Artificial Intelligence Careers to Consider: Natural Language Processing (NLP) Engineer

By now you’ve likely heard about natural language processing (NLP) being used in everything from screening job applicants’ resumes to generating essays about Shakespeare. But have you ever stopped to think about those who make such a thing possible? That would be the NLP engineers, members of a growing field that help shape the future of NLP possibilities. If that sounds like something you might be interested in, keep reading to find out whether this niche tech career is right for you.

NLP engineer

What does an NLP engineer do?

At the most basic level, NLP engineers create systems that translate human language into “computer speak” in order to complete specific tasks and give specific information. While an NLP engineer’s specific duties will vary from company to company and industry to industry, you can expect to be charged with relatively similar tasks.

These can include designing overall natural language processing systems, changing natural language data into features that can aid classification algorithms, honing and perfecting Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) speech recognition, refining data science prototypes, defining datasets for language learning, choosing and implementing appropriate algorithms on a case-by-case basis, fine-tuning a program’s speech patterns and A.I. speech recognition, and other similar duties.

What education and skills do you need?

A college degree gives you a huge leg up when searching for a job as an NLP engineer. While many workers have bachelor’s degrees, some others choose to earn a doctorate in order to better perfect their research methods. Popular majors include computer science, engineering, statistics, and mathematics. Regardless of your college major, it’s important to have a deep understanding of algebra and probability, symbolic language representation, and data and unstructured text.

Employers look for hard skills such as a thorough knowledge of NLP techniques; the ability to design functional software and write testable code; knowledge of Python, Java, and R; and familiarity with machine learning frameworks like Keras.

The soft skills needed to become an NLP engineer include strong communication skills to work with your team in a timely and efficient manner and the ability to problem solve quickly when running into a technical error, which is bound to happen.

What does the role’s future growth look like?

Despite the recent slew of tech industry layoffs, NLP engineers appear to be in a strong position. The demand for well-qualified workers is high, especially in the technology and recruitment sectors.

According to 365 Data Science, the top ten companies with the most open NLP engineer positions currently available are Apple, Diverse Lynx, SynergisticIT, Grammarly, CyberCoders, Acceler8 Talent, Adobe, Emonics LLC, Fidelity Investments, and Zoom.

As you can see from that list, there is a fairly little in the way of diversity when it comes to the type of company—the majority of them are based in the software and recruiting industries. So what does that mean? NLP engineers may very well find a very small pool of industries in need of their services, but the number of companies within those industries is plentiful.

What to expect in terms of the average salary?

Salaries will depend on the company’s location, size, and specific industry, but NLP engineers can expect to earn a healthy amount, even when just starting out in entry-level positions. Those often see earnings of around $103,028 (which represents the lower end of the average scale) while mid-senior level can go up to around $129,091 (which represents the higher end of the average scale). Senior-level and director-level engineers typically see up to $200,000 per year, but those roles are fewer and farther between.

While you certainly don’t have to worry about A.I. taking over your job quite yet, it does appear as though the future of work will heavily integrate A.I.’s increasing capabilities. If you’re interested in helping create and perfect those capabilities, a job as an NLP engineer might be just what you’re looking for.

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