Artificial Intelligence Prompt Engineer Jobs and Salary Guide

Written by Scott Wilson

ai prompt engineer job

Unquestionably the most impressive thing about AI today is that you can talk to it. While machine learning has been growing by leaps and bounds in the world of data science, and AI has slowly started to revolutionize everything from recommendations systems at Netflix to helping farmers optimize crop yields, it’s all been behind the scenes.

Generative pre-trained transformers (GPT) have changed all that.

While only the holy priests of AI engineering were able to chant their incantations to the thinking machines in the past, today, anyone can drive AI in natural language form.

Still, even with big leaps in natural language processing (NLP), those systems aren’t perfect. While GPT interfaces are miracles of clarity and comprehension compared to the AI interfaces of the past, they aren’t entirely transparent to everyone. It turns out that, while AI has learned English pretty well, it’s not using it like a native language just yet.

Prompting is the process of making a request or giving an order to a GPT system. And prompt engineers are the emerging category of AI professionals who go the extra mile to make sure that the machines understand what they’ve been asked to do.

What Is Prompt Engineering in AI and What Is an AI Prompt Engineer?

ai prompt engineer on the jobPrompt engineering is the process of providing instructions or requests to an artificial intelligence agent in a way that returns the desired results. Whether a chatbot, interacting through natural language processing (NLP), or some other generative system design to produce images or results, the initial query design can have a major impact on what comes back.

You can think of prompt engineering as a kind of translation. NLP has achieved great things over the past years. It’s a head-and-shoulders leap over the last generation of tools for getting results from computers, structured programming languages. Those languages could take years to learn effectively and could only be used by people with extensive experience.

AI prompting has lowered the bar quite a bit… but not quite all the way to the ground. Like talking to someone with a poor command of English, who may not get all the nuance in a naturally phrased sentence, simply giving a plain-English instruction to AI can produce some odd results.

Prompt Engineering AI Is the Practical Response to Quirky Models

Prompt engineers figure out the quirks and shortcuts that can be used in interacting with generative AI models. They have a knack for optimizing instructions to obtain the right results quickly and cleanly. They provide a layer of simplification and context that AI otherwise can’t yet pick up on. Or they break questions down in ways known to improve AI performance.

This makes generative AI prompt engineering a valuable position for companies that are trying to implement AI tools. Although the promise of generative AI is to get to the level of Star Wars, where any random rogue or Jedi can banter with machines, it’s not there yet. Most people don’t have enough understanding of how generative AI works or how to hone their queries to get good results.

An AI Prompt Engineer Job Description Means Talking to Machines

chatbot on desk coming from computerEnter the prompt engineer. While they don’t have quite the level of understanding of large language models (LLM) and artificial neural networks (ANN) as a full-fledged AI engineer, they have a strong functional sense of how those systems work.

Collaboration is a big part of the daily activities in prompt engineering. As translators, prompt engineers work closely with others in the organization who have questions to pose to AI. They discuss the objectives of queries and work to understand how the responses will be used, including:

They may have timelines to conform to or performance considerations.

Evolution Is the Name of the Game in Prompt Engineer AI Jobs

chatbot by ai on phoneOn top of crafting initial prompts or assisting users in them, prompt engineers spend much of their time fine-tuning prompts with follow-up feedback to the model. It’s not unusual to go through several dozen iterations to hone results, enabled by the model’s ability to continue learning in the context of the conversation.

Just as generative models are constantly changing and evolving, AI prompt engineers have to keep up with the latest developments. They will spend at least part of their time keeping up with the newest advances in AI and ML technology. Some of their day is likely to be spent experimenting with various new approaches to create shorter, faster, and more effective prompts.

Deep learning AI prompt engineering has a lot of territory to explore. The new developments in building artificial neural networks put new models in the wild all the time. Each of them has its own quirks of text prompting for user generated AI; prompt engineers will have to start the puzzle fresh each time new models are released.

How to Become an AI Prompt Engineer

chatbot with ai prompt engineerUnlike many of the other roles in the AI industry today, prompt engineering doesn’t necessarily have a unique or well-defined track to employment. Many people who find jobs as prompt engineers simply have a knack for working with generative models.

The emergence of the job of prompt engineer is one sign that the credentials required for working with AI will be getting lower and lower as it becomes more and more polished. For many AI prompt engineer jobs, no experience is necessary. And for many people who aren’t sure that their current role is going to remain stable in an AI-influenced world, prompt engineering represents a new and exciting option to get on the up elevator in the new economy.

Since the entire career path is emerging from people figuring out they are good at being machine whisperers, there’s no prescriptive path to landing a prompt engineering job yet.

