What is a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence Degree?
Master’s in Artificial Intelligence degrees provide in-depth theoretical and practical knowledge in artificial intelligence topics. Most students in these programs have a strong background in computer science and mathematics. Many also have work experience or at least a strong interest in the artificial intelligence specialty in computer science.
To demonstrate mastery of artificial intelligence, students complete coursework in introductory and advanced artificial intelligence topics, algorithm design and analysis, and artificial intelligence learning methods such as natural language processing, deep learning, and reinforced learning. Students develop skills in creating and training agents to make decisions and perform on those decisions. Learned skills also include how machines interact with humans.
Industry-leading technology companies increasingly require master’s degrees in artificial intelligence for their more highly skilled, and therefore more highly compensated, positions. These positions include Principal or Senior Data Scientists, Artificial Intelligence Neural Design Researcher, and Machine Learning Engineer.
Types of Master’s in Artificial Intelligence Degrees
Universities call their Master’s in Artificial Intelligence programs different titles. Most universities with a graduate-level artificial intelligence program offer standalone Master’s of Artificial Intelligence degrees, such as the University of Michigan Dearborn, Northwestern, and Johns Hopkins. Other universities add artificial intelligence as a specialization or concentration for a Master’s of Computer Science. For example, artificial intelligence is one of 11 specializations for Georgia Tech’s Master’s of Computer Science.
Many in the industry consider related degrees similar to a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence. For example, a Master’s in Data Science from Syracuse and a Master’s of Intelligence in Intelligent Robotic Systems from Kennesaw would provide a sufficient mastery of artificial intelligence materials.
How Do Master’s in Artificial Intelligence Programs Work?
Master’s in Artificial Intelligence programs are similar to most other master’s programs for the number of courses required and time required to complete the program. Most require 10 courses and take 12 months to 24 months to complete. Some programs are more structured, with new students starting in certain semesters like fall and spring. Other programs allow enrollment on a rolling basis.
Skills You’ll Gain in an AI Program
To graduate with a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence degree, you must demonstrate both theoretical and practical skills in artificial intelligence. You will graduate with a portfolio of projects completed with these skills. Artificial intelligence requires excellent algorithm design, coding, and data analysis.
Broadly, a Master’s of Artificial Intelligence enables you to produce applications capable of autonomous decision-making. Some concentrations and courses focus on specific applications in artificial intelligence, such as robotics, financial technology, and eCommerce. For example, Northeastern expects you to develop skills in machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and human-computer interaction.
Graduate AI Curriculum
A Master’s in Artificial Intelligence usually has one to four required courses focusing on artificial intelligence, statistical analysis, and software development. The additional courses are graduate-level computer science courses. Typically, only one or two may be unrelated to artificial intelligence.
Because artificial intelligence requires the sophisticated application of complex concepts to advanced problems, most programs require either a thesis or a capstone project. Many programs, like Carnegie Mellon, require students to work in teams on this project. Universities typically allow students to choose between the thesis or capstone project.
Some universities offer more unique options. For example, Northwestern’s program has two tracks: a traditional, 15-month track and a 12-month program that combines a capstone project and an internship with industry partners. Boston is also unique because it only requires eight courses and can be completed in just two semesters.
Master’s in AI Admissions and Requirements
Skills and Prerequisites
Master’s of Artificial Intelligence programs require applicants to have completed several courses fundamental to artificial intelligence. For example, Johns Hopkins has the following prerequisites: three semesters of calculus, one semester of linear algebra, one semester of probability and statistics, a semester of fundamental programming, and a semester of advanced programming concepts. The specific programming language is usually not specified, but students may find more success in the program if they know Java and Python.
Accredited computer science programs have the prerequisite courses as requirements to earn a bachelor’s degree. Other STEM degrees may also require them, but you may need to complete prerequisite courses prior to applying for a master’s in artificial intelligence.
