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10 Signs You Need an Artificial Intelligence Master's

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Artificial intelligence was once the future of computing. Now that future is here. However, computer science is a diverse discipline and marketplace. AI is still a specialty area of computer science. If you already work in technology or aspire to, you may be wondering whether earning an artificial intelligence master's makes sense for your career. The answer, in many cases, will be yes – even if your ambitions don't include becoming an artificial intelligence specialist.

Some students in artificial intelligence master's programs want to go all-in on AI. Others enroll in AI-focused graduate programs to create applications and software that leverages artificial intelligence to enhance science, business and technology. Below, you will find 10 signs that now might be the right time to enroll in an artificial intelligence degree program such as the online Master of Science in Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence Specialization (MSCS-AI) offered by Southern Methodist University's Lyle School of Engineering.

Think of this guide as a self-check tool you can use to gauge whether to move forward with an application.

Why Pursue a Master's in Computer Science

SMU's online MSCS-AI isn't just for aspiring AI professionals. The program teaches students from many professional backgrounds to implement effective artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions in their organizations. Their motivations for enrolling vary considerably but generally align with one or more of the situations or career contexts explored in detail below.

If any of the following 10 statements resonate with you, consider connecting with an enrollment advisor at lyleonline@smu.edu.

1. Your Future Prospects are Underwhelming

Many recent undergraduates in artificial intelligence master's programs have backgrounds in computer science, mathematics, engineering, data science or other STEM fields. They are bright and driven but find their daily tasks tedious. They explore computer science master's programs focused on AI not because they need to improve their programming skills but because they want to do more than code.

If you find yourself bored at work or unhappy with your current career trajectory, a master's in artificial intelligence can help propel you toward new opportunities. SMU's online MSCS-AI master's program teaches the applications of deep learning and neural networks across the industrial spectrum. Upon graduation, you will be prepared to create outsized value in your organization – and advance more quickly. You might even design tools that someday make your current position redundant.

2. Your Career Has Hit a Plateau

Professionals with bachelor's degrees more than a few years old may advance more slowly than recent undergrads with the kind of data science and artificial intelligence skills that make employers sit up and take notice. Others can't get ahead because they work for organizations with HR policies that limit hiring for senior positions to master's degree holders or tie maximum salaries to education level.

If you are otherwise thriving in your career, but your advancement has stalled, earning an MSCS-AI can get your professional life back on track. SMU's world-class engineering faculty will prepare you to take advantage of the growing demand for AI master's degree holders in industries such as healthcare, retail, finance, transportation and manufacturing.

3. You Need to Stay on Top of Advancements in Computer Science

The only constant in computer science is evolution. Like Moore's Law, it never slows down, only speeds up exponentially. Artificial intelligence and machine learning may be the defining proof of this. These two disciplines are changing computation in myriad ways and infiltrating areas of life previously untouched by technology. At SMU, MSCS-AI students learn artificial intelligence and machine learning skills they can use immediately in their organizations and how to adapt in the face of change. They design future-proof applications – and future-proof careers.

The MSCS-AI curriculum will show you how to use AI and machine learning to leverage every bit of efficiency possible in situations involving data mining, networking and cloud computing. Design and code a solution once, and let the machine learn and become more efficient from there. And when AI inevitably changes, you will have the tools to grow with it.

4. You Want to Challenge Yourself

It is all too easy to coast along at work, but coasting is not particularly satisfying. Research suggests 69 percent of people feel stuck in a rut in their careers, and boredom can signify it is time to make a professional leap. Pursuing advanced education is one of the most straightforward ways to launch a more exciting, more rewarding career.

The online MSCS-AI curriculum at SMU covers fundamental artificial intelligence concepts and their applications in various contexts in core courses. Interactive, project-based work will give you hands-on, practical experience plus critically important facetime with faculty. And you can customize your degree via two electives chosen from 10 different areas of specialization.

5. You Feel Like an Imposter

According to research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, 70 percent of people suffer from the "imposter phenomenon." They are highly competent but feel like frauds. In some cases, imposter syndrome in software engineers, systems architects and other technologists stems from skill gaps that occur when otherwise talented and intelligent people have the wrong applied skills or outdated skills.

If you feel like your skills are out of alignment with market needs or not as scalable as they once were, Lyle School of Engineering can help. SMU's online MSCS-AI program will boost your confidence by providing you with advanced technical knowledge and the soft skills employers increasingly look for in tech hires. You will have everything you need to build intelligent systems capable of driving real-world change responsibly and ethically – including confidence.

