instruction. So a Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will also hit all the skills you need.

There are also plenty of two-year associate-level degrees in programming, but it’s best to look at those as just a step toward a full four-year program.

You may also choose to pursue advanced degrees in AI, like a Master of Science in Computer Science, AI concentration. The additional two years of advanced study will expose you to research and cutting-edge ideas in AI and computing.

Finally, AI certificate programs offer a shot at getting specialized AI training even if you’ve already earned a relevant programming degree. Something like a Graduate Certificate in Artificial Intelligence fills in the gaps in AI, ML, neural networks, and other concepts important to working in AI software programming.

Getting a Job at an AI Development Company

cheerful group of programmersFinding an AI app development company isn’t tough: almost every software company will make AI apps soon. All of them will be looking to hire AI developers.

An AI software development company will be looking for experienced coders. No one wants to spend time trying to train up novices while forging ahead into uncharted territory with machine intelligence. So expect to show your chops with real-world projects you’ve contributed to, either at other positions or through open-source projects.

Should You Worry About a Pause on AI Development?

no ai signThere’s been a lot of talk among regulators, and even among companies developing AI, about an AI development pause to study the potential risks of the technology to society.

An open letter published in March of 2023 with signatories such as Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk, and Andrew Yang urged a six-month hold on AI model production. Even AI research scientists like Stuart Russell and Adam Smith signed it.

But it’s not something that general AI devs need to worry about. In fact, the letter even specifically stated that it “…does not mean a pause on AI development in general” but only on advanced models with emergent capabilities.

That’s a far cry from the work of most AI programmers. And in any event, the pause never happened. Even OpenAI developers charged ahead through the proposed halt.

As AI becomes more and more common in all industries, however, jobs for AI programmers will be popping up at many corporations, not just dedicated development companies.

Professional Certificates Help Prove Your Competence as an AI Programmer

programming classIn most technology fields, professional certification is one of the best ways to prove your job qualifications.

The world of AI professional certifications is just getting rolling. Many of these are aimed to coders who will be working in AI/ML development services, such as the ISACA Certified in Emerging Technology: Artificial Intelligence Fundamentals or the Deeplearning TensorFlow Developer Professional Certificate. These show your skills in particular techniques or concepts in AI development.

There are also many vendor-based certifications that demonstrate your mastery of various tools and platforms that are common in AI development. These can include certs like the Intel Edge AI Certification or Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Fundamentals.

You can expect at the very least to have to prove your mettle with a practical test in the certification area. Some certs come with educational requirements, specific coursework to study, or a proven period of experience working with the technology.

AI Developer Salary – What Is the Typical AI Developer Salary?

raining moneyAI is such a new field that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the go-to source for employment and salary data, hasn’t really been able to keep up with tracking the new careers associated with it.

For AI programmer salary rates, though, there is happily a current and clear alignment with the existing position of computer programmers.

For 2022, the average annual wage for programmers in the U.S. was $97,800.

Of course, average doesn’t necessarily describe coders who have gone the extra mile to get AI skillsets in their toolbox. So it might be better to look toward the higher range of those professionals, the upper 25 percent, who earn $124,060 per year, as a more typical value for the salary of AI programmers.

Some of these positions also fall into the BLS category for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers. The software developers in that category in 2022 earned $127,260 per year.

All these rates can vary depending on the employment industry and the region where you work. But in most cases, you can expect that AI-related dev jobs will pay higher rates than the corresponding roles without AI expertise. We break down these considerations and more on our AI salary page.

Fewer and fewer jobs will exist that don’t require AI and ML training, however. As AI itself becomes more and more capable, the very role of developer will require moving along with it.

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