Where to Find the Happiest Careers in Artificial Intelligence

A red neon smiley face sign glows in a dark room.

The demand for computer science professionals with AI skills is growing across industries. People associate this discipline with technology companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook—and the big tech firms do hire the lion's share of AI jobseekers—but enterprises in all sectors are beginning to see the potential of artificial intelligence and hiring accordingly. According to market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, which analyzes millions of job postings in real-time, employers posted hundreds of thousands of jobs requiring AI and Machine Learning skills in the past 12 months.

With the right artificial intelligence skills and a degree like the Online Master of Science in Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence Specialization (MSCS-AI) from SMU Lyle School of Engineering, you will be qualified to step into many of those AI jobs. Whether you will be happy in them is another story. While more than 80 percent of Lyle School of Engineering students are employed at graduation, there's a big difference between having a job and being happy with your job. Burnout in the tech industry is real, though highly educated workers are among the most satisfied with their jobs.

Satisfaction and, yes, happiness are more important than you might realize. Many assume career success leads to happiness, but the inverse is true. Research strongly suggests happy employees are more productive, perform better than unhappy employees and earn more. Finding that "spark" is therefore not just a matter of getting an AI degree and getting a job, but finding an artificial intelligence job that makes you happy—at a company doing work that makes you proud and keeps you engaged.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to corporate culture.

What Is Career Happiness?

Career happiness is complicated. It encompasses job satisfaction (i.e., how you feel about your day-to-day experiences at work), career satisfaction (i.e., how fulfilled you are by your vocation), the overall impact of your relationships with coworkers and managers, how much you earn, and:

  • Engagement: Using hard-earned skills to do work that makes you proud has a significant impact on employee engagement. For instance, an AI specialist who develops tools that help doctors diagnose cancers may feel more engaged than one who develops tools that automate data entry for a corporate law firm—unless, of course, that person loves working in legal settings.
  • Career Development: Companies that help employees grow in their roles—and grow out of them—generally have the happiest, most engaged employees. Career development is critical in rapidly evolving fields like AI, where engineers and researchers need to update their skills regularly to stay current.
  • Advancement Pathways: Workers are happiest when they can see a clear path forward in their careers. This element of career happiness is complicated in artificial intelligence because there aren't yet standards that dictate job titles or established advancement pathways.
  • Networking Opportunities: Connected employees are happy employees, and smart employers help workers connect so they can expand the networks they started building while pursuing an MSCS-AI.
  • Compensation and Benefits: Surveys suggest higher earners are happier and more satisfied—particularly when they feel they're being paid a fair market value and getting the benefits they deserve. Salaries in artificial intelligence reflect that professionals in the field often have advanced training and graduate degrees like SMU Lyle Online's MSCS-AI. The average AI specialist earns about $125,000, making the ROI of a computer science master's degree substantial.
  • Relationships with Management: Happy workers feel seen, heard, respected, and validated by their immediate supervisors and management—in large part because those leaders have solid communication skills. Happy employees trust that management has their best interests in mind.
  • Work Environment: Employees tend to be happier in workplaces where respect is the norm, and it's clear how each worker contributes to organizational goals. The same is true at companies committed to social responsibility, diversity, and environmental responsibility.
  • Job Security: You can't be happy in your career if you're not sure you'll have a job tomorrow. Luckily, artificial intelligence careers are highly secure because there's a shortage of talent in the field. AI positions are some of the hardest-to-fill computer science jobs.

It's possible to find happiness in an artificial intelligence job or at a company that doesn't tick all the above boxes. Happiness (and satisfaction) are highly subjective, and your priorities will shape what career happiness means to you.

What are the Happiest AI Jobs?

Career happiness is personal and value-based. You might be happiest in a company with a solid commitment to social justice or one with highly flexible remote work policies. Some people find work most rewarding when they know what they do is changing the world for the better. If you are looking at artificial intelligence jobs because you're fascinated by the potential of this technology, you might be happiest when contributing to innovation in the field. On the other hand, if you're primarily motivated by money, you might be most satisfied in the position that pays the most.

