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UT News

AI Master’s Program Launches With Ability to Serve Thousands

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AUSTIN, Texas — Just as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning emerge as the fastest-growing in-demand skill sets in the global workforce, The University of Texas at Austin is establishing a new online master’s program in AI with the potential to bring thousands of new students into the field.

Delivered by the Department of Computer Science and Machine Learning Laboratory, the Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence (MSAI) will be the first large-scale degree program of its kind and the only master’s degree program in AI from a top-ranked institution to be priced close to $10,000. The master’s degree covers about two years’ worth of course content, to be taken at the learner’s own pace, and will be delivered in partnership with online education platform, edX.

AI master’s programs from peer institutions carry costs five to 10 times as high as UT Austin’s and serve only dozens of students ­– not the hundreds or thousands the Texas team projects it will reach annually within five years. Similarly priced online master’s programs from the university, in computer science and data science, enroll 2,500 students within less than five years of their launch. Like those programs, the fully online MSAI program is both flexible and accessible.

Enrolled students will receive advanced training in natural language processing, reinforcement learning, computer vision, deep learning and related topics, and will provide a critical framework for understanding the ethical implications of AI technologies. The degree will equip students for an array of potential career opportunities – from engineering to research and development, and product management to consulting.

“The fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning have seen unprecedented growth over the last 10 years,” said Adam Klivans, a professor of computer science and director of the Institute for Foundations of Machine Learning (IFML), which is providing resources to aid in curriculum design. “Our goal is to ensure that every qualified student can access a premier education in AI, one that is keeping pace with this rapidly evolving field. With the MSAI program, we have removed geographic barriers entirely and significantly lowered the cost barrier of graduate study. For our students, this a game changer.”

The degree program comes amid a national conversation about how advances in AI and machine learning might reshape the economy and the workforce. Conscious of the ethical questions inherent to these new technologies, MSAI incorporates formal AI ethics training developed through a partnership between IFML and faculty from the UT’s Good Systems project – a research initiative to develop new AI technologies around core values that serve the greater societal good.

As the third large-scale master’s degree offered as part of the university’s Computer and Data Science Online suite of degree programs, the MSAI will rely on long-standing strengths and faculty expertise that have earned UT Austin a top-10 ranking in artificial intelligence from U.S. News & World Report.

“We’ve developed the curriculum for the MSAI program with faculty members who are leaders in their fields and committed to student success,” said Eric Busch, director of the Computer and Data Science Online program. “It’s not just an ‘online degree.’ It’s an immersive and connected community of learners and a credential from UT Austin that opens doors.”

The degree is pending final approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Leaders of the Computer and Data Science Online program will give a presentation at the South by Southwest Festival’s SXSW EDU 2023 on the future of online graduate education at major research universities. More about the program, including how and when to apply for spring 2024, can be found at the UT MSAI website.