Artificial intelligence degree programs prepare students for exciting careers in an emerging field but are not for everyone. In this guide, we examine how to determine if a Master’s in AI is worth your time and money. We dig into fundamental considerations, including what you will learn, program costs, and career goals and earnings potential. Read on to discover whether an AI degree is right for you.
Are You Ready for a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence Program?
One of your first questions should be whether or not you are prepared to take on a graduate degree program. We think about this in two ways – how passionate you are and whether you are ready for the challenge.
The first step is to seriously ask yourself if you are passionate about artificial intelligence, machine learning, or a related topic. If not, then you are more likely to abandon the degree program before completing it. Or, you may complete the degree but experience career burnout. You want to avoid both outcomes. A graduate degree is not worth your time or money if you do not end up using it.
Next, consider the challenges you will face in the program. Not only are artificial intelligence degrees highly technical, but you will often apply your developing skills to real-world problems (e.g., predicting Covid ICU admissions). For example, Drexel’s Masters in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning program requires students to complete a capstone project. The AI program will be demanding and put your skills to the test – are you ready to take on the challenge?
Where Will You Go to School and What Will You Study?
There are over 100 programs offered in AI, machine learning, robotics, computational linguistics, and related disciplines. It is great to have options, but it means you need to carefully consider which school and degree program is right for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind when researching degree programs.
Is the School Reputable?
You will find AI programs at nearly every type of school – private universities, state schools, and prestigious institutions like Columbia University. Our opinion is that you should not focus on the school name when deciding on an AI degree program. Instead, consider whether the school is accredited, has reputable faculty with subject-matter expertise or research interests, and graduates students that go on to successful careers. An expensive degree at a prestigious university is not always your best option, but you also need to avoid schools with hastily-created programs and poor student outcomes.
What Will You Learn?
You would be surprised at how many potential students focus more on the university itself than the program curriculum. That is why we recommend doing a deep dive into the required coursework, electives, projects, and student experiences. For example, students passionate about machine learning should narrow their search to programs that prepare them to work with big data, build models, and train algorithms. Compare your current abilities to what you will learn in the program. The goal is to graduate with a better skill set and a deeper understanding of the field so that you can thrive in your career. Avoid any degree program that fails in this regard.
How Much Will It Cost?
Master’s in Artificial Intelligence degree programs can be expensive. Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence costs over $100,000, which puts it at the high end of the range. John’s Hopkins University’s Master’s in Artificial Intelligence program will cost just under $50,000, and Georgia Tech’s online Master’s in Computer Science (multiple specializations) costs about $7,000 total. As you can see, there is a wide range of tuition prices. When it comes to costs, we recommend the following:
- More expensive programs are not necessarily better. Ask for data on student outcomes like graduation rates and average salary one to three years after graduation. This information will help you decide if a high-priced degree will pay for itself or if it will not be worth the investment.
- Always have realistic expectations. Look at AI job posts in your area to see what your potential salary range will be. Will the degree program prepare you for one of these positions?
- Run the numbers. Will you need to take out a student loan? How much will your living expenses be before factoring in loan payments? If you can land a job paying $100,000 per year with $50,000 in debt, how quickly can you pay that off? We do not recommend taking out a student loan if you are not willing to plan your expenses now.
Career and Salary Considerations
We touched on this already, but it is important to reiterate that the purpose of a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence program is to prepare you for an exciting career with a competitive salary. That means you need to have a plan. What industries and job titles would you like to pursue? Will your AI graduate degree have companies competing to hire you? If the answer is yes, then a Master’s in AI is worth your time.
Do not assume that you will get a high-paying position right out of school. Instead, go through the following steps to determine if an artificial intelligence degree will advance your career and increase your potential salary.
- Make a list of potential job titles – Machine Learning Engineer, Business Intelligence Developer, Data Scientist, Software Engineer, etc. Focus on the positions you are most interested in pursuing.
- Browse job openings for these positions in your area or the area where you will live after completing the program. For example, do you plan to relocate to a tech hub after graduation?
- Note realistic salary ranges. Are they competitive? Will they allow you to live comfortably while paying for living expenses, loans, and other responsibilities?
- Ask potential programs for data on how well their graduates perform in the professional world. Are they employed by notable companies (e.g., Google)? How much do they earn? What is their debt-to-income ratio?
Websites that analyze salary data often highlight six-figure salaries for artificial intelligence professionals. Do not take their word for it – use the steps above to get a clearer picture of your potential job opportunities, earning potential, and ability to pay off any student debt.
Final Summary: The Pros and Cons of Master’s in AI Programs
We covered a lot of ground, so let’s summarize the pros and cons of earning a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence. Take note of the positives and negatives that apply to your situation so that you can determine if an AI degree is worth it for you.
Pros of Master’s in AI Degrees
- An AI graduate degree proves to employers that you are trained and qualified to work in this evolving field.
- You will develop the skills needed to work in your field of interest, whether it is AI, machine learning, data science, or something else.
- Programs are difficult and will prepare you for the real-world challenges of AI careers.
- You will tap into your school’s professional network to connect with other AI professionals and potential employers.
- Programs can be expensive, but there are plenty of affordable artificial intelligence programs. Many programs are available online, meaning you can save on living expenses.
- Potential for a six-figure salary in an industry that needs AI talent.
- AI is being used in nearly every industry, meaning you can pursue opportunities in everything from healthcare to finance and beyond.
Cons of Master’s in AI Degrees
- These degree programs are challenging. While this prepares you for real-world problems you will face in your career, you need to make sure you are ready for them.
- These programs are not suited for students that are not passionate about artificial intelligence. You should not get this degree just because AI talent is in-demand and well-paid.
- Programs can be expensive. Make sure you are comfortable with the tuition and have a plan to pay off any loans.
- The highest-paying jobs may be concentrated in certain areas of the country (e.g., Silicon Valley). You may need to relocate for the best career opportunities.
Ultimately, it is your decision whether a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence degree program is worth it. Head over to our AI degree hub if you are interested in learning more about AI degrees and the schools offering programs.