On the other hand, particularly on the development side, AI prompt engineers may be expected to hold more substantial AI or computer science credentials. Since they will work closely with developers and AI scientists, they need a greater understanding of the systems and processes going on under the hood in generative systems.

In these positions, you can be expected to need additional credentials like:

In fact, these roles can serve as a sort of apprenticeship toward more in-depth AI engineering jobs. That’s particularly the case for people who don’t already have the advanced degrees that are usually required for those roles, but who may be working in that direction.

Where Can You Find AI Prompt Engineering Courses?

chatbot with ai on laptopThere isn’t any such thing as a prompt engineering degree yet. But although you won’t need a full-on master’s degree or doctorate in AI to become a prompt engineer, most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree before you’ll even be considered.

In most cases, you’re best served by earning a degree in a related field, such as a Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with AI Specialization, or a Bachelor of Science in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

A handful of computer science departments are offering AI prompt engineer courses now, although no degree specializations in the field yet.

On the other hand, one of the things that makes for a good prompt engineer is the combination of solid language skills and a command of basic principles of logic and systems. So degrees like a Bachelor of Science in Computational Linguistics could be a good choice.

Although there aren’t many of them, it’s also worth looking at Bachelor of Arts in AI. A BA differs from a BS in including more emphasis on general and liberal studies coursework. That kind of context building, social awareness, and additional language skills can pay big dividends in prompt engineering.

Alternatively, you may come into the field from majors like English, Philosophy, Prelaw, or other liberal arts fields. While they don’t help you much with flipping binary digits behind the scenes, the real art of prompt engineering is about communication. And those fields help you learn how to state ideas and goals clearly and succinctly.

An AI certificate program is one way to pick up the technical qualifications needed for prompt engineer jobs. College certificate programs in AI are available at the graduate and post-graduate levels, commonly marketed simply as a Graduate or Post-Graduate Certificate in Artificial Intelligence, to deliver a quick hit of AI knowledge.

These are designed for people who already have degrees, but just need to hone their AI skills. The entrance requirements can be stiff, however, requiring a strong command of advanced math and current familiarity with programming languages.

Are There Professional AI Prompt Engineer Certifications?

ai software techProfessional certification is common in the IT industry as a way to verify your skills for potential employers. Many AI and ML certifications exist, but most have limited relevance in the prompt engineering role.

There is one credential, the Certified Prompt Engineer™ by the Blockchain Council, that dives right into AI prompt engineer training. For $250, an optional six-hour course prepares you for a 100-question test covering topics like:

It’s too soon to say how valuable this cert will be. There certainly aren’t any employers demanding it as a qualification. But it does indicate your dedication to absorbing new material and perfecting the craft.

AI Prompt Engineer Jobs Can be Found Across a Range of Companies and Industries

Who are these potential employers?

Prompt engineers can find positions with any organization that needs a translation layer between staff and AI systems. And today, that can mean almost any organization, in any field… GPT systems are making their way into all kinds of industries.

A few examples available in early 2024:

AI prompt engineering jobs are also being filled by companies that are developing generative AI systems themselves. They are used in testing and to help AI engineers develop effective training processes for their models. They may craft seed prompts that are injected prior to user text to guard against attacks and channel results in expected directions. They are also used to red team AI products, searching for holes in security or ways that offensive prompts can break built-in directions.

AI prompt engineer jobs are often remote. When the AI you are working with is an incorporeal bundle of data and algorithms scattered through data centers around the world, there’s no way to be in the same room with it to collaborate, anyway.

What to Expect for Prompt Engineer AI Salary Rates

digital money bagIt’s hard to pin down salary levels for AI jobs even for positions that are already well-recognized in the tech world. Something like prompt engineering, which comes up as an entirely new thing, is all but impossible to pin down with hard salary data.

There’s no Bureau of Labor Statistics category for prompt engineers. It’s likely, however, that they come closest to the category of software developers, quality assurance analysis, and testers. The nature of the job itself requires a lot of probing and verification, which makes it pretty similar to testing. At the same time, it requires a higher level of technical knowledge than many testing jobs, so it can lean toward software development or engineering.

The top ten percent of professionals working in the field of software development and testing earned $159,740 or more in 2022.

That’s top dollar, but it’s also new and demanding work, with a limited field of candidates. You can read more about factors like location, experience, and education on our AI Salary page.

It’s too soon to say if prompt engineering is to become a permanent fixture in the artificial intelligence landscape, or if it’s a temporary accommodation to technology that is still evolving. Although the goal is to build machine minds that are accessible to everyone, predictions of when those will arrive are all over the map.

Until that day, interpreters like prompt engineers will be the way that the most effective work is run through AI.

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