Artificial Intelligence Careers to Consider: Research Scientist

Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing most jobs these days, and if you have the desired educational background and the right technical and soft skill sets, AI opens the door to exciting new career opportunities, such as AI research scientist.

research scientist

What is an AI research scientist?

Big names in AI, including Meta and OpenAI (creator of ChatGPT) are posting for AI research scientist positions. A recent Meta job description states the ideal AI research scientist will “have a keen interest in producing new science to understand intelligence and technology to make computers more intelligent.” At OpenAI, a research scientist wants to “discover simple, generalizable ideas that work well even at large scale, and form part of a broader research vision that unifies the entire company.” Both postings emphasize collaboration with peers.

These postings sound rather lofty, but at its heart, the AI research scientist develops AI systems that meet business needs. Using knowledge of human cognition, they create AI technology that behaves in a similar way to solve problems and interact with humans.

An AI research scientist typically holds a leadership role within a company’s AI operations, even if they’re not the lead scientist. The research team drives a company’s AI advances and seeks to solve business problems using AI.

What skills does an AI research scientist need?

Often, an AI research scientist will be required to have a PhD in an AI-related field, such as computer science or machine learning, along with the research credentials that go along with having a PhD: lab experience, knowledge of theoretical and empirical research techniques, and publishing the results of such research. For some positions, a master’s degree may be sufficient.

Specific knowledge areas required include understanding of deep learning and neural networks, as well as experience in data science. It’s also a must to have skills developing and debugging in programming languages such as Python or R and high-level languages such as Scala and Java. The actual work will involve data science strategies, including feature engineering, model selection and validation, and hyperparameter tuning. You will also need the ability to use training models such as TensorFlow, an open-source tool for creating machine learning models.

In addition to a solid foundation in math and programming, an AI research scientist will need strong soft skills in the areas of leadership and communications. It’s not enough to create a groundbreaking AI project or understand how an algorithm can contribute to business innovation. You must be able to lead a team in creation of said AI strategy and then sell it to higher-ups and colleagues as worthy of implementation. Those are the types of non-book soft skills that are critical in any position.

As an AI research scientist, you are likely to work closely with data scientists, who will gather the data input into the models you create and analyze the outputs of your algorithm. Still, you will need your own solid understanding of data analytics techniques.

What is the job and salary outlook for AI research scientists?

According to, the average salary for an “AI researcher” is $122,276, though the salary ranges for top AI research scientists at big name companies such OpenAI can be much higher. OpenAI’s job posting included a salary range of $200,000–$370,000 and a generous benefits package, including unlimited PTO, paid parental leave, and an annual learning and development stipend. The salary for AI research scientist positions will depend on whether you’re a team member or the team leader, as well as the location.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for “computer and information research scientists” is extremely strong, with the number of available positions expected to grow by 23 percent in the 10-year period between 2022 and 2032. If you have the required educational background—a PhD in machine learning or computer science—plus strong communications skills, consider yourself highly employable. You have a unique opportunity to change the world in substantive ways.

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