OF Kayla Solin
Student fans wave up balloons before the start of the game between the Texas Longhorns and the Creighton Bluejays as seen in December 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by David Buono—Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)
The buzz around AI doesn’t look set to subside any time soon, as the GPT Chat tool surpassed 1 million users in less than a week and its founder, Sam Altman, has said the future of AI is both terrifying how awesome. In turn, colleges and universities are looking for new opportunities to capitalize on interest in technology and study its risks.
Last week, the University of Texas at Austin jumped into the fray by announcing plans to launch an online master’s degree in artificial intelligence (MSAI) program, and early indications suggest that there is glowing interest in this program, precisely as with AI more generally. Within 24 hours of the announcement, more than 4,000 prospective students had requested more information from the university. UT Austin will join several top universities already offering a master’s degree in AI, including the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of California at Los Angeles.
“Given the excitement and applicability of machine learning and artificial intelligence, we thought it would be a game changer to launch this program to give the nationwide workforce a chance to catch up with some of these tools and revolutionary techniques,” Adam Klivans, a computer science professor at UT Austin, tells Fortune. He is also the director of the National AI Institute for Foundations of Machine Learning (IFML), which was designated by the National Science Foundation in 2020 to help develop critical tools for the future of AI innovation.” What we found is that they all use AI and machine learning tools and ideas…and their workforce needs to be trained to learn many of these ideas and these tools,” he adds.
Here’s what you need to know about the new program.
UT Austin wants to be at the forefront of AI education
UT Austin’s new program will expand its suite of online bachelor’s degrees, adding to existing programs of a master’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in data science. The Artificial Intelligence Sciences (MSAI) online master’s program will begin accepting applications in June 2023.
The university is striving to be at the forefront of AI education, Klivans notes, and is seeing an increase in applications in related fields. Over the past year, the university’s computer science department received 8,400 applications for the entire suite of on-campus and online graduate programs, Brent Winkelman, chief of staff for UT’s computer science department, tells Fortune. That’s triple the number of applications just five years ago, and it’s driven primarily by students interested in pursuing a career in AI, he adds.
“Demand continues to grow at an exponential rate, which is why designing programs like MSAI to be flexible and scalable is so critical to being able to address this need,” says Winkelman.
The new MSAI program is being offered in partnership with the edX online education platform and will be delivered by UT Austin’s Department of Computer Science and Machine Learning Lab, which is the campus headquarters for machine learning research. University professors were involved in drafting the curriculum and teaching materials.
engaging and intended to provide students with a range of potential career opportunities, such as technology, cybersecurity, pharmaceutical, engineering, and other business fields that utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning. “Machine learning and AI tools are having a major impact on fields beyond the typical types of tech companies you would think of when you think about AI and machine learning,” notes Klivans.
Participating students will benefit from training and education in natural language processing, reinforcement learning, computer vision, deep learning, and AI ethics. Some featured courses include Ethics in Artificial Intelligence, Automated Logical Reasoning, Deep Learning, and Optimizing Online Learning. The ethics training is generated by the faculty of UT’s Good Systems Project, a research initiative to develop new artificial intelligence technologies that serve the good of society, as well as the Institute for Foundations of Machine Learning. In addition to UT Austin, the institute also includes researchers from the University of Washington, Wichita State University and Microsoft Research, and the new MSAI program was motivated in part by IFML’s mission, Klivans says.
How to Apply to UT Austin’s Masters in AI Program
Students wishing to apply to the program must already hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or a “comparable degree” from a foreign academic institution to be considered for the program. UT Austin’s application is not yet active, but the university will begin accepting applications June 1. The program will start in the spring of 2024.
The online MSAI program is designed to cover approximately two years of course content, but must be taken at the student’s pace. The fully online, asynchronous program will offer pre-recorded classes, weekly drop schedules, and part-time or full-time options to provide flexibility for working enrollees. The cost of tuition is $10,000 in tuition, which will cover the cost of 10 related courses.
While applicants likely have a background in computer science, statistics, data or artificial intelligence, Klivans says the program is open to people with other backgrounds and that the university is ready to “grow” to accommodate any requests. “That’s the nice thing about the online program,” she says. “If we suddenly had 50,000 more people who were really fluent in machine learning and AI, I think we’d see a lot more scientific innovation. I think you would see much more productivity.
Application requirements may include transcripts from previous institutions attended, letters of recommendation, a mission statement, and a resume. The GRE exam will be optionally required. The MSAI diploma is still awaiting final approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, but interested applicants can fill out an online form to stay in touch and get more information about admissions before the MSAI program begins accepting applications on June 1 on the MSAI program website.
Check out all of Fortune’s graduate program rankings and learn more about specific career paths.