Most universities require a strong GPA in a STEM-related degree and at least a 2.75 or 3.0 GPA. Computer Science and Statistics bachelor’s degrees are preferred, but not necessarily required. Most programs do not require a GRE test score. However, San Diego allows a GPA below 2.75 with a strong GRE score.
Moreover, many Master’s of Artificial Intelligence programs require a statement of interest explaining why you are applying to the program and any specialized experience relevant to the degree. The statement of interest is your opportunity to show you are qualified for the program.
The Role of Ethics in AI Degree Programs
Ethics is important to artificial intelligence programs because artificial intelligence deeply affects society in several ways. First, artificial intelligence could lead to data security and privacy violations. Artificial intelligence is used to automatically collect data about people, perhaps without their knowledge or permission.
Second, artificial intelligence sometimes involves inherent biases and discrimination. The applications analyze data and develop models based on the data. If the data is biased, then the artificial intelligence program will discriminate based on the bias. For example, automatic sentencing applications are often biased because the historical data for prison sentences is biased against persons of color.
Third, artificial intelligence has proven capable of deeply influencing the population at large. For example, search results that are tailored to a user’s search history and other online data will result in them only reconfirming their biases, and ultimately progressing to an extreme view. If their initial impressions are wrong, they will continue to reaffirm those incorrect views because their search results will never return an alternative perspective.
How to Find the Best AI Program For Your Needs
The best Master’s of Artificial Intelligence program for you depends on several factors. You should consider not only the strength of the program but also how it fits into your goals for earning the degree. There are so many Master’s of Artificial Intelligence programs available, you should be able to find one that meets your needs. In fact, you might be overwhelmed with how many options you have.
Great Artificial Intelligence programs offer the courses you want to take on a schedule that meets your needs. For example, if you need to work full-time while completing the degree, the best program allows for flexibility in the curriculum for when to take the courses. Moreover, great programs meet your budget. Master’s of Artificial Intelligence range from affordable to expensive. Try to find out where the programs’ graduates land after graduation to see if earning the degree at that university will enable you to accomplish your ultimate goals with the degree.
Avoid simply choosing the highest “ranked” program or the program that is easiest. Also, try not to make a hasty decision just based on the university’s website. Your choice should be based on a more complex analysis with sufficient research that includes a visit to campus, conversations with current students and alumni, and discussion with your family if they will be impacted by your pursuit of the degree.
Why are You Pursuing a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence Degree?
When deciding which university to attend, start by laying out the skills you want to learn and the goals you want to accomplish by earning a Master’s of Artificial Intelligence. It is quite likely that the personal statement you are required to submit with your application expects you to answer this in a formal essay.
For example, San Diego requires a detailed personal statement. San Diego has a series of questions for you to answer, such as what interests you in artificial intelligence, your career goals, and what interests you about their program in particular. Take your time on this essay, because it establishes a baseline for identifying the right program for you.
Consider Program Location and Delivery Format
Once you establish your goals, consider more practical aspects, such as the location and format of the program. Some programs are offered exclusively online, like Johns Hopkins, whereas others require on-campus courses, like Northwestern. If you want to move to a new city, using a Master’s of Artificial Intelligence program would be one option for establishing roots. However, if you are tied to your location, you may need an online or local program.
Costs of Master’s in Artificial Intelligence Programs
Another important consideration is the cost of the degree. Tuition ranges from around $10,000 to $80,000 or more. For example, Kennesaw is on the lower end of cost for tuition. Although many engineers that work in artificial intelligence who have master’s degrees earn over $100,000 per year, not all manage to land a job paying that well.
When you consider how you will pay tuition, try not to rely on future income. Instead, be realistic about how you will pay, whether it is loans, working while taking classes, or otherwise. Note that some programs, like Syracuse, require a full-time internship, which would make working another full-time job impossible. Other programs, such as Northeastern, allow for more flexible, part-time commitments. These also work well when you need a better work-life balance due to family or other commitments.
