A knowledge engineer researches, designs, and implements computer software programs that can accomplish a wide variety of problem-solving tasks. Professionals work with knowledge-based systems (KBSs) that incorporate artificial intelligence into data mining, data entry, calculation tasks, and decision-making applications. They try to formulate codes and programs that operate in a similar fashion to a human expert on a given task, such as solving complicated physics equations. Most knowledge engineers are employed by software development companies, though some work for private corporations and consulting groups.
When researching a new type of KBS, a knowledge engineer first considers the limitations of current technologies and the need for more efficient programs. He or she might speak with programmers, software developers, and end users to learn about their concerns, problems, and needs. The engineer tackles a new software project with their criticisms in mind.
Building a new artificial intelligence system often requires weeks or months of dedicated work. The engineer tries to make the system work through commands and problems much like an expert in a given domain would do. He or she sets up logical steps for the program to use in order to solve a problem or make a decision quickly. In effect, time and energy are saved when compared to a program that exhausts all possible routes when finding an answer algorithmically.
It is essential for a knowledge engineer to be highly detail-oriented and organized. When writing a new program, he or she must be sure that no mistakes are made. Even a tiny error in a code can disrupt an entire program and mangle data output. In addition, a knowledge engineer must have the foresight to include special instructions for the program that may be overlooked by a less experienced programmer. For example, he or she might be able to prevent common data entry errors in a spreadsheet application by programming the computer to recognize when one piece of data is very different from previous entries. If the application detects that a 100 was entered instead of a 10, for example, it could ask the user if he or she is sure that the entry is correct.
A person who is interested in becoming a knowledge engineer can look into bachelor's degree programs at accredited colleges and universities. Relatively few schools offer degrees specifically in knowledge engineering, but a program in computer science or software engineering can provide the appropriate training. Many future engineers decide to pursue master's degrees or higher before looking for jobs in the specialty. A new knowledge engineer usually has the chance to work alongside experienced professionals for several weeks or months to master his or her skills.