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Can Studying Artificial Intelligence 'Future-Proof' My Career?

Three pastel colored brains inside three light bulbs against a pink background.

Are robots coming for your job? Maybe. AI has likely already become a part of your life. It powers fraud detection systems that catch credit card theft, predictive mapping apps like Google Maps and Waze, SPAM filters and email scheduling systems, Google Homes and Amazon Alexas and retail product recommendations. Businesses already leveraging the power of artificial intelligence to improve user experiences are now looking for ways to optimize internal processes, too. AI could be your coworker in the not-so-distant future.

AI automation is helping companies, governments and nonprofits cut costs and boost productivity. Rather than replacing employees, machine learning systems support them by taking over mundane or redundant tasks, leaving room for more creative and overhead thinking. That makes it challenging to predict how many jobs automation will affect and how it will affect them. AI guru and CEO of Sinovation Ventures Kai-Fu Lee asserts artificial intelligence will automate 50 percent of all jobs in the next 15 years, pegging accountants, factory workers, truckers, paralegals and radiologists as the workers most likely to face significant disruptions. McKinsey & Company estimates 70 million jobs in the United States will succumb to automation by 2030.

What experts agree on is that the applications of artificial intelligence are growing and the technology will affect every industry to some degree. The best way to prepare for this inevitable AI-powered future is by getting ahead. Developing artificial intelligence skills in a program like SMU Lyle School of Engineering's Online Master of Science in Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence Specialization (MSCS-AI) can future-proof your current career or prepare you to take advantage of new AI career opportunities more interesting (and more lucrative) than what you're doing now.

Five Reasons an Artificial Intelligence Master's Program Will Future-proof Your Career

1. The Market for Artificial Intelligence Expertise Is Growing

AI isn't a new concept; some industries have been using it since the 1980s. But thanks to faster, better processing systems and more data sources, AI implementation is now speeding up rapidly. A survey by Gartner covering 89 countries found that there has been a 270 percent jump in artificial intelligence implementation in the last four years. This growth will likely continue unabated for years to come. If you're thinking about studying artificial intelligence, now is an excellent time to start because so many enterprises across industries are putting their money where their algorithms are. Experts predict the global AI software market will be worth $126 billion by 2025. According to management consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, "AI, robotics and other forms of smart automation have the potential to bring great economic benefits, contributing up to $15 trillion to global GDP by 2030."

2. AI Is and Will Continue to Be Incredibly Versatile

Artificial intelligence melds data science with computer vision, natural language processing and deep learning to solve everything from minor business challenges to major global issues such as climate change and economic inequality. Industries as diverse as electrical engineering and entertainment are turning to intelligent systems to optimize processes, reduce costs and improve output. This versatility is driving growth not just in the AI market itself but also in related and unrelated markets.

Research firm Reports and Data predicts that the global healthcare AI market will be worth more than $60 billion by 2027. According to research firm Facts & Factors, the global market for artificial intelligence in retail will surpass $20 billion by 2026. And market Insight Reports predicts the artificial intelligence market in banking and finance will grow to $130 billion by 2027. This growth will fuel job creation, so expect to see more postings for artificial intelligence professionals across industries in the coming years.

3. Artificial Intelligence Will Render Some Jobs Obsolete But Create More

The bad news is that artificial intelligence is going to eliminate some jobs. The good news is that experts predict it will create more employment opportunities than it destroys. The World Economic Forum anticipates that while automation and robots will displace 75 million jobs in 2022, related technologies may ultimately create about 133 million new roles – most of which haven't been invented yet.

AI will power a revolution akin to the industrial or technological revolutions of eras past. As happens in every disruptive period, employers and employees will need to learn new skills. In this case, skills related to human-computer interaction, data science, programming and computer science. Very few roles – fewer than 5 percent, according to McKinsey & Company – can be fully automated, but many will change to incorporate the support of artificially intelligent systems. Some firms will hire machine learning engineers and AI specialists to integrate new technology into existing business frameworks. Others will ask existing employees to reskill.

4. Artificial Intelligence Will Eventually Touch Every Industry

There's no predicting which AI specialties will emerge next because the applications of artificial intelligence are so broad. Many people associate the discipline itself with tech and companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook. They're not wrong. The big technology firms hire the lion's share of AI jobseekers – for now. Employers in decidedly non-technical sectors are starting to see the potential of artificial intelligence and are hiring accordingly. For example, the HR and recruitment industry uses AI to filter applicant pools. Elsewhere, artificial intelligence is making user interfaces smarter and more human-like. And major corporate enterprises now use AI to drive decision-making because it makes data analytics faster and more accurate.

The World Economic Forum analysis linked above found accelerating demand for new roles such as machine learning specialist, user experience and human-machine interaction designer, robotics engineer and more. Some of the jobs emerging in the field did not exist just 15 years ago. Chances are there will be more full-time AI roles not only for software engineers and data scientists but also for business analysts, marketing managers and sales representatives with advanced AI skills in the not-so-distant future.

