Artificial Intelligence Project Management Jobs and Salary Guide

Written by Scott Wilson

ai project manager job

Wherever you have work that involves a lot of moving parts, different teams, and far-flung resources, you have project managers on deck to tie it all together.

Artificial intelligence more than meets those criteria. Powered by intricate machine learning algorithms designed and optimized by teams of professionals, trained using terabytes of data gathered from all kinds of different sources, modeled on cloud-based computing systems that run for weeks on end and costing millions of dollars… putting a new AI product in the field is a complex undertaking.

Project managers sit in the center of that web of capabilities and tasks. They know how to tie together the hardest jobs with the best engineers. They can tell you what a unit of compute costs on Azure vs AWS off the top of their head. And they can loop senior execs into discussions without setting of a firestorm of panic over the latest holdup.

It’s an exciting, fast-paced position, and it’s going to be critical for new abilities and tools in artificial intelligence.

What Is an AI Project Manager?

Project managers exist in every industry. As soon as any product or task becomes too complicated to be handled by more than a handful of individual experts, it’s time to bring in the traffic cop. Do you cut the feature? Or pile on more talent? Is it time to slip the delivery date, or can it be made up with more resources and creative scheduling?

Project managers make decisions that can only be made by someone who has the big picture in mind.

Project managers are the team members that make the trains run on time. Unlike most other careers in AI, project management doesn’t require deep technical knowledge in AI, but it does require enough expertise to understand requirements, task complexities, and obstacles.

On the other side of the coin, they have a better feel for other parts of the organization, vendors, and other resources that the team relies on to do their jobs. PMs are expert communicators, with their own dedicated skill set in scheduling, negotiation, coordination, and oversight.

On top of bringing that distinctive kind of expertise to projects, the PM role frees up technical experts to do what they do best. When someone has to spend an hour on the phone with accounting to get cloud compute bills paid, it’s a better use of time for the PM to make that happen than a research scientist.

For Project Managers, AI Presents a Unique Set of Challenges

ai project manager on laptopProject managers have their work cut out for them in the artificial intelligence world.

According to consultancy McKinsey, large technology projects on average run nearly 50 percent over budget and take 7 percent longer than estimated, while delivering less than half of the predicted value. It’s a sad showing from an industry that is over forty years old at this point. It speaks to the difficulty of making high tech dance on command, though.

AI has all the challenges of the average tech project:

Then it throws in a few more pitfalls for good measure:

Oh, and since there are so few qualified AI engineers, programmers, and other AI professionals out there today, you can double down on the strong competition for resources and staff.

What Do AI Project Manager Jobs Deal with Day-To-Day?

looking over programmer's shouldersIt’s the job of project managers to sort out all these potential obstacles, line up the resources to deal with them, and orchestrate the work of dozens or hundreds of staff to bring projects in on-time and on-budget.

First and foremost, this involves understanding the project goals and key milestones. Much of the early work on a project will involve discussing it with the product manager, senior staff, company leaders, and sales teams to absorb all the details.

The PM then breaks those details down into plans. They map out paths to completion, usually using specialized planning software. They’ll come up with intermediate objectives and milestones and identify the resources needed to achieve them.

AI Project Management Tools are Changing the Face of Project Management Well Beyond the Field of AI

project manager tracking productivityIf you’re looking around for information about AI project management, chances are you will find a lot more about the impact of AI on project management in general than the work of project management within artificial intelligence.

That’s because many core PM tasks seem almost tailor-made for AI solutions. AI can plumb project risks and quickly surface concerns from large amount of data that human PMs might never correlate. It can compute scheduling options instantly, taking in all kinds of different parameters and developing options outside the box.

These ideas are powerful enough that research group Gartner projects that by 2030, 80 percent of project management tasks will be AI powered.

AI doesn’t sleep and it doesn’t have limited focus or attention span. So while a single PM, or even a team, can be spread thin over the demands of various team members, vendors, and stakeholders, AI can engage individually and simultaneously with all of them. It can work around the world, 24/7, tying together groups located anywhere. And it will never forget a deadline or miss a connection that a human PM might.

AI project management software isn’t here yet, but it will be soon. You may be one of the people to help build it.

Then the hard part starts: actually marshaling those resources and coordinating work on the project. PMs monitor progress, identify sticky points, and work with people inside and outside their team to resolve them. They might identify slow computation times in model training, for example, and go to senior execs for more budget for cloud compute to catch up.

How to Become an AI Project Manager

The best path into AI project management today is from project management jobs in the tech industry in general.

To get there, though, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. Project management, like AI, is an interdisciplinary profession. You’ll need to develop skills in various fields such as:

Project management isn’t a role that is entirely in tech, but most companies have technology projects and PMs to manage them. These are your best options for getting experience relevant to eventual work in AI.

Finally, professional certification is a big deal in the project management community. It’s never a bad idea to pick up a cert or two to shine up your resume along the way.

What Kind of Salary Do AI Project Managers Get Paid?

smiling at deskThe Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has a dedicated category for tracking the salary and employment levels for project management specialists. For 2022, the average annual pay for those individuals was $95,370.

Because of the greater demands of AI project management, the lengthier experience, and the broader expertise needed, most AI project manager salary levels are quite a bit better than just average.

Looking at the top ten percent of the field, BLS found a much healthier salary of $159,150 per year. That’s more in line with the higher salaries in general found in artificial intelligence and machine learning positions.

Finding the Right Degree to Prepare for Project Management Roles in Artificial Intelligence

When it comes to earning a degree for AI project management jobs, you will have plenty of options.

As its own professional field, project management is a dedicated major available at many colleges and universities. A Bachelor of Science in Project Management focuses on the specific skills needed to handle projects of any stripe:

You’ll also be exposed to all the various tools of the trade, from Gantt charts to agile development methodologies to the ubiquitous PowerPoint. A Master of Professional Studies in Project Management or similar graduate degrees turns up the dial on

It’s also possible to get into the trade coming from the other direction. A Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning comes with way more math and hardcore coding skills than you will absolutely need as a PM; on the other hand, it will give you a much deeper familiarity with the obstacles and capabilities within the field than a typical PM brings to the table.

In either case, a bachelor’s degree is broad enough that you can fill in some coursework toward either AI or PM skills as needed. A few electives may be all it takes to improve your understanding of core concepts and get the edge on the competition for AI PM jobs.

If you earned your degree before those options were available or obvious, you can build on your post-degree skillset out in both directions with the appropriate kind of educational certificate.

A Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Applied Artificial Intelligence may fill in some of the gaps for PM majors in the technology itself. On the other hand, engineers who already have a solid grounding in computer science and AI could benefit from a Certificate in Project Management.

Earning AI Project Management Certification Is a Must

earning certification onlineThere’s another kind of certification to look for on the way to becoming a PM: professional certification.

While an educational certificate delivers a chunk of knowledge and skills, a professional certification tests those abilities. Usually offered by independent industry organizations rather than colleges, these serve as an independent assessment of your PM skillset that employers can count on.

There are well-established certification programs for project management. Probably the best known and the most highly respected is the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP)®.

The PMP® is more stringent than many AI-specific certs. You’ll need:

While the PMP is not AI-specific, PMI has put together an AI Resource Center and offers an AI in project management online course alongside its other training.

Many degree programs in project management focus on giving you the necessary training and knowledge base to pass the PMP® after you graduate and accumulate the required experience.

Project management will be a key role to help shepherd new AI tools to market. All the engineers, product managers, prompt engineers, and consultants in the world won’t accomplish much without someone to guide them. Until that someone is a robot, there’s you!

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