ISACA Journal
Volume 6, 2,018 

Features 

Is Artificial Intelligence a Career Path for You? 

Larry G. Wlosinski, CISA, CRISC, CISM, CAP, CBCP, CCSP, CDP, CIPM, CISSP, ITIL V3, PMP 

Is the world changing too fast? Can society continue to do the best it can? The population is currently more than 7.6 billion.1 The amount of data accumulated is predicted to exceed 44 zettabytes (or 44 trillion gigabytes) by 2020, with a growth rate of 1.7 megabytes per second for every human being.2 The number and types of data-gathering devices, sensors and mechanisms are growing to feed the need to obtain, process and manage the data. So how can an individual help?

What has been happening in industries where artificial intelligence (AI) is used is examined herein. Also reviewed are the AI software industry requirements, the skill sets and job requirements for AI, the marketplace and job options available for entering the field of AI, and the earning potential.

AI Definition

First, it is important to know the definition of AI. There are many, including:

  • “The study and design of intelligent agents’ where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions which maximizes its chances of success.”3
  • “Simply put, artificial intelligence is a sub-field of computer science. Its goal is to enable the development of computers that are able to do things normally done by people—in particular, things associated with people acting intelligently.”4
  • “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”5
  • “The ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. The term is frequently applied to the project of developing systems endowed with the intellectual processes characteristic of humans, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, or learn from past experience.”6

These sample definitions show how diverse and evolved AI is. Here, the definition from a worldly and job requirement perspective (and not necessarily robotics) is examined.

AI Usage

AI can be used for many purposes, including answering questions, searching documents, performing language translations, improving marketing efforts, monitoring information security and being a home assistant. Figure 1 contains examples currently in place.7

These examples show that the AI industry started some time ago. Some readers may be thinking that it left them behind. Part of the reason for this feeling may be that AI is technical in nature and requires expertise from people who are analytically inclined. Those in the auditing and fraud detection fields can see that the world has changed/evolved from reviewing and cross-checking simple lists and databases and searching large amounts of data to data accumulation, information extraction and personal assistance (at home, at work, in transit and elsewhere). AI can be used as a tool to search for problems, crimes, anomalies and potential solutions in the mountains of data that are continually growing. So, AI may be a possible new tool for many people’s work belts. What follows is an overview of the technology and insight into the required skills for this new era of discovery.

AI Technology

AI technology can mean many things, but it can be broken down into the following:

  • Machine learning (ML)—“Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can access data and use it (to) learn for themselves.”8
  • Deep learning (DL)—“Deep Learning is a subfield of machine learning concerned with algorithms inspired by the structure and function of the brain called artificial neural networks.”9
  • Natural language processing (NLP)—“Natural language processing (NLP) is a branch of artificial intelligence that helps computers understand, interpret and manipulate human language. NLP draws from many disciplines, including computer science and computational linguistics, in its pursuit to fill the gap between human communication and computer understanding.”10
  • Virtual agents (chatbots or virtual assistants)—“A Virtual Agent is a computer generated, animated, artificial intelligence virtual character...that serves as an online customer service representative. It leads an intelligent conversation with users, responds to their questions and performs adequate non-verbal behavior.”11
  • Speech recognition—The capability of an electronic device to understand spoken words
  • Hardware with AI—Contains custom/specialized AI computer chips
  • Decision management—Rules-based automation (if-then logic)

Figure 2 describes the capabilities of AI technology and includes organizations that support this field of expertise.12, 13

Requirements

Those who want to enter this career field need to learn some things. Here is a short list of prerequisites for learning AI:

  • Strong grasp of mathematics (i.e., linear algebra, calculus, probability and statistics, multivariate calculus, graph theory, matrices, and optimization methods)
  • Strong experience with programming languages (e.g., C, C++, Java, Python, R) and frameworks (e.g., TensorFlow and scikit-learn)
  • Understanding of the basic concept of automation and how it relates to computer science
  • Understanding of AI principles and techniques
  • Ability to write algorithms for finding patterns and learning
  • Strong data analytics skills
  • Strong will to learn machine learning languages

One may notice that accounting, auditing and conducting assessments are not on the list. This is because AI is a different profession, but one that can be used to aid accountants and auditors. There are many possibilities for AI to assist those who are confronted with large amounts of data to analyze. AI can make a job in the audit field easier by taking over the tedious work of looking for fraud, crime and supporting information. Auditors should reach out to the AI staff in their organization to identify investigative tools and techniques to help them in their job.