Best Master’s in Artificial Intelligence Degree Programs
The following list reviews 17 excellent schools with Master’s in Artificial Intelligence programs. We intentionally left the list unranked and instead display schools in alphabetical order. We highlight the academic programs offered and what makes each of them great AI schools. Review the list and decide which option is best for you!
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) provides a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence and Innovation (MSAII) that emphasizes the intersection of artificial intelligence with business skills. This includes design, engineering, and deployment of applications. For example, CMU teaches Law of Computer Technology in the first semester of the curriculum to educate students on artificial intelligence law and the formation of startups. Although this is a new program, it follows in the footsteps of the Master’s in Biotechnology, Innovation, and Computation (MSBIC) program.
What Makes CMU a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
Unlike other universities, CMU houses the MSAII program in the Language Technologies Institute instead of the computer science department. This provides a unique opportunity to study one of the most complex artificial intelligence problems: natural language processing and linguistics. However, core master’s level computer science courses are taken in the School of Computer Science. CMU offers capstone projects sponsored by industry leaders. Past sponsors include Bank of New York Mellon, Dorothy AI, and Sandpaper Medical.
Columbia University in the City of New York
Columbia University in the City of New York offers an on-campus and online Master’s of Computer Science with several AI tracks, including Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, and Vision, Graphics, Interaction, and Robotics. The curriculum includes most core learning methods, such as machine learning, deep learning, unsupervised learning, and representational learning. Some of the unique electives offered include Psychology and Neuropsychology of Language and Production and Perception of Language, an interesting subject matter for students interested in natural language processing.
What Makes Columbia University a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
As of 2021, Columbia University partners with the Toyota Research Institute to conduct AI research on Automated Driving, Robotics, and Machine Assisted Cognition (MAC). Moreover, several faculty have received J.P. Morgan AI Research Awards for research into natural language processing and neural networks. Students are encouraged to perform research with professors. For example, students may find research projects like “Sarcasm Detection in Social Media” through the Spoken Language Processing Lab.
Cornell’s Master’s of Computer Science program provides many opportunities to study artificial intelligence. For example, courses covering autonomous mobile robots, robot manipulation, and formal methods for robots are available. Cornell also has a weekly Artificial Intelligence seminar sponsored by SambaNova Systems to discuss current topics in artificial intelligence. By culminating the program with an artificial intelligence internship or project, Cornell Master’s of Computer Science graduates will have a thorough portfolio of experience to present themselves with expert knowledge in artificial intelligence.
What Makes Cornell a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
Notably, Cornell University has an Institute for Computational Sustainability, to focus on environmental, economic, and societal concerns and ways for computer science to address those concerns. Moreover, juniors and seniors in computer science, electrical and computer engineering, math, or physics can visit Cornell for a one week-long workshop to see the research at Cornell in the SoNIC workshop. The purpose is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities pursuing advanced computer science degrees.
Duke University offers a Duke Artificial Intelligence for Product Innovation Master of Engineering. The program has two tracks. The technical track is a traditional Artificial Engineering master’s degree program. The technology management track, however, offers a unique, interdisciplinary opportunity to learn more about the business side of the artificial intelligence industry, including project management, product management, and design. Moreover, Duke University offers more flexibility than other degree programs because there is a 12-month accelerated curriculum, 16-month on-campus schedule, and 24-month online option.
What Makes Duke a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
The Duke Artificial Intelligence for Product Innovation Master of Engineering solidly integrates industry leaders into its curriculum. Industry leaders teach seminars and sponsor the capstone project to study and solve real-world problems. This provides practical experience and significant addition to student portfolios. The seminars feature several speakers from different companies to provide students with insight into how artificial intelligence is changing traditional industries, like agriculture, health care/biotech, energy and environment, and manufacturing. Students also have the option to complete an internship. Each of these pursuits results in practical, hands-on experience valued in the industry.
