Main image of article Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) Job Trends Important to Watch in 2021

The use of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning (ML), technologies that help people and organizations handle customer personalization and communication, data analytics and processing, and a host of other applications continues to grow. 

An IDC report found three-quarters of commercial enterprise applications could lean on A.I. by next year alone, while an Analytics Insight report projects more than 20 million available jobs in artificial intelligence by 2023. 

Due to A.I. and ML's transformational reach, specialists with the right skills could find themselves with job opportunities across a wide range of industries. A global skills gap in the technologies means qualified applicants can expect good salaries and a strong bargaining position.

Gus Walker, director of product at Veritone, an A.I. tech company based in Costa Mesa, California, told Dice that, in 2021, there will be growing opportunities for A.I. and ML specialists in public safety, banking and fintech, and healthcare.

“These three industries have the money to invest in A.I. and ML right now and have the greatest opportunity to see the investment pay off, fast,” he said. “That being said, the pandemic has caused industries hit the hardest to take a step back and look at how they can leverage AI and ML to rebuild or adjust in the new normal.”

Data collection and preparation, as well as data analytics expertise, could end up the most in-demand skills when hiring for artificial intelligence. “Organizations need to hire individuals who can identify the correct training data and annotate the data accurately,” Walker added. “They need talent that can maintain growing training sets and analyze the data to create targeted datasets for customized model generation.”

This means companies will require professionals familiar with algorithm tuning and training; prime candidates will also have experience in A.I. operationalization and DevOps, in order to successfully set up datasets and continuous integration and continuous deployment pipelines so that algorithms stay up-to-date.

“Digitalization will make even more structured and unstructured data available to be leveraged, which will increase the need for more A.I. professionals,” Walker pointed out. “Businesses need someone who can maintain production deployments throughout.” 

Here’s a breakdown from Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, of how many technology jobs request machine learning skills. Although the current numbers are relatively small (at least when it comes to job postings), Burning Glass predicts significant growth over the next decade:

Extreme Skills

For Terry Simpson, technical evangelist at Nintex, a process management and workflow automation company based in Bellevue, WA, the skill sets around artificial intelligence and machine learning vary between extremes.

“On one side, you have the technical developer who can take a desired outcome and build an algorithm or series of steps to execute a task in a repeatable format,” he said. “On the other extreme, you have the business analyst who needs to identify and understand what the business is needing and see the vision of how to automate it.”

Between these two extremes, Simpson explained, you will find a small group of individuals who have the right balance between developer knowledge and business analyst knowledge.

“These are skillsets that are in demand,” he said, pointing out most organizations are just starting to understand how A.I. and ML can have a positive strategic impact.

“Someone who has high technical capabilities but lacks an understanding of the business won’t be successful,” Simpson noted. “On the flip side, someone who understands the business side, but is not technical enough to understand A.I. and ML, won’t be successful either. Finding the balance between the two is the sweet spot for a great candidate in the A.I. and ML space.”

Simpson added that, as companies mature, they quickly find that they need full-time employees who have a good understanding of A.I. and ML tools in the marketplace: “Not only do they need professionals, they really need a group of them that have diverse skills in this area in order to stay up to date on the different offerings, and have the ability to implement.”

Process mining is an area that businesses plan on investing more in, as it involves utilizing A.I. and ML to find processes inside the network that have a pattern. Once discovered, specialists can streamline and automate these patterns; in many cases, a business analyst or individual would never have been able to identify the pattern without an A.I. tool. 

As Walker noted, call center tools may see an increase in A.I. and ML usage to help match customers to the resources they need; retail experts may lean more on artificial intelligence apps to improve recommendation engines and “bespoke” personalized service.

“Companies need someone who is familiar with A.I. and can look at the current problems and identify where A.I. can be applied,” he said. “Next, they need professionals who can develop and deploy the A.I. solution whether it be pre-built or a point solution.”

Lastly, Walker explained, businesses should have someone with data analytics experience to ensure that products and services are actually improving as a result of A.I. and ML. Throughout 2021, we’ll likely see more A.I. usage by small businesses and educational institutions: “Now that the election is over and a vaccine is on the horizon, shifts to A.I. in all industries will be accelerated.”