Training and Education

AI training is widely available. The training can be obtained online14or formally:

  • Free online—Udacity15 and Coursera16 are two companies among many17, 18 that provide online training.
  • College and university education—AI training is available in 26 countries19 and there are more than 25 colleges20 that provide training.
  • AI certification—Even certification in AI is available.21 Microsoft,22 Columbia University (New York, New York, USA), Stanford University (California, USA) and Global Machine Learning provide certifications in AI.

The availability of so many avenues to learn AI has not only helped this field of expertise to grow, but has also led society to an era of better focused and available healthcare, quicker service (e.g., chatbots), better crime-fighting tools (e.g., traffic surveillance, fraud detection), and a better understanding of existing data.

Some of the skills that can be gained from AI training include:

  • Domain knowledge—Research or business related
  • Visualization—Seeing the story in the data
  • Data governance—General oversight, including ethics and security
  • Engineering—Understanding the hardware, software and storage capabilities available and how to utilize them
  • Management/curation—Sourcing, cleaning and manipulating the information
  • Analytical approaches (data analytics)—Applying various levels of precision for the solution
  • Machine learning—Teaching computers to recognize patterns
  • Probabilities and applied statistics
  • Algorithms and advanced modeling
  • Applicable AI-related programming language
  • Natural language processing
  • Computer vision
  • Robotics

AI Marketplace

With the increase in population and data-gathering comes big data and data analytics. These two topics are propelling the world into a more manageable place and one where unseen information is now visible. The top industries that are using and accelerating the fruits of AI are Internet of Things (IoT) devices, robotics, social media and e-commerce. There are many organizations (some more well known than others) that gather and analyze the data of many diverse areas of interest. Many are listed on the Datamation23 and Forbes24 websites, to name only two sources. Areas of new growth include microfinance, social justice and medical diagnosis. These organizations use AI to make their business grow and be more effective. Other AI-vested enterprises and job opportunities can be found by searching the Internet.

Position Descriptions

Here are some sample AI position descriptions that will help in understanding the AI career field. The descriptions, which will vary by organization, include:

  • ML (or software) engineer—Runs the operations of an ML project and is responsible for managing the infrastructure and data pipelines needed to bring the code to production
  • AI programmer—Develops algorithms and operating software that can be used for robots, AI programs or other AI applications
  • Business intelligence developer—Responsibilities include designing, developing and maintaining business intelligence solutions; crafting and executing queries; and presenting information (e.g., reports and presentations)
  • Research scientist/applied research scientist—Builds on leads/ideas from data scientists or experiments with new approaches
  • Data scientist—Tackles discrete problems using preexisting data to validate models
  • Research engineer—“Responsible for performing and analyzing research across various disciplines, working with engineers to conduct complex engineering testing and analyses, designing and implementing new standards, protocols, processes and equipment and providing technical reports and presentations to assist in planning and direction. Research engineers may also be responsible for developing prototypes, as well as researching and developing new technologies and materials for use in the creation or improvement of products and services.”25
  • Solutions architect—Organizes the development effort and is responsible for the project vision/solution and its execution
  • Senior product manager—Responsibilities include developing product requirements and road maps; leading product managers and coordinating with engineering, marketing and other teams; and incorporating feedback and input from customers, partners and in-house teams on product strategy and finding ways to expand product market reach

Salaries

Salaries for people who obtain a master’s degree in AI are high. More than 8,000 AI positions were posted on LinkedIn26 in May 2018. Figure 3 contains average AI-related salaries for positions described, as obtained from Indeed27 and Payscale.28

Conclusion

It is clear that AI is an established industry. Many organizations are using it, the technology exists, there are many ways to obtain training, and there are professional associations,29, 30, 31 magazines,32 competitions and books33, 34, 35 that support AI.

So, those who are analytical, have an understanding of business, are technically inclined, and love to do research and explore data should consider a career in AI. The benefits include a high salary, a challenging career and knowing that one’s efforts will help not only one’s enterprise, but everyone affected by it.

This information helps illustrate the benefits, not just for individuals, but for the future (e.g., healthcare, human and crop genetics, fraud detection, criminal investigations, forecasting, pharmaceuticals, medical science, teaching, customs monitoring, identity authentication, and space and earth science).

Parents, teachers, speakers or leaders may want to talk to their children, students, audiences and colleagues about what the future can hold for them and how they can make an impact on the future of society.