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology, a.k.a. Georgia Tech, offers many artificial intelligence specializations for its Master’s of Computer Science degree, such as interactive intelligence, computational perception and robotics, and machine learning. These specializations are also available through the online Master’s of Computer Science (OMSCS) program. Both online and on-campus degrees are equivalent, except the on-campus program offers a project option and thesis option to students wishing to participate in research.
What Makes Georgia Tech a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
With 12,000 graduate-level students, Georgia Tech has one of the largest computer science departments in the country. The OMSCS program alone accounts for over 10,000 students. OMSCS, launched in January 2014, was a pioneer of online Master’s of Computer Science degrees. Lectures are predominately pre-recorded and class discussion is robustly encouraged through online forums provided by the school. Unique artificial intelligence classes include knowledge-based artificial intelligence, a class that predominantly focuses on a project to programmatically beat human intelligence tests, and machine learning for trading, a course focused on programmatically predicting the stock market.
Johns Hopkins University
The Artificial Intelligence Master’s Degree at Johns Hopkins University is another online option. Unlike other universities, Johns Hopkins will admit students lacking certain prerequisite courses on a provisional basis and allow them to take the classes to prepare for the program. Some of the courses at Johns Hopkins are Virtual Live and therefore provide more engagement than purely asynchronous online courses.
What Makes Johns Hopkins a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
Johns Hopkins Artificial Intelligence Master’s Degree offers electives in the majority of special topics for artificial intelligence. These courses include GPU programming, applied game theory, and reasoning under uncertainty. Taking courses in specialized topics improves students’ portfolios for applying for jobs with the need for that knowledge. They also offer a capstone project to conduct publishable research. Some projects that have been published cover artificial intelligence topics like Naïve Bayes Classifiers, detecting botnet activity using machine learning, and neural networks.
Rice University’s artificial intelligence program is a specialization of its Master’s of Computer Science degree. The program requires just two artificial intelligence and robotics-focused courses, with the rest of the credits coming from electives and core requirements. You can take all of the artificial intelligence courses as electives, but there appear to only be seven options for classes, meaning you would probably need to take many of them to satisfy the degree requirements. This may not be possible if they are only offered certain semesters. You may end up taking courses unrelated to artificial intelligence.
What Makes Rice a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
Rice University offers its Master’s of Computer Science students several courses in professional development. These courses cover technical project management, ethics, and other topics important to the management of innovative projects and businesses. Another important aspect of Rice’s artificial intelligence program is the requirement for a ten-week to six-month internship. Such a requirement ensures students graduate with a quality experience and valuable skills. The internship could also lead to a full-time position.
Stanford University‘s artificial intelligence specialization focuses its general Master of Computer Science degree on courses like deep learning, natural language processing, and machine learning. The Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Graduate Program is a short, four-course certificate instead of a full Master’s of Artificial Intelligence degree. Regardless of whether you pursue the degree or certificate, your studies will provide specialized knowledge for a career in artificial intelligence.
What Makes Stanford a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
The Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) provides students with a unique opportunity to participate in substantial research. Affiliates in the industry sponsor the research and work with faculty and students on current problems in artificial intelligence. Currently, Google, IBM, UST Global, Wells Fargo, and Virtusa are affiliates. Moreover, Toyota partners with SAIL to research improved safety in vehicles, both self-driven and human-driven. Another partnership in SAIL seeks to resolve supply chain problems with artificial intelligence research.
University of California-Los Angeles
University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) offers a professional Master’s of Engineering degree in Artificial Intelligence. The program takes just one year on-campus and culminates with a capstone project. The program is managed by Professor Guy Van den Broeck, who also directs the Statistical and Relational Artificial Intelligence (StarAI) lab for research in artificial intelligence topics. The lab has published on topics like probabilistic circuits, structured models for virtual prediction, and monotonic neural networks.