Confusing matters further is that there are no standard titles in AI. Employers may use any of the following job titles to refer to roles with similar or very different responsibilities:

  • Artificial intelligence application engineer
  • Artificial intelligence architect
  • Artificial intelligence developer
  • Artificial intelligence engineer
  • Artificial intelligence expert
  • Artificial intelligence interaction designer
  • Artificial intelligence researcher
  • Artificial intelligence specialist (the #1 job on LinkedIn's 2020 Emerging Jobs Report)
  • Deep learning engineer
  • Machine learning engineer
  • Machine learning scientist
People are happiest in their careers when they build and use relevant skills, get the recognition they deserve, create inspiring products, and receive fair and competitive compensation.

One way to figure out which artificial intelligence jobs might make you happiest is to consider different kinds of work in AI. For instance, you might become a/an:

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning product designer for a consulting company, using artificial intelligence to solve specific business or use challenges related to functionality, data science, automation, or workflow efficiency. You might find the fast-paced, ever-changing nature of the work appealing. With your team, you'll create designs to meet specific needs, execute rapid prototypes and deploy products before moving on to the next project (aka, the next opportunity to put your creativity to work).
  • Interaction designer for an AI development firm, on a large team of AI specialists and software engineers making artificial intelligence interfaces better and more human-like. The work you do will have wide-ranging applications in industries as diverse as retail and medicine. There's a chance that with the proper education, you could end up overseeing the development of new intelligence interfaces.
  • Machine learning or artificial intelligence engineer in the pharmaceutical industry, working on a team that includes both technologists and healthcare researchers. Your shared goals involve discovering new medicines to treat emerging diseases and finding innovative uses for existing treatments to help treat the rarest conditions. The work can be intense, but you never doubt that what you do is helping people.
  • AI research engineer at a big-name technology company, integrating new and emerging technologies into existing artificial intelligence and business intelligence systems to make those systems better. The work is highly challenging, but salaries are high, there's a clear path of career advancement at your company, and you can see how your work is changing the technology landscape.
  • Artificial intelligence specialist in financial services, using programming languages to create AI-enabled systems that keep people's digital assets safe from fraud. Your employer is enormous, and you have lots of autonomy, which means you don't necessarily receive a lot of feedback. Still, you enjoy knowing that your work in AI-powered cybersecurity keeps thieves out of people's accounts.

As you look at artificial intelligence jobs in tech and other industries, consider what's important to you and why. Is it more important to do work that's fun or work that's rewarding? Are you willing to sacrifice personal time to take advantage of career opportunities that come with a larger paycheck? Do you thrive in close-knit environments, or do you prefer to work autonomously? Are you happiest working on many different kinds of projects, or do you have a niche in which you're exceptionally comfortable leveraging the power of AI? Your answers to these questions will help you identify the positions and employers that will be the best fit.

Where You Will Find the Happiest AI Jobs

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to corporate culture. Some people thrive in environments that give others anxiety, and the benefits that make one person happy may do little to motivate another. You might find your career happy place at any of the following companies—or not.

Amazon

Ecommerce giant Amazon uses artificial intelligence to sell more products, enhance the Echo speaker series, and power its suite of cloud-powered Amazon Web Services (AWS). It is one of the top hirers of AI talent, if not the leading hirer, and it's known for having a surprisingly flexible work culture designed to promote work-life balance even as work gets hectic. The pay at Amazon is also above average for AI specialists—$135,000 plus potential bonuses close to $40,000—and landing a job here means working with some very talented people.

Deep 6

This growth-focused startup uses artificial intelligence to speedily find appropriate participants for clinical trials, which is one of the most time-consuming parts of the research process. Top-tier computer scientists and research scientists comprise teams at Deep 6, but the atmosphere is fun and remote-work friendly. Salaries are competitive. More importantly, everyone employed by Deep 6 in AI roles is engaged in solving interesting engineering problems that have the potential to get life-saving cures to people in need more quickly. It's a great place to work for artificial intelligence specialists passionate about healthcare.