6. You Keep Seeing 'Master's Required' or 'Master's Preferred'

Employer expectations regarding education are changing almost as fast as computer technology. Over the past several years, 74 percent of employers have raised their educational standards for hiring. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the growth of jobs requiring master's degrees will outpace those requiring bachelor's, associate's and other degrees.

A bachelor's degree in computer science may no longer be enough to land you an interview for positions you are qualified for based on your work experience and skills. You will almost certainly need an advanced degree such as the MSCS-AI to get past the resume filters at the big tech firms that pay the most. However, access to opportunity is not the only reason to pursue a master's degree in artificial intelligence. Master's degree holders have lower unemployment rates than bachelor's degree holders, and as employer preference shifts further toward master's degrees, competition for open positions may be less intense.

7. You Want to Increase Your Earning Potential

The ROI of a master's in computer science is high. How high? High enough to put MSCS graduates in the upper echelons of income earners in the United States. Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence degree holders earn about $98,000 each year, whereas artificial intelligence master's holders earn about $110,000. To put it another way, not having a master's means losing out on more than $350,000 over a 30-year career.

With an AI-focused Master of Science in Computer Science, you can transition into artificial intelligence careers where pay over $100,000 and great benefits are the norm. You will be qualified to apply for lucrative technical positions such as AI research scientist, machine learning engineer and artificial intelligence architect, as well as leadership positions such as director of AI/ML and vice president of artificial intelligence.

8. You Want to Use AI to Make the World a Better Place

Artificial intelligence is quickly infiltrating every discipline and soon, some form of AI will touch nearly every aspect of daily life. More than ever, the world needs professionals who can create and implement AI solutions that are highly effective and ethical and serve humanity.

At SMU, you will gain an expert understanding of AI solutions and learn the art of ethical decision-making in tech. In coursework and project work, you will consider the significant ethical ramifications of artificial intelligence, ensuring the technical solutions you implement in the future have a positive social impact.

9. Your Current Professional Network Is Limited

When it comes to career building, who you know matters. Evidence shows that professional networks help fill 85 percent of open positions. In one poll, nearly half of all job seekers surveyed reported finding positions through their networks.

Enrolling in an MSCS-AI master's program is one way to connect with a diverse group of experienced developers and programmers, network engineers and architects, systems analysts and managers, database administrators, security analysts and tech industry leaders. As a distance learner enrolled in Lyle School of Engineering and then an SMU graduate, you will have many opportunities to grow your network.

10. You Want to Transition into Research

At the top engineering schools, graduate students in online programs can participate in research as readily as students on campus. Faculty researchers at SMU Lyle School of Engineering study semi-structured machine learning, cyber security, data mining, data science, electronic design automation and software engineering – and find creative ways to include remote students in their investigations.

If you have dreamed of tackling some of the world's most pressing challenges by participating in cutting-edge research projects or developing next-generation technology, enrolling in a master's in computer science program taught by world-renowned researchers is an intelligent move. Once you enroll in SMU's online MSCS-AI, all you need to do is contact the computer science department or the SMU AI Lab to find out more about how you can collaborate on research into natural language processing, computer vision and other subjects.

What does it take to earn a master's in artificial intelligence?

Times have changed. Earning an artificial intelligence master's degree from a renowned university no longer requires making a full-time commitment or relocating. As a student pursuing SMU's part-time, online MSCS with AI Specialization, you dictate the pace of your progress, as well as how and where you learn.

You can complete SMU Lyle's 30-credit, part-time online artificial intelligence master's in as little as 20 months from the comfort of your living room. The program is geared toward working professionals, and you can pace out courses according to your schedule. You will spend just 90-minutes in live, synchronous sessions each week. The rest of the MSCS-AI coursework is asynchronous. You have the option of taking more or fewer courses in any given semester based on your circumstances.

More importantly, Lyle School of Engineering designed the online artificial intelligence program to be accessible to professionals from various academic backgrounds. You can apply to the program without a computer science bachelor's degree. If you are reluctant to take the GRE many years after graduating, you can request a GRE waiver, provided you have two or more years of relevant work experience. And you can apply at any time for Fall or Spring semester enrollment, so there's no need to delay – or rush – your application. That said, it is never too early to apply once you decide the program is right for you.