AI researchers fresh out of school are getting paid $500k salaries

All-stars in the AI field are negotiating contracts like NBA players, and have racked up “double-digit millions over a four- or five-year period.”

October 24, 2017

In an effort to solve everything from face-scanning to autonomous vehicles, the world’s biggest tech companies are fighting over a small class of graduates with a very particular focus: AI research.

AI specialists, from fresh PhD grads to those with just a couple years of work experience, are getting paid $300-$500k in salary and equity, according to The New York Times. And that’s just for the newbies…

The big names are making millions

According to the NYT, all-stars in the AI field are negotiating contracts like NBA players, and have racked up “double-digit millions over a four- or five-year period.”

And looking down on it all are people with direct AI project management experience, like Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Google’s self-driving car division, who received nearly $120m in incentives before jumping ship to Uber.

So what’s juicing their paychecks?

A few things:

  1. Everybody’s trying to make autonomous vehicles. This is pitting massive automakers like GM and Ford against massive tech companies like Google and Uber. Both industries have no shortage of resources.
  2. AI has seemingly endless applications. We’re talking fake news algorithms, smartphone assistants — you name it, companies like Facebook are using AI to solve it.
  3. Only a few people truly understand AI. And that makes them all the more valuable. According to an independent lab in Montreal, Element AI, fewer than 10k people in the world have the knowledge needed to solve cutting-edge AI problems.

In other words, AI experts are now what developers were at the turn of the millennium.

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