Endnotes

1 Worldometers, www.worldometers.info/world-population/#pastfuture
2 Newgenapps, “Big Data Statistics and Predictions on the Future of Big Data,” 25 January 2018, https://www.newgenapps.com/blog/big-data-statistics-predictions-on-the-future-of-big-data
3 ScienceDaily, “Artificial Intelligence,” https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/artificial_intelligence.htm
4 Hammond, K.; “What Is Artificial Intelligence?” Computerworld, 10 April 2015, https://www.computerworld.com/article/2906336/emerging-technology/what-is-artificial-intelligence.html
5 English Oxford Living Dictionaries, Artificial Intelligence, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/artificial_intelligence
6 Encyclopedia Britannica, Artificial Intelligence, 21 June 2018, https://www.britannica.com/technology/artificial-intelligence
7 Yao, M.; “14 Ways Machine Learning Can Boost your Marketing,” TOPBOTS, 28 February 2018, https://www.topbots.com/14-ways-machine-learning-can-boost-marketing/
8 Expert System, “What Is Machine Learning? A Definition,” www.expertsystem.com/machine-learning-definition/
9 Brownlee, J.; “What Is Deep Learning?” Machine Learning Mastery, 16 August 2016, https://machinelearningmastery.com/what-is-deep-learning/
10 SAS, “Natural Language Processing,” https://www.sas.com/en_us/insights/analytics/what-is-natural-language-processing-nlp.html
11 Chatbots.org, “Virtual Agent,” https://www.chatbots.org/virtual_agent/
12 PAT Research, “Top 15 Artificial Intelligence Platforms,” https://www.predictiveanalyticstoday.com/artificial-intelligence-platforms/
13 Op cit Yao
14 Quora, “What Is the Best Online Course to Learn AI?” https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-best-online-course-to-learn-AI
15 UDACITY, “Intro to Artificial Intelligence,” https://www.udacity.com/course/intro-to-artificial-intelligence--cs271
16 Coursera, https://www.coursera.org/courses?languages=en&query=artificial+intelligence
17 Class Central, “Free Online Courses in Artificial Intelligence,” https://www.class-central.com/subject/ai
18 Marr, B.; “The 6 Best Free Online Artificial Intelligence Courses For 2018,” Forbes, 16 April 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2018/04/16/the-6-best-free-online-artificial-intelligence-courses-for-2018/#1a056c9e59d7.
19 AI International, Universities With AI Programs, www.aiinternational.org/universities.html
20 Successful Student, “25 Best Artificial Intelligence Colleges,” https://successfulstudent.org/best-artificial-intelligence-colleges/
21 Sinha, S.; “What Are the Best Artificial Intelligence Certifications?” Quora, https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-best-artificial-Intelligence-certifications
22 The Microsoft AI training certification program covers topics such as Python, mathematics, ethics, data analysis, Azure machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing and speech recognition. For more information, see https://academy.microsoft.com/en-us/professional-program/tracks/artificial-intelligence/.
23 Datamation, “Big Data Companies,” https://www.datamation.com/big-data/big-data-companies.html
24 Columbus, L.; “The Best 24 Big Data Companies And CEOs To Work For In 2017 Based On Glassdoor,” Forbes, 20 May 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/louiscolumbus/2017/05/20/the-best-big-data-companies-and-ceos-to-work-for-in-2017-based-on-glassdoor/#44e7b966326e
25 Monster, Research Engineer Jobs, https://www.monster.com/jobs/q-research-engineer-jobs.aspx?jobid=198547688
26 LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/artificial-intelligence-jobs
27 Indeed, “Ms in Artificial Intelligence Salaries in the United States,” https://www.indeed.com/salaries/Ms-in-Artificial-Intelligence-Salaries
28 PayScale, “Average Salary for Skill: Artificial Intelligence (AI),” https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Skill=Artificial_Intelligence_(AI)/Salary
29 Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), https://www.aaai.org/
30 European Association for Artificial Intelligence (EurAI), https://www.eurai.org/
31 AI Societies, www.aiinternational.org/societies.html
32 AI Magazine, www.aaai.org/Magazine/magazine.php
33 Baiju, N. T.; “20 Free Books to Get Started With Artificial Intelligence,” Big Data Made Simple, 2 April 2018, https://bigdata-madesimple.com/20-free-books-to-get-started-with-artificial-intelligence/
34 Chase, C.; “The Best Books on Artificial Intelligence,” Five Books, https://fivebooks.com/best-books/artificial-intelligence/
35 Amazon.com, “Artificial Intelligence,” https://www.amazon.com/Artificial-Intelligence/b?ie=UTF8&node=491300

Larry G. Wlosinski, CISA, CRISC, CISM, CAP, CBCP, CCSP, CDP, CIPM, CISSP, ITIL V3, PMP
Is a senior consultant at Coalfire-Federal with more than 19 years of experience in IT security and privacy. Wlosinski has been a speaker on a variety of IT security and privacy topics at US government and professional conferences and meetings, and he has written numerous articles for magazines and newspapers.

 

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