A new type of job in the tech industry is emerging, and it doesn't require a degree in computer engineering or advanced coding skills. This role is called a "prompt engineer," and it involves training generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools to deliver more accurate and relevant responses to questions posed by real people. The job pays six-figure salaries, and some positions can pay up to $335,000 a year.
Anna Bernstein is a 29-year-old prompt engineer at Copy.ai in New York. She writes text-based prompts that she feeds into the back end of AI tools so they can generate things like blog posts or sales emails with the proper tone and accurate information. Bernstein doesn't need to write any technical code to do this. Instead, she types instructions to the AI model to help refine responses.
Prompt engineering is now considered one of the hottest tech jobs as companies look for ways to help train and adapt AI tools to get the most out of new large language models, which can provide results that are not always correct or appropriate. According to LinkedIn data shared with TIME, the number of posts referring to “generative AI” has increased 36-fold in comparison to last year, and the number of job postings containing “GPT” rose by 51% between 2021 and 2022.
It's too soon to tell how big prompt engineering will become, but a range of companies and industries are beginning to recruit for these positions. Google-backed AI startup Anthropic is advertising salaries up to $335,000 for a "Prompt Engineer and Librarian" in San Francisco. Automated document reviewer Klarity is offering as much as $230,000 for a machine learning engineer who can "prompt and understand how to produce the best output" from AI tools.
Outside of the tech world, Boston Children’s Hospital and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton recently advertised for prompt engineering jobs, with the latter paying up to $212,000 for applicants with more than three years of experience implementing machine learning models. Even actor Donald Glover is looking to hire a prompt engineer and prompt animator at his new creative studio.
Despite the engineering moniker in the job title, Bernstein doesn't fully consider herself an engineer. "When I first started, we tried to get the term prompt specialists going," she says. "Then the term prompt engineer as a noun emerged." Rob Lennon, an expert in prompt engineering, began teaching paid online courses through Kajabi in December designed to help the average person learn the skills needed for a job in the field. His courses demonstrate how to format and structure prompts for different types of tasks and domains.
However, some experts believe that the prompt engineering hype will burn out once AI becomes more powerful and capable of generating its own prompts. Ethan Mollick, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, cautions that those looking to become prompt engineers should consider that much is unknown about the future of the industry.
"It's not clear that prompt engineering is going to matter long-term because AI programs are getting better at anticipating what users need and generating prompts," he says. "We also don't know if there's a special skill involved for prompt engineering or if it just requires a lot of time spent with chatbots."
Prompt engineering is a new and exciting field that is rapidly growing in demand. While it may not require a degree in computer engineering or advanced coding skills, it does require a deep understanding of AI tools and the ability to train them to deliver accurate and relevant responses to real people's questions. Whether it's a long-term career or a temporary trend remains to be seen, but for now, prompt engineers are in high demand and can command high salaries.