The rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies has the potential to disrupt many aspects of human life, including jobs that are expected to see growth over the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment rate for several AI-related jobs, including data scientist, software developer, and statistician, will grow faster through 2031.
If you’re considering a career in this exciting, fast-growing field, you may wonder which degree is best for jobs in AI. The answer largely depends on which specific job or jobs within the AI field interest you. This article will review educational requirements and major options for various potential AI careers and offer guidance on deciding if a career in AI is right for you.
Educational Requirements for AI Jobs
AI is a branch of computer science in which machines use algorithms to process real-time data, enabling them to make decisions like human decision-making.
As a complex and developing field, many subbranches deal with specific aspects of AI. These include machine learning, natural language processing, robotics, and data science, among others.
Educational requirements, such as degree level and the specific knowledge and skills needed, depend on the position. Generally, the minimum education level required for most entry-level AI jobs is a bachelor’s degree in a field such as AI computer science, or mathematics. Jobs requiring research or advanced skills may seek candidates with a master’s or doctorate degree in AI or a related field.
Another educational route that some future AI employees may consider is certificate or bootcamp programs that offer training at a faster pace and potentially lower cost than a traditional degree program. Students who are considering this path should be mindful of what employers are seeking in terms of training and credentials. While bootcamps and certificate programs can give students a solid foundation in AI and related topics, some employers still prefer hiring candidates with the in-depth knowledge and experience of obtaining a degree.
Read more about How to Become an Artificial Intelligence Engineer.
Best Artificial Intelligence Degree Programs
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- Best Online Master’s Degree in Artificial Intelligence
Best Majors for AI
A degree in artificial intelligence may seem like the obvious route if you want to work in AI, but there are a few things to consider. Programs that award a degree in AI aren’t as widely available as those in other computer science–related fields. Many of the AI programs that are available award master’s degrees, which means students must have a bachelor’s degree before they can enroll. However, for students who meet the proper criteria, a master’s in AI will provide valuable training in key areas, including algorithm design and analysis, AI learning methods, game theory, natural language processing, and more.
Like AI, most machine learning degree programs currently available are master’s-level programs that give students with computer science backgrounds and experience advanced training in the field. Although AI and machine learning are often used interchangeably, machine learning is a subfield of AI that focuses on using data sets to train algorithms to become machine learning models capable of performing specific tasks. It’s an ideal major for those who want to create programs that allow computers to intake, process, and respond to information and situations.
Computer science is one of the most popular choices for students looking to get into the AI field at the undergraduate level. An associate or bachelor’s degree in computer science gives students the foundational skills they need in mathematics, programming, analysis, and more to obtain entry-level positions as computer engineers and data scientists. Undergraduate students interested in AI should seek out programs that offer classes or specializations in AI to get as much experience as possible in the field. Not only will this prepare students for AI-related jobs, but it will also provide a sound knowledge base for those who decide to pursue an advanced degree.
Robotics, engineering, and autonomous systems
This major will likely appeal to those interested in using AI with robotic platforms and autonomous systems (think self-driving cars and delivery drones). This subfield combines AI, computer science, and electrical engineering, making it an ideal career path for those with interdisciplinary interests and an engineering background. Currently, most available robotics and autonomous systems degrees are master’s-level programs. However, some schools may offer accelerated bachelor’s-to-master’s programs that allow students to enroll directly in their advanced studies after completing their undergraduate degree in engineering or a related field.
Working with data is a critical component of AI, so earning a degree in data science is another possible path for individuals who want to work in the field. Data science degree programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, so wherever you are in your educational journey, you’ll likely find a program that suits your needs. Bachelor’s-level programs focus on foundational skills like mathematics, statistics, computer science, and more. Master’s programs provide more advanced training and may allow students to concentrate on a specific area, like AI. For individuals interested in collecting, managing, and manipulating data related to AI, this is a degree worth considering.
Computational linguistics and natural language processing
Are you interested in how AI uses and understands language? Computational linguistics and natural language processing (NLP) might be the right major for you. These connected but distinct AI subfields focus on rule-based modeling of human language to help teach computers how to understand and respond to text and speech as humans do. Given the advanced nature of the field, most degree programs in computational linguistics and NLP are masters-level programs. Students can prepare for graduate study in computational linguistics and NLP by earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
Given how much AI relies on mathematical concepts and skills, a math major is another solid option for students who want to work in the field. Math majors are typically available at all levels, including associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. However, students should carefully review the curriculums for programs they’re considering to ensure they include AI-related topics. Such topics will consist of computational methods, algorithms, and statistics. Students should also confirm that they can take essential computer science courses as part of a major, minor, or electives. These courses will help equip students with all the skills they need to enter the AI job market upon graduation.
Students interested in the machine learning subfield of AI may also want to consider a degree in statistics. Machine learning utilizes statistical methods to develop applications, make predictions, and simulate human behavior, which is why statistical knowledge and experience are essential. Students can major in statistics at the undergraduate or graduate level. A bachelor’s program will provide students with the foundational skills they need, whereas a master’s program will offer opportunities for advanced, in-depth study. As with a mathematics degree, statistics majors interested in AI should also get some exposure to computer science skills to ensure they have the well-rounded educational background needed for job consideration.
Career Outlook for AI
The BLS categorizes AI professionals as computer and information research scientists, a field that they predict will experience growth at a rate much faster than average through 2031. During that time, they anticipate around 3,000 new jobs per year as the demand for new and better AI-related technology continues.
The BLS has a similarly optimistic outlook for another AI-related job: data scientist. The agency anticipates a 35% increase in the employment of data scientists through 2031, which translates into an average of 17,000 job openings each year.
Mathematicians will also be in high demand. The BLS predicts that employment in this field will increase by 31% over the next decade.
Additional developments in AI technology could also lead to new opportunities within the field that are still in their infancy.
Read more about AI engineer salary and earning potential.
Who Should Consider a Career in AI?
While considering the career prospects for the AI field is important, students should also consider whether they have the necessary interests and aptitudes before committing to a degree in AI.
To succeed in an AI degree program, students need a solid background in mathematics, statistics, technical computing, and programming. If your experience with these topics is limited, taking a free or low-cost online course can be an accessible way to get some valuable exposure to AI basics.
You’ll also want to consider the transferable or soft skills that AI engineers and similar positions use. These skills include analytical and logical thinking, problem-solving, attention to detail, communication, and organization. As you progress through your degree program, you must find opportunities to hone these skills to help you improve your marketability as a job candidate postgraduation.
Interested in a degree instead?
Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.