DataVisor

This woman-led company founded by Yingilan Xie and Fang Yu uses AI and Machine Learning to detect bank fraud and financial crime before it happens and mitigate the impact of attacks before they result in damage. The culture at DataVisor is one of excitement and robust support, and salaries are competitive. The company values personal growth and achievement, engineers can use their skills to protect people, and everyone at the company feels empowered to contribute, leading to high-level engagement.

Facebook

The social media giant has had its share of public foibles. Still, it's another one of the world's top hirers of AI talent and a great place to work for those who want to do groundbreaking research in artificial intelligence (and earn a lot doing it). Working as part of Facebook's research arm is an opportunity to grow the field of machine intelligence related to communication and grow your skills in areas like information integrity and computer vision. Facebook encourages employees to work on different teams, pair up with world-class mentors and make a real impact on people's digital lives with their work.

NVIDIA

Another top hirer of artificial intelligence specialists with higher-than-average salaries, NVIDIA, is a big (read: secure) company that tries to maintain a mature startup culture. The work environment is agile, which means resources can flow between projects quickly, and individual employees can work independently. The overall vibe, however, is team-friendly and convivial. NVIDIA is particularly committed to social responsibility and promoting good environmental practices in its shared workspaces.

Syntiant

Syntiant builds ultra-low-power, high-performance, deep neural network processors designed to run the most sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms. Working here is an opportunity to develop cutting-edge edge AI technology, and you will be on teams with some of the most brilliant people in the field. Employees describe the environment as informal and motivational. Support and group problem solving are the norm, but so are long hours.

Intel

AI specialists happiest in secure, established companies should look into opportunities at Intel, another top employer of artificial intelligence professionals. Though the company is known as a top chip designer and manufacturer, it also has software-based AI, natural language processing (NLP), and computer-vision projects in the works. It has also acquired a selection of high-profile companies in the artificial intelligence space, including Nervana and Movidius. AI salaries at Intel are higher than the average for artificial intelligence specialists, and the atmosphere is generally respectful, supportive, and professional. The overall culture is more conservative than is typical in the tech world, which some people appreciate.

Kasisto

Kasisto, incubated at the Stanford Research Institute, designs conversational AI for the banking and finance industries. They created their proprietary technology, KAI, to increase customer engagement with hyper-personalized, human-like chatbot experiences. The culture is playful, the company encourages healthy work/life balance, and employees report this is a great place to learn and grow. Management is accessible, and teams are intelligent and passionate. Salaries aren't as high here as they are at other companies, but that may not matter to AI professionals who recently graduated from a master's-level AI degree program.

Persado

Persado uses artificial intelligence to make marketing more effective by creating AI algorithms that can learn what value propositions brands want to share and develop effective ways to convey those UVPs to existing and potential customers. The company is committed to making sure employees love working there. Salaries are competitive, people can work from home, collaboration is part of the culture, and employees can access an education fund to pay for professional development. More importantly, the company's values include gender equality, transparency, respect, and diversity.

Figuring Out Where YOU Will Be Happiest in the AI Landscape

Consider your goals, your interests, and what fascinates you about artificial intelligence. What do you dream of accomplishing in your career? There are no right or wrong answers.

People are happiest in their careers when they build and use relevant skills, get the recognition they deserve, create inspiring products, and receive fair and competitive compensation. Whether your goals involve becoming a top earner in computer science, driving technological innovation in AI, or helping people live better lives through technology, there are artificial intelligence jobs where you can reach your potential. Being happy at work isn't a perk—it's a necessity. Happiness can prevent burnout, improve job performance and boost your earning potential. It could even be the key to your career advancement.

If your primary goal is to work in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning roles (which are among LinkedIn's 2021 Jobs on the Rise), a bachelor's degree won't be enough. You can empower yourself to achieve career happiness with SMU’s Master of Science in Computer Science with a Specialization in Artificial Intelligence. The program's curriculum creates AI experts with a deep understanding of computer science, transferable technical abilities, and the critical thinking skills necessary to implement AI technologies ethically in various systems—100 percent online and all for a cost-effective investment of $43,500. Upon graduation, you will have competencies in-demand across industries, and given how the scope of applied AI is expanding, there will be no limit to what you can accomplish in the future.

Apply today to launch a happier, more lucrative career in just 20 months.