5. There's Already Staggering Demand for AI Specialists

Demand for computer science professionals with AI skills is growing across industries. According to market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, which analyzes millions of job postings in real-time, employers posted hundreds of thousands of jobs requiring artificial intelligence and machine learning skills in the past 12 months. Since 2016, ZipRecruiter job postings that reference AI and machine learning skills have increased more than 2,000 percent. COVID-19 may continue to speed up the rate of artificial intelligence implementation.

Even now, demand for AI skills exceeds supply. There aren't enough AI specialists – especially with master's degrees – available to fill all the open positions. That's making AI implementation difficult for many companies – even ones prepared to pay a premium for these skills. In 2019, artificial intelligence attracted nearly $40 billion in investments globally. By taking part-time online classes in AI technology, you can prepare to enter this high-demand field without taking time off work. SMU's MSCS-AI program offers a full curriculum of advanced AI-focused core coursework and electives delivered entirely online.

Employers Want Artificial Intelligence Expertise Because AI Works

LinkedIn's 2021 Jobs on the Rise report ranked AI among "digital transformation" jobs, but the applications of artificial intelligence transcend the technology industry. Consider these examples of ways very different industries are capitalizing on advancements in the field:

AI's Role in Healthcare

Artificial intelligence can detect and diagnose diseases, support clinical decisions, make EHR use easier and help deliver individualized precision medicine. This might be the most cutting-edge and challenging field for future AI professionals because there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to integrating artificial intelligence into healthcare settings and medical research.

AI's Role in Transportation and Logistics

Artificial intelligent systems can optimize the movement of goods to reduce emissions and make shipping more reliable. NauticExpo, a digital magazine that covers nautical and maritime technology news, predicts global maritime freight transportation will bring in $205 billion in revenue by 2023, an increase from $166 billion in 2017, but "to do this, the industry – logistics, ports, shipping, etc. – will need to add AI to its armory of digital technologies."

AI's Role in Manufacturing

AI can accelerate output through automation, keep human workers safer by identifying risky conditions and make industrial processes cleaner and more efficient. However, McKinsey believes AI in manufacturing could have the most significant impact on supply chain management. The analytics company estimates that artificial intelligence will improve the accuracy of forecasting in manufacturing by 10 to 20 percent and will be most useful in predicting equipment maintenance needs and forecasting demand for new machines.

AI's Role in Retail

Shopping platforms are constantly recommending other items shoppers might like because they have AI running in the background. Using massive data sets, e-commerce systems powered by artificial intelligence can make recommendations and predictions about customers or directly to customers. AI helps marketers reach larger, more receptive audiences with fewer resources by enabling hyper-targeted, automated advertising campaigns.

The Supply of AI Specialists May Never Align with Demand

Employers want to hire more people with programming skills in languages like Python and critical AI skills related to neural networks, machine learning systems, computer vision and data mining. Research firms that track data for specific artificial intelligence skills find that demand is more than double supply for nearly all of them. While 80 percent of large, enterprise-level organizations are looking to hire talent with machine learning and deep learning skills right now, only 12 percent report being able to attract an adequate supply of job candidates with those skills.

In 2019, the Global AI Talent Report found there were only about 36,000 self-proclaimed AI specialists on LinkedIn and concluded that AI was a "job seeker's market." That is still true today, which is good news when it comes to wages. One study found that AI skills carry a wage premium of 11 percent within firms and 5 percent by job title. Attaining the most in-demand artificial intelligence and machine learning skills may be the key to earning more even if you don't transition into a purely technical role. The same study found that companies with the most job listings for AI specialists offer higher salaries across positions.

Will I Need a Master's Degree to Advance in an Artificial Intelligence Career?

You may not need a master of science in artificial intelligence to learn Python, but a master's degree will likely be necessary to advance in the industry. According to data gathered by Datamation, 26 percent of artificial intelligence job listings require a master's degree, and some employers prefer to fill AI positions with candidates who have PhDs in addition to master's degrees.

According to an IBM Institute for Business Value study, as many as 120 million workers in the world's twelve largest economies – including 11.5 million in the U.S. – will need to retrain or reskill in the next few years to keep pace with widespread AI adoption. Graduate programs will help with that process. Enrolling in SMU's Master of Science in Computer Science with a Specialization in Artificial Intelligence program now means you could be leading this industry in a few short years rather than playing catch up when the AI revolution hits its stride. The fact that SMU's world-class artificial intelligence-focused master's degree program is delivered online and in a flexible part-time format makes the ROI of the MSCS-AI high. Given the expanding scope of applied AI and the accelerating demand for related skills, investing in a computer science master's with core courses focused on artificial intelligence may be the best way to future-proof your career.

SMU's 10-course MSCS-AI puts the on-campus student experience online in an intensive career-focused program that will prepare you to meet the demand for AI talent in and out of tech. Apply now to be a part of shaping the future.