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Why are Prompt Engineers paid north of $300,000 per year?

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  • 8 min read

Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT has become the talk of the town in recent months. Companies like Google are trying their luck by hastily launching Bard, a fledgling rival to ChatGPT and investing millions in developing an ethical version of ChatGPT, the AI market is likely to see a boom in the future.

Although some, including Elon Musk, have requested to halt the development of generative AI models above GPT-4 and called for government regulations in the field, it is still unclear as to how and to what effect these regulations will take place.

Meanwhile, the AI development companies like OpenAI and Anthropic, backed by tech giants, are already offering lucrative salaries to their employees for various job openings. One such hot job in the market is a Prompt Engineer.

Here we’ve discussed the following topics related to Prompt Engineers

Before delving further, first, let us understand what is a Prompt in AI.

What is a Prompt in AI?

In simple language, a prompt is a short text or a phrase that is used to initiate a response from the AI. If you have ever worked with ChatGPT, you know what I am talking about. When you ask any question from the AI, you are prompting it to give you an answer. How you frame your question will determine the quality of the answers. More detailed the question, the more precise the answer.

The power of prompts can be understood with this real-life example. Jason Allen won the first prize in the digitally manipulated photography category in the Colorado State Fair’s fine arts competition beating 20 other artists. This digitally created piece of art took more than 80 hours and it took more than 900 iterations for it to come out perfect.

The prompt provides a starting point or a reference for the model to generate the best response. We have seen the immense potential of the AIs, and to gain the most out of them, one has to be proficient in writing the prompts. In a way, one can say that writing prompts is an art and those who can perform this art will be handsomely rewarded. Enter Prompt Engineers.

Also read: Top 3 ChatGPT alternatives

What do Prompt Engineers do?

Prompt Engineering is a rapidly growing field in the domain of AI and is primarily focused on designing, developing and refining AI’s models and systems. A Prompt Engineer is a person who optimises AI language models to generate meaningful content by crafting effective prompts.

They work closely with engineers and data scientists to improve the model’s performance and efficiency and ensure that it provides high-quality responses. Here are some of the main responsibilities of a Prompt Engineer:

  • Identifying errors and reporting them to the developers.
  • Designing and testing prompts for AI systems.
  • Evaluating and then refining model outputs.
  • Ensuring that the responses are reproducible.
  • Following and making sure that the safety protocols are followed.
  • Working with data scientists and other field experts to develop and implement complex computing solutions.
  • Designing custom prompts for various applications.
  • Collaborating with the other stakeholders to identify potential applications and use cases for AI technologies.
  • Staying up-to-date and informed of the latest industry trends.

Essential qualifications to become a Prompt Engineer

The latest Prompt Engineer job opening by Anthropic offering a maximum salary of $335,000 a year has listed essential qualifications such as:

  • You have to be an excellent communicator.
  • You should love teaching and creating high-quality documentation.
  • You have a knack for problem-solving and can holistically and proactively identify the needs of the organisation.
  • Have a passion for making technology safe and beneficial to society at large.
  • Think creatively and go past beyond the checklists and playbooks.
  • You should have a basic knowledge of Python.

You might think that the above qualities, minus knowing the Python part, are generic and everyone can apply for the position. This is true and Anthropic has said that you should apply even if you do not believe you meet every single qualification.

A job posting at Anthropic

However, other firms have listed the following qualifications:

  • A Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, or a related field.
  • 5 years of Engineering/Developer/Coding experience with at least two-year experience in AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP).
  • Experience with machine learning libraries such as TensorFlow and PlyTorch.

If you are planning to enter this field, it is recommended that you should start working on your programming and machine learning skills as the career prospects are great and you will see a lot of competition in the coming years.

Sam Altman, CEO and co-founder of OpenAI, tweeted that writing a really great prompt is an amazingly high-leverage skill and an early example of programming in a little bit of natural language.

Why the high pay?

Generative AI is arguably one of the biggest innovations in the tech industry in the 21st century. In addition to the data from the internet, these LLMs (Large Language Models) are also trained on the prompts and context generated through them. The better the prompts, the better the results.

Companies working on Generative AIs need in-house prompt engineers who spend their days working on creative and out-of-the-box prompts, to help the AI deliver better contextual and reliable results in the real world.

Since the use of such ML-AI models is becoming the norm and an increasing number of companies are delving into integrating them to automate tasks, Prompt Engineers are in-demand and this demand is likely to increase as the industry around such AI models grows over the next few years. However, that’s not an indication of how long Prompt Engineers will remain a hot topic in the job industry.

Also read: Is ChatGPT free?

Future of Prompt Engineers

Currently, Prompt Engineers emerged as a distinct profession with the advent of advanced AI language models like GPT-3 and GPT-4 and the future looks promising.

However, some academics have questioned the efficiency of Prompt Engineers in testing AI. For instance, Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, a linguistics professor at the University of Washington told Washington Post that the Prompt Engineers can’t really predict what the bots will say.

Photo: Koshiro K /
Photo: Koshiro K /

“Whatever is driving the models’ behaviour in response to the prompts is not a deep linguistic understanding,” said Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, an assistant professor in linguistics who is studying natural language processing at the University of Washington. “They explicitly are just telling us what they think we want to hear or what we have already said. We’re the ones who are interpreting those outputs and attributing meaning to them.”

“It’s not a science,” he said. “It’s ‘let’s poke the bear in different ways and see how it roars back.”

Ethan Mollick, a professor at The Wharton School, tweeted that ‘Prompt Engineering’ is not going to be a big deal in the long-term and prompt engineering is not the job of the future.

On the other hand, these generative AI models are still not refined and are still confidently giving wrong or old information. Further refinement of these models may take years and here the opportunities lie. As these models are still in a nascent stage, the developers and the Prompt Engineers have to work further to resolve the underlying weaknesses. In simple terms, the more problems and weaknesses, the greater the demand for Prompt Engineers.

Also, many other fields may require the services of a Prompt Engineer in the coming years. Sectors such as healthcare, finance, education, and other AI fields such as reinforcement learning and computer vision will use AI and hence Prompt Engineers will find no dearth of jobs, given you are good at what you do and you have all the essential and desired qualifications.

Whatever the future, as of now, Prompt Engineers are in demand and corporations are willing to shed hundreds of dollars per hour for the work. Prompt Engineering jobs are not going anywhere, not at least in the near future, rather they will see a rise in job opportunities as an increasing number of companies will enter the AI race.

Also read: Will Runway’s Gen-2 AI replace human-produced artworks?


Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: [email protected]