DC leads for artificial intelligence job openings (including ‘Scrum Masters?’)

There will be a wave of job opportunities in the artificial intelligence field in coming years, but the wave is already hitting the shores in the D.C. region.

The D.C. metro ranks No. 2 in the nation for artificial intelligence-related job openings, behind only the San Francisco Bay Area, and ahead of the third-ranked AI market, the greater New York City area. At the end of August, there were almost 1,800 job postings in the D.C. area for very specific AI job skills, according to JLL.

Demand for artificial intelligence skills in the D.C. region is being driven by two big industries on both sides of the Potomac.

“Artificial intelligence in the defense and biotech industries is what is really driving jobs in this field for this region. These industries primarily serve Northern Virginia for defense and suburban Maryland for biotech,” said Michael Hartnett, JLL senior director of research for the Mid-Atlantic.

JLL flags several area companies where demand for AI talent seems most urgent, including Reston, Virginia-based Leidos, the second-largest government technology contractor in the region, aviation giant Boeing, which recently moved its headquarters to Arlington’s Crystal City and established a major research and technology hub here, and AstraZeneca, which paid almost $16 billion to acquire Maryland biotechnology leader MedImmune in 2007.

What kinds of AI jobs are companies here seeking to fill? If you don’t understand artificial intelligence, you won’t understand the skills it requires.

“Data scientists actually make up the bulk of job postings here. We are also finding that full-stack engineers and Scrum Masters are gaining momentum in these job postings as well,” Hartnett said.

“Scrum Master” is not a profession those outside of IT work have probably ever heard of.

“A Scrum Master is what I would call a facilitator for a development team. Essentially, it is another word for a project manager in AI who really enables a team to communicate and stay organized to make changes quickly,” Hartnett said.

Scrum Masters are also tongue-in-cheek referred to in the IT profession as “Nerd Herders.”

All of these AI skills are well-paid positions, even in a well-paid field, with AI jobs paying above the median salary for all information technology-related jobs in the D.C. region. Indeed.com lists a pay range for a Scrum Master among D.C. area job postings of $137,000 to $232,000 a year.

And there will be more artificial intelligence related jobs. JLL said the AI job gold rush here is just beginning, driven by government funding for defense and biotech. It will also mean more demand on one of this region’s already top real estate fields.

“The increase in AI will cause significant demand for computing power in our data centers, and that will really benefit Northern Virginia, given that market has the largest concentration of data centers, not just in the U.S., but globally,” Hartnett said.

CBRE recently reported the data center vacancy rate at Northern Virginia data centers fell to a record low 0.94% in the first half of 2023, and a growing shortage of inventory for development of data centers where both land and access to the enormous need of power draw is pushing data center developers further outside of the Northern Virginia core.

Loudoun County and Prince William County still lead for data center development, but CBRE said peripheral counties, such as Fauquier, Culpepper and Stafford counties are emerging as new data center options.

Below is a chart of top markets for artificial intelligence job opens in August, courtesy JLL:

(Courtesy JLL)

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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