(The Hill) — Nine companies in 10 want workers with ChatGPT experience, according to a new survey that gauges job-market demand for knowledge of fast-evolving artificial intelligence communication tools. 

An April poll of 1,187 business leaders by ResumeBuilder.com, the job-seekers site, found that 91 percent of firms are looking for workers with ChatGPT skills on the résumé. Some companies reported an urgent need for employees who can converse with chatbots.  

ChatGPT, a generative AI chatbot that launched in November, holds the potential to transform the American workplace, along with the classroom, the home office and pretty much any place else humans engage in written communication. 

“The interesting part is, this only became available to the world five months ago,” said Stacie Haller, chief career adviser at ResumeBuilder. “All of a sudden, we have a whole new job category, and some of these jobs are paying $200,000.” 

Already, corporate America has its own title for the ChatGPT specialist: prompt engineer.  

All but unknown a year ago, the prompt engineer functions as a sort of chatbot whisperer, feeding carefully worded verbal prompts to the large-language model that yield accurate, relevant responses.  

“It takes skills to get useful answers,” said Hatim Rahman, an assistant professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.  

“You can prompt the model to give answers back in a specific way. You can say, ‘Pretend you are a customer. How would you react to this product description?’ Things like that require some kind of understanding of how to get useful information from the model.” 

Starting salaries for prompt engineers can exceed $200,000, and a chatbot specialist might work across several departments. “They’ll help HR do job descriptions. They’ll help marketing write copy. They’ll help IT write coding,” Haller said. “That’s why the salaries are so high.” 

Computer scientists predict the GPT family of AI chatbots could take over such human tasks as populating corporate correspondence and emails, drafting business plans and college essays, writing code, answering customer-service queries and crafting poetry. 

Business leaders who answered the ResumeBuilder survey reported an interest in hiring AI-skilled workers across the organization. Fifty-eight percent said they want ChatGPT-trained software engineers. Roughly one-third said they want people with chatbot knowledge in customer service, marketing or human relations. A smaller group seek GPT-savvy workers in data entry, sales and finance. 

Companies seek ChatGPT experience up and down the chain of command, from the cubicle to the executive suite. Larger firms may want employees who can build a customized large-language model for the company’s exclusive use. 

And here’s an ominous note: Among the companies seeking prompt engineers, 75 percent said those jobs will probably lead to the elimination of other jobs. 

“If you look throughout history, any new technology shakes up the workplace,” Haller said. She cites the fax machine, which enabled speedy transmission of documents over telephone lines in the 1980s and 1990s.  

Like the fax, the chatbot is “not going to completely replace everything that you’re doing,” Rahman said. “In the best case, it can augment and make you more productive in retrieving information.” 

Prompt engineers don’t necessarily need computer-science credentials. A recent Time magazine feature profiled a chatbot specialist with an English degree.  

The chatbot whisperer’s job is “figuring out the right prompts to get the right response,” Rahman said, a skillset that calls for critical thinking, a way with words and an adaptive brain: AI programs learn as they go. 

“The query that you write today is unlikely to yield the same answer tomorrow, or even the next time you use it,” Rahman said. 

ChatGPT is powered by parent company OpenAI’s latest iteration of the technology, GPT-4, which launched in March. The updated technology built on the first model released to the public. Among other advancements, it can now accept prompts from images.  

The chatbot tool is being offered to the public more widely since its November launch, including through Microsoft, which has invested billions into OpenAI, launching an updated version of its search engine Bing with the AI chatbot built in.  

As ChatGPT, with Microsoft’s backing, grows in the public space, rival companies and startups are looking to expand as well. Last month Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter, founded a new AI company called X.AI, according to a Nevada business filing.  

Google unveiled its own rival AI chatbot, Bard, in February, and last month the Silicon Valley giant said it is opening a waitlist for users to try it out.  

As tech companies enter a generative AI arms race, and as employers seek workers with chatbot experience, regulators, activists and tech experts are sounding the alarm on risks it poses, spanning from the spread of misinformation to potential discriminatory biases within the tools.  

Already, many corporate leaders see AI as a potential competitive advantage, something to adopt lest they be left behind. 

“They can be more creative,” Haller said, summarizing comments from the surveyed firms. “The company will grow faster. They can save money. Any company that wants to be cutting-edge needs to incorporate cutting-edge technology.”