What Makes UCLA a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
UCLA focuses on equity, diversity, and inclusion in its graduate-level programs. It has two initiatives to promote these goals. The Awareness To Action initiative provides workshops to teach engineers about their responsibility to society to increase equity, diversity, and inclusion. The second initiative facilitates matching faculty mentors with underrepresented students. Moreover, UCLA has a program that works with industry leaders to provide opportunities to urban, disadvantaged, and underrepresented students. WE@UCLA provides support for women in engineering and computer science.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Master of Computer Science program offers many artificial intelligence courses to be completed as electives. Although the program has a breadth requirement where at least two classes must be outside of artificial intelligence, most of your classes can focus on artificial intelligence.
What Makes U of I a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign excels in the field of artificial intelligence research. It has seven research efforts and groups and two seminar series specializing in artificial intelligence. Some of the recent seminars cover artificial intelligence topics like resilient robotic autonomy under uncertainty, the effect of artificial intelligence mistakes on Black lives, and mining structured knowledge. Recent research projects study the use of artificial intelligence in farming, simulation of neutron star binaries, and global warming.
University of Maryland-College Park
The University of Maryland-College Park’s Master of Professional Studies in Machine Learning gives students a solid foundation in artificial intelligence on both a full-time and part-time basis. The courses thoroughly cover all of the foundations of artificial intelligence, but there are few unique courses offered. Students who want to develop specialized skills and projects during the program will need to participate in research.
What Makes Maryland a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
A large number of faculty advise students in artificial intelligence. For example, Dr. Ming Lin advises eleven students, three of whom are master’s students. Dr. Dinesh Manocha advises 18 students and is involved with the GAMMA lab to study robot navigation in dense crowds. Students in this program have access to 16 research centers, at least five of which are related to artificial intelligence. For example, the Center for Automotive Research studies artificial intelligence in automobiles, including computer vision, visual informatics, language and media processing, and perceptual interfaces.
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor offers both a Master’s of Science and a Master’s of Science in Engineering in Computer Science. The Master’s of Science in Engineering is only allowed for students with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor gives prospective students insight into the program through a one-day workshop called Explore Grad Studies every fall. The workshop, which was held virtually in 2021, included a campus tour, question and answer sessions with current students and faculty, and a summary of current research at the university.
What Makes Michigan a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
Like other universities, Michigan requires students to complete at least one course in hardware, artificial intelligence, software, and theory. The electives may focus on artificial intelligence courses. One interesting option for an elective is the advanced studies in data mining, which would be useful in working on marketing artificial intelligent agents at companies like Google or Amazon and working on financial data analysis for companies like Capital One and Bloomberg.
University of Pennsylvania
Although the University of Pennsylvania does not offer a Master’s of Artificial Intelligence, it does provide sufficient artificial intelligence courses to specialize the Master’s of Science in Engineering in Robotics degree. The program is on the smaller side, with only about 200 students. The program has 19 faculty members, so the student-to-faculty ratio is quite impressive. The degree may focus on many aspects of robotics, including artificial intelligence. Students participate in research through the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception (GRASP) lab. Students also attend weekly seminars and lunches to discuss robotics research.
What Makes UPenn a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
By getting a master’s in artificial intelligence through a robotics program, students have the opportunity to work on interdisciplinary teams with others who focus on the mechanics of robot design and analysis and the control of robots. Essentially, students with a background in computer science would work on the artificial intelligence aspect of projects, while mechanical engineers would work on the mechanical design and analysis and electrical engineers would manage the controls design. Students have access to high-tech facilities with extensive robotics equipment for their research and learning.
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California Master’s in Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence) program provides a solid theoretical background in artificial intelligence with many options in the core areas of artificial intelligence. For example, students are required to take a web technologies course in addition to the standardly required artificial intelligence courses. Other distinctive courses cover large-scale optimization, mathematics of high-dimensional data, speech recognition, and processing for multimedia.
