What Is an AI Engineer? An Empirical Analysis of Job Ads in the Netherlands
Recently, the job market for Artificial Intelligence (AI) engineers has exploded. Since the role of AI engineer is relatively new, limited research has been done on the requirements as set by the industry. Moreover, the definition of an AI engineer is less established than for a data scientist or a software engineer. In this study we explore, based upon job ads, the requirements from the job market for the position of AI engineer in the Netherlands. We retrieved job ad data between April 2018 and April 2021 from a large job ad database, Jobfeed from TextKernel. The job ads were selected with a process similar to the selection of primary studies in a literature review. We characterize the 367 resulting job ads based on meta-data such as publication date, industry/sector, educational background and job titles. To answer our research questions we have further coded 125 job ads manually. The job tasks of AI engineers are concentrated in five categories: business understanding, data engineering, modeling, software development and operations engineering. Companies ask for AI engineers with different profiles: 1) data science engineer with focus on modeling, 2) AI software engineer with focus on software development, 3) generalist AI engineer with focus on both models and software. Furthermore, we present the tools and technologies mentioned in the selected job ads, and the soft skills. Our research helps to understand the expectations companies have for professionals building AI-enabled systems. Understanding these expectations is crucial both for prospective AI engineers and educational institutions in charge of training those prospective engineers. Our research also helps to better define the profession of AI engineering. We do this by proposing an extended AI engineering life-cycle that includes a business understanding phase.