With AI continuing to be a buzzword in 2020, there's still a lot of discussion around AI's impact on jobs and how it's disrupting the workplace. While some opinions are straight-up ominous, others are more hopeful.  

For example, a Wall Street Journal headline warns: "AI Is the Next Workplace Disrupter—and It's Coming for High-Skilled Jobs." The article quotes a Brookings Institution study that identifies jobs that are vulnerable to AI-based automation, including marketing specialists, financial advisers, and computer programmers.

On the other hand, a Wired.com article titled "AI May Not Kill Your Job—Just Change It" makes for an encouraging read. It mentions a new paper from MIT and IBM's Watson AI Lab that shines a light on the fact that tasks likely to be taken over by AI are not the kind of jobs that frequently feature in job listings.

According to Professor Zhi-Hua Zhou, head of the Department of Computer Science and Technology at Nanjing University in Nanjing, China, and dean of the university's School of AI, "AI can be analogous to steam power: Steam power helped humans to do manual labor, while AI will help humans to do intellectual labor."

Now, the question is, will AI really make your job obsolete? Let's find out.

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AI Jobs On The Rise

Artificial Intelligence is a hungry beast that consumes whatever data it touches, as much as you can feed it. So the more data you have, the better. Also, AI models require data sets that are sufficiently diverse to work as intended, without the risk of bias creeping in. But, businesses often fail to achieve this data diversity when they focus on a single source of data. Even when they do have diverse data sets within the company, they might not have the resources to collect and access all that data.

The financial industry, for example, wants to apply AI to a wide range of new applications. However, it faces two significant obstacles: not enough skilled people to build the applications, and not enough data ready to feed the applications.

This means that there are many emerging job opportunities in AI and machine learning. And it also means that there are even more emerging job opportunities in AI-adjacent fields such as computer science, math, and statistics.

In order to implement AI applications effectively, companies need their tech staff to:

  • Create the data sources to feed new AI applications
  • Build the systems and environments to run the applications
  • Test the applications and the underlying systems and keep them running
  • Manage the work at each stage of the process

To fulfill these needs, there's a growing demand for AI expertise, and an increasing number of companies are realizing the value of hiring scientists and engineers for AI-oriented roles.

AI Among the Most Highly Paid Jobs 

As much as the fear of AI taking over jobs looms over the modern workplace, there is a huge upsurge in the number of AI-related jobs. According to the World Economic Forum, AI is the fastest-growing skill on LinkedIn. Job postings on Indeed between 2015 and October 2019 show that there has been a 5X increase in the amount of AI jobs in the US.

But AI and Machine Learning are not just contributing to the fastest-growing job category. They also make up the most highly paid job category in recent times. The 2020 Dice Salary Report shows that of the top 20 best-paid tech jobs, the ones with the fastest salary growth are:

  • Sales engineer
  • Data scientist
  • Security engineer
  • Data engineer
  • Systems architect
  • UI/UX designer
  • Cloud engineer
  • Product manager

Each of these jobs is predicted to have a year-on-year salary growth of 6 percent or more. Clearly, AI is giving specific job roles a greater push, but fortunately, it's not all grim for others. Yes, most of these roles are associated with a STEM background, but there will be plenty of opportunities for people from non-STEM fields to work alongside the machines of tomorrow. 

One of the key reasons for this is the big three (Facebook, Google, and Amazon) players' growing appetite for tech talents. Walking in their footsteps, most big organizations are hiring college grads with tech degrees. The situation is creating pressure on companies to not only upskill their existing tech employees but also to fill their entry-level positions with non-STEM degree holders. In the words of Wendy Pfeiffer, chief information officer of cloud storage company Nutanix, "The demand is creating a really ripe environment for people who are in non-traditional majors, liberals arts majors who bring different aspects to the tech space."

AI Opening Doors to More Opportunities 

If you're working in technology or want to want to be a part of the technology workforce, there hasn't been a better time to explore the excellent opportunities that lie ahead of you. To take advantage of those opportunities, you need to gain the right skills for the jobs that will be driven by the growth of AI. Let's dive into some of them. 

1. Data Science

Data scientists and data engineers need to understand how digital systems use data and how that data needs to be prepared for use by digital systems. Data scientists choose the tools and methods for systems to utilize data to make decisions and create outputs. Data engineers design the tools and techniques for turning data into a form the system can use, and for translating system outputs into forms, human users can use it.

2. Cybersecurity

As digital transformation places more of our daily lives into the cyber domain, data breaches become harder to prevent and more disruptive when they occur. Cybersecurity engineers conduct vulnerability analyses, model threats, and design tools and methods to prevent data loss.

3. Systems Architect

System architects provide the high-level design of digital systems to fulfill user and customer requirements. Each layer of a digital system, from communications to computing to data structures to end-user facing applications, can have its architect who must understand the interactions and dependencies of their layer with all the others.

4. UI/UX Designer

UI/UX design bridges two gaps: between how digital systems process data and how human users perceive and understand it, and between how users express their wants and needs and how digital systems accept commands. UI/UX designers create interfaces between people and machines and seek to make the interactions between the two effective, efficient, and enjoyable for human users.

5. Cloud Computing

As digital systems become accessible from anywhere, they need to be freed from the limitations of geographic location and physical capacity. Cloud architects and engineers transform digital systems so they can run on virtual machines that can be spawned in the locations and numbers that support ever-changing locations and numbers of users, in such a way that the users never have to think about how the system works.

Bottom Line

The world is witnessing an array of transformations brought about technology, and the one common thread among them all has been the adoption of AI and ML applications across industry sectors.

With businesses overflowing with data waiting to be processed, there's a greater need than ever to harness the data and glean actionable insights out of it. As such, professionals with expertise in data science are fast emerging as an invaluable group of talent, whose contributions are critical to make AI work as intended — something no amount of automation can effectively replicate.

However, for many that don't have a tech background, there's an evident silver lining amidst the fears around automation. Experts believe that AI will pave the way to enhance the efficiency and productivity of such workers. Therefore, the future of automation seems to revolve around the opening of new and more exciting opportunities through the elimination of mundane tasks. It's not so much about cannibalizing jobs.

If you want to take advantage of these opportunities, this is the time to train yourself for the brave new world where robots could be your co-workers. And a great way to do so is through e-learning that allows you to learn effectively, at your own pace, while still being a part of the workforce. But the key lies in choosing a reputed e-learning platform like Simplilearn. 

Simplilearn offers master's programs that furnish a full curriculum of courses to advance you to a qualified and certified practitioner in a given area. These programs include:

Designed to help you step into an AI-related career, these courses are delivered in a blended-learning format online and feature applied learning through hands-on projects for real-world problem-solving.

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