Despite the tech industry’s inundation with layoffs (hundreds of thousands in 2023 alone), demand for AI talent is accelerating. In particular, there are three areas still recruiting such talent:
- New Industry Research Labs: Emerging industry research labs like Anthropic, Inflection, and Altos Labs continue to raise hundreds of millions in funding to attract AI talent. While hiring has slowed in traditional tech giants like Google and Meta compared to five years ago, these organizations are still experiencing growth.
- Venture-Backed AI Startups: AI-focused startups have ramped up their hiring efforts since the rise of technologies like ChatGPT. Venture capitalists are eager to invest in these startups, contributing to the surge in AI-related hiring. A New York Times report indicates soaring valuations and increased interest in AI startups.
- AI Beyond Tech: Industries outside of technology, including finance, healthcare, and science, are also on the lookout for machine learning researchers to apply AI technology to their domains.
PhD programs may seem saturated with researchers, but there’s a significant global demand for AI skills that outpaces the supply. In 2021, only 1,691 PhDs were awarded in computing research, and the United States alone needs 33,500 computer and information research scientists, with demand growing at a rate of 21% annually. This creates a substantial shortage of research scientists to fill available positions.
With this knowledge, how can AI researchers ensure they secure the best offers and negotiate favorable terms?
What Do Companies Value?
To negotiate effectively, it’s essential to understand what AI companies value most. Presently, the highest demand lies in research areas such as machine learning applied to computer vision, robotics, natural language processing (NLP), biology, neuroscience, and large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT. Companies like Meta are forming generative AI teams for language, image, and video generation.
Companies evaluating AI researcher candidates prioritize proven research skills, often demonstrated through publication records. Top researchers may have thousands of citations from their PhD work and high H-index scores. While a strong publication record isn’t necessary for successful negotiation, it provides leverage for senior roles and top compensation.
Companies also consider the selection of papers in prestigious AI conferences like NeurIPS, ICML, ICCV, and more. Practical work experience outside of academia, such as internships, signals adaptability to the industry environment.
Building relationships with professors who lead academic labs and hold industry research positions can also benefit researchers, as academia often intersects with private industry in computer science.
Highest Paying Companies for AI Researchers
Based on negotiations with over 610 new grad PhD researchers, the table below highlights compensation details. While most data aligns with entry-level research roles (equivalent to L4 at Google), some clients have successfully negotiated offers above entry-level.
This table includes base salary, bonus, and equity components. Note that signing or other cash bonuses can vary widely, from $0 to $700k over four years, and are not included here. Some companies like Anthropic, Tesla, OpenAI, Google Brain, and Amazon provided higher initial offers and were open to further negotiation. Google Research, Microsoft Research, Bloomberg AI, IBM Research, and TikTok are among the companies that significantly increased their offers during negotiations.
Understanding the Financial Stakes
Negotiating AI researcher compensation is crucial, as even entry-level offers can have significant financial implications. Successful negotiation can lead to a substantial increase in earnings over time. For example, a new grad PhD researcher offered an L4 Research Scientist position at Google could earn anywhere from $250k to $550k annually. This difference compounds over the years, impacting long-term income significantly.
Negotiation is an investment in your future earnings and career growth, and understanding its financial implications is essential.
Understanding the Professional Stakes
Beyond initial compensation, ongoing negotiation skills are critical for success in the industry. Building positive relationships with managers and leaders is vital, as these relationships influence project assignments, visibility, promotions, career growth, and pay raises.
Negotiation doesn’t end with the offer; it continues throughout your career. Effective negotiation fosters alliances with managers, creating win-win scenarios for career advancement.
Negotiation Success Stories
To illustrate the importance of negotiation, consider Joe, an AI research scientist. Despite not attending a top AI research institution and having an average publication record, Joe secured a 243% increase in his Google offer with Rora’s assistance. His success was driven by knowing his worth, being patient, leveraging competitive offers, and building strong relationships within the company.
Negotiation is a multifaceted skill that combines patience, leverage, conviction, and relationships to secure favorable terms and career advancement.
In summary, the AI hiring landscape is thriving, and AI researchers can capitalize on this demand by honing their negotiation skills to secure the best offers and ensure long-term success in the industry.