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Artificial Intelligence Specialist Job Description, Career as an Artificial Intelligence Specialist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Master's or doctoral degree

Salary: Median—$74,980 per year

Employment Outlook: Excellent

Definition and Nature of the Work

Artificial intelligence (AI) specialists program computers to "think." Some AI specialists work in cognitive simulation, in which computers are used to test hypotheses about how the human mind works. For example, the AI specialist might develop a computer program to simulate the way the human brain might recognize a face. The computer's ability to recognize a face would then be compared to a human's ability. However, most AI specialists work in applied AI. The goal of applied AI, or advanced information processing, is to program computer expert systems ("smart" systems)—those that can, for example, recognize a fingerprint for security purposes, recognize voices, interpret information, solve problems, and speak in a humanlike voice.

The development of expert systems enables computers to make specific judgments and give advice to users by incorporating human expertise. Computers are able to diagnose illnesses, evaluate psychological tests, locate natural resources, and perform many other important functions. Expert systems are used in the fields of medicine, law, geology, and accounting. In medicine, expert systems can make the knowledge and experience of top specialists available to all doctors. These specialists work with AI specialists to develop programs for the identification of diseases. AI scientists at naval research laboratories have even developed a robot that can be sent aboard an unmanned submarine to repair crippled vessels.

Artificial intelligence specialists work for the research centers of universities, small AI development companies, and the growing numbers of large corporations that are maintaining in-house AI groups. Some of these companies are interested in computer-aided instruction for their own personnel. Other companies may develop and sell instructional software created by AI specialists. The defense, electronics, computer, communications, and automotive industries are all interested in this field. Some academic researchers are forming their own small AI companies.

Education and Training Requirements

The field requires a strong background in programming or systems analysis or fluency in several computer languages. Most artificial intelligence specialists have master's or doctoral degrees in computer science or cognitive science (a combination of psychology, psycholinguistics, computer science, anthropology, and philosophy). Some applicants with bachelor's degrees may be qualified for entry-level positions.

Getting the Job

Try to gain practical experience by initiating a school project or by taking part in research efforts. This may help you break into the field. You can apply directly to university research centers or to companies that do AI research and development. You can also sign up with a recruiting firm.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

An AI specialist who has a bachelor's or master's degree can advance by earning a doctoral degree. Other forms of advancement include becoming head of a research group or moving into management. Some researchers start their own development companies.

Although artificial intelligence research began in the 1940s, the field is still in its infancy and has only recently started to gain momentum. More than half of the nation's one thousand largest corporations have invested significantly in AI developments, including machine vision systems, natural language, robotics, and voice-recognition systems. Job opportunities are expected to grow at a rate much faster than the average for all occupations. Computer software engineering in general is projected to be one of the fastest-growing occupations from 2004 to 2014.

At one time, specialists needed a background in operations research. The job market should be less restrictive in the future, accepting specialists from a range of disciplines including systems analysis, programming, and computer languages.

Working Conditions

Patience and dedication are desirable qualities for AI specialists since programs often take years to develop. Research is almost always a team effort, so AI specialists must be able to work well with others. In addition, researchers often work closely with experts in many fields to benefit from their knowledge.

Where to Go for More Information

American Association for Artificial Intelligence
445 Burgess Dr.
Menlo Park, CA 94025-3442
(650) 328-3123

Earnings and Benefits

Artificial intelligence specialists make salaries comparable to software engineers. Their median annual salary in 2004 was $74,980. Benefits usually include paid vacations and holidays, as well as health insurance.

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