Artificial Intelligence has grown into a broad field with application in many sectors. As a result, there are many paths to a career in AI. Both undergraduate and graduate degrees can provide the necessary skills and knowledge for working in AI. Specialized AI degrees offer a more narrow focus when preparing for a career in AI.
Undergraduate vs. Graduate Degrees: Which is Best for Learning Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial Intelligence encompasses many specialties and requires a range of skills that rapidly evolve to meet new technological demands. AI teams need people who design and build robots, controls, and other mechanical devices. They also need people to design and develop software code. Finally, researchers are needed to discover innovations in AI.
Many factors affect job entry requirements in AI, such as the demand for talent and the skills you already hold. AI is used in increasingly more fields, such as education, banking, retail, sports, manufacturing, agriculture, and more, and each requires specific knowledge. Increasingly, industry leaders are reluctant to allow for on-the-job training, so they may require more education than in previous years.
For example, the undergraduate degree alone may be sufficient for working as an entry-level artificial intelligence engineer writing code. However, a graduate degree may be necessary for working as an artificial intelligence architect, researcher, or project manager. When choosing a degree with the goal of working in AI, it is important to understand the differences in degrees and how they provide the necessary skills for each industry and position within those industries.
Degree Options for Students Interested in Artificial Intelligence
Computer Science Degrees
A Bachelor’s or Master’s in Computer Science is the traditional degree for working in artificial intelligence. It is the most generalized option that leads to a variety of careers, but it is possible to focus on AI courses while earning a computer science degree through electives to gain necessary AI skills. Students in Bachelor’s and Master’s of Computer Science degrees range from traditional to non-traditional with any background demonstrating an interest in computer science.
A Bachelor’s or Master’s in Computer Science prepares graduates for careers in AI through fundamental courses in software design, development, and analysis. It is more than just coding. The skills include critical thinking about optimal solutions to AI problems, such as implementing complex algorithms, evaluating code efficiency, and producing scalable code. More specialized AI skills can be learned through elective courses like knowledge-based AI or AI for robotics.
Most, if not all, schools with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees offer Bachelor’s and Master’s of Computer Science degrees. These include the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of California-Berkeley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University.
Artificial Intelligence Degrees
A Bachelor’s or Master’s Artificial Intelligence degree provides graduates with a solid, interdisciplinary set of skills in AI, including human sciences, computer science, and engineering. This degree specializes students for working in AI, although it leaves open which industry the student will eventually join. Students who pursue degrees in AI specifically usually have the experience that confirms their interest in AI over other fields in computer science and engineering.
A Bachelor’s or Master’s of Artificial Intelligence prepares graduates for a career in AI through a series of AI-targeted courses, such as ethics in AI. Moreover, many AI degree programs work closely with industry leaders to offer internships or projects in AI.
Schools that offer a Bachelor of Artificial Intelligence include Illinois Tech and Carnegie Mellon University. Master’s of Artificial Intelligence programs are offered at schools like Johns Hopkins University and Penn State University.
Machine Learning Degrees
A Bachelor’s or Master’s in Machine Learning is an even more specialized degree in artificial intelligence. However, a machine learning degree would be useful in most, if not all, industries that use AI. Machine learning is more focused on software development that drives machines rather than the design and production of the machines, themselves.
Machine learning degrees provide the foundations of AI along with additional training in machine-learning based automation. Machine learning is one of the most commonly used AI techniques to autonomously complete tasks without human direction. Earning a degree specifically in machine learning signifies an interest and expertise in modern machine learning techniques, such as data mining and predictive analysis.
Robotics, Engineering, and Autonomous Systems Degrees
A degree in robotics, engineering, or autonomous systems generally involves more electrical and mechanical engineering courses than a broader artificial intelligence degree. Team projects include designing physical systems in addition to designing and implementing AI to control the systems.
A Bachelor’s or Master’s in Robotics, Engineering, or Autonomous Systems prepares students for working in AI for physical systems like vehicles and manufacturing. Students with these degrees are expected to understand mechanical, electronic, and software design of systems.
Boston University and Oregon Institute of Technology offer a Bachelor’s in Robotics, Engineering, and Autonomous Systems. Arizona State University and the University of Cincinnati have Master’s level programs in this degree.
Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing Degrees
Computational linguistics and natural language processing (NLP) degrees are important for artificial intelligence careers that involve autonomous analysis of human language, both written and spoken. A degree in this field provides students with a deep understanding of the complexities of language.
Many factors affect the meaning of language, which can be difficult for AI to understand. A specialization in natural languages makes students more capable of designing AI that successfully processes natural language. This is necessary knowledge for a wide range of industries, including web search, retail, voice-controlled electronics, and e-learning.
University of Texas and Georgetown University offer a Bachelor’s of Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing. A Master’s of Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing is offered by University of California Santa Cruz and University of Rochester.
Data Science and Analytics Degrees
Bachelor’s and Master’s in Data Science and Analytics prepare students for working with large-scale data in research and business. The largest demand for data science and analytics degrees is in e-commerce, marketing, and financial sectors, but data analysis is increasingly used in many other industries, like education, sports, and even tourism.
A Bachelor’s or Master’s in Data Science and Analytics prepares you for a career in AI because you learn about using vast amounts of data to make predictions to guide business decisions. Obtaining, sanitizing, and accurately utilizing large-scale data requires significant expertise. Earning a degree in data science and analytics will provide you with the foundation for gaining that expertise.
A Bachelor’s in Data Science and Analytics can be obtained from Drexel University and Purdue University. The University of Chicago and Northwestern University offer a Master’s in Data Science and Analytics.
So, Which Degree is Best for a Career in Artificial Intelligence?
The best degree for a career in artificial intelligence depends on goals, interests, and industry needs. For example, those interested in working with algorithms might lean towards a machine learning degree. Those interested in building smart systems should lean towards robotics and autonomous systems programs.
To identify your interests in AI, consider which industries interest you the most. Then look at job listings to see if the duties sound interesting. Once you find a few jobs that interest you, look at the qualifications to determine which skills you need to learn in your degree program. The job listing may even have a preferred degree.
To choose the best AI program for you, talk to mentors, professionals, and guidance counselors to choose a program that will provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to accomplish your ultimate career goals. Verify that the degree program will provide you the opportunities to gain skills and knowledge necessary for the career you identified from the job listings and discussions. You should be able to narrow down the many options to the best type of degree and university for you through this careful analysis.