$445,000 pay for ‘AI whisperer’ jobs appears in red-hot market

SAN FRANCISCO – Everybody is talking about the artificial intelligence behind ChatGPT. Less noticed is a jobs market mushrooming around the technology, where these newly created roles can pay upwards of US$335,000 (S$445,000) a year.

And for many, a computer engineering degree is optional.

They are called “prompt engineers”, people who spend their day coaxing the AI to produce better results and help companies train their workforce to harness the tools.

More than a dozen artificial intelligence language systems called large language models, or LLMs, have been created by companies like Google parent Alphabet, OpenAI and Meta Platforms. The technology has moved rapidly from experiments to practical use, with firms like Microsoft integrating ChatGPT into its Bing search engine and GitHub software development tool.

As the technology proliferates, many companies are finding they need someone to add rigour to their results.

“It’s like an AI whisperer,” said Mr Albert Phelps, a prompt engineer at Mudano, part of consultancy firm Accenture in Leytonstone, England. “You’ll often find prompt engineers come from a history, philosophy or English language background because it’s wordplay. You’re trying to distil the essence or meaning of something into a limited number of words.”

Mr Phelps, 29, studied history at the University of Warwick near Birmingham, England, before starting his career as a consultant for banks like Clydesdale Bank and Barclays, helping them solve problems around risk and regulations. A talk from the Alan Turing Institute, a British government-funded institute for artificial intelligence, inspired him to research AI, leading to his role at Accenture.

He and colleagues spend most of the day writing messages or “prompts” for tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which can be saved as presets within OpenAI’s playground for clients and others to use later.

A typical day in the life of a prompt engineer involves writing five different prompts, with about 50 interactions with ChatGPT, said Mr Phelps.

‘Fastest-moving IT market’

It is too soon to know how widespread prompt engineering is or will become.

The paradigm emerged in 2017, when AI researchers created “pre-trained” LLMs, which could be adapted to a wide range of tasks with the addition of a human text input. In the last year, LLMs like ChatGPT have attracted millions of users, who are all engaging in a form of prompt engineering whenever they tweak their prompts.

Companies like Anthropic, a Google-backed start-up, are advertising salaries up to US$335,000 for a “Prompt Engineer and Librarian” in San Francisco.

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