What Makes USC a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
Students may take up to four semesters of directed research and research colloquium. USC’s research centers outnumber many other programs. Some of the subject matter covered by the research centers includes knowledge graphs and cognitive architecture. Honors students may participate in additional research presentations with faculty and occasionally pursue a thesis option. A G.P.A. of 3.9 must be maintained to be an honors student.
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin has a Graduate Portfolio Program in Robotics certificate that may be added to the Master’s of Computer Science degree. The certificate requires four robotics courses and two semesters of research seminars in robotics. UT-Austin has 46 approved courses for the robotics certificate program. However, unlike other programs that allow for additional coursework to bridge the gap for non-computer science graduates, UT-Austin states that those without a computer science bachelor’s degree or equivalent coursework are unlikely to be admitted to the program.
What Makes UT-Austin a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
Some of the robots that UT-Austin researches include a robotic hand, a fleet of robots to assist in artificial intelligence research at the Gates-Dell Complex, and robots to assist in domestic and work tasks. UT-Austin emphasizes ethical work in artificial intelligence through the Convergent, Responsible, and Ethical AI Training Experience for Roboticists (CREATE) program. It seeks to ensure artificial intelligence benefits society as much as possible.
University of Washington – Seattle
The University of Washington-Seattle Master’s of Computer Science program offers flexibility for working professionals while earning a master’s degree. Live classes meet one evening per week and colloquia classes are asynchronous. There are no prerequisites for the courses. Many of the students are employed by industry leaders such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Boeing, thus the program presents a unique networking opportunity.
What Makes UW a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
Given the common industry experience of students, artificial intelligence is a popular research area for the University of Washington. There are eight sub-topics of research in artificial intelligence. Each of the sub-topics then has several research projects. For example, automated planning and control have research projects concerning Bayesian state estimation, neural systems, probabilistic planning, and temporal planning. Moreover, faculty and students frequently publish journal articles, on topics such as artificial intelligence agents falsely diagnosing COVID-19 and planning the best route to destinations.
University of Wisconsin – Madison
The University of Wisconsin offers a Master’s of Computer Science degree with research into artificial intelligence. Over half of Master’s of Computer Science students receive funding in the form of assistantships and other programs. Starting in the 2022-2023 academic year, teaching assistants will receive over $21,000 per year, and project and research assistants will receive over $25,000 per year. About 130 students earn Master’s of Computer Science degrees each year. About 95% of students who start the program successfully graduate.
What Makes UW-Madison a Great Artificial Intelligence School?
The University of Wisconsin offers multiple programs to support graduate students. For example, the DiscoverPD to help Master’s of Computer Science to advance their skills. Students take an assessment to identify weaknesses and then pursue more studies in the identified weak areas. Wisconsin also provides Graduate Research Scholar Communities to support underrepresented students through advising, campus referrals, and social activities.
AI Rankings Methodology
The MastersInAI.org team considered many factors when putting together our list of the nation’s best AI schools. A few of these considerations include:
- Quantity and Types of AI Programs Offered: We gave a small boost to schools that offer multiple programs in artificial intelligence and related fields. We appreciate it when schools give students multiple options to match their studies to their career goals.
- Outside Awards and Reputation: We examined the recognitions schools received for their programs and academic departments. For example, we noted US News rankings in AI and core subjects like computer science and statistics.
- Consistency: An important feature of our rankings is the preference for consistency. We try not to highlight schools that excel in only one area. Instead, our methodology rewards schools that perform well across the board. This allows us to feature well-rounded schools with quality AI degrees.
In reviewing the list, we took note of what makes each finalist a great artificial intelligence school. This includes the specific programs offered, academic research in AI and machine learning, AI scholarship opportunities, and partnerships with notable companies in the field.
Don’t be concerned if your school, or a school you’re interested in, does not appear on this list. It is simply a starting-off point for your research. There are many more than 17 great AI programs, and we encourage you to explore all of your options.