Your Guide to Artificial Intelligence (AI) Degrees

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

When you're interested in working in AI, earning a bachelor's or master's degree in the field can be a great way to develop or advance your knowledge.

[Featured image] A woman wearing glasses stands over a robotics work table staring at her laptop.

Artificial intelligence (AI) stands to add $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, according to Price Waterhouse Cooper [1]. To help achieve that economic potential, jobs in AI are poised to grow significantly in the coming years. They also tend to pay higher salaries: the average base salary for an AI engineer is $108,117 in the United States, according to Glassdoor [2]. 

Earning a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in artificial intelligence can be a worthwhile way to learn more about the field, develop key skills to begin—or advance—your career, and graduate with a respected credential. While specific AI programs are still relatively limited compared to, say, computer science, there are a growing number of options to explore at both the undergraduate and graduate level. 

In this article, we’ll discuss bachelor’s and master’s degrees in artificial intelligence you can pursue when you want to hone your abilities in AI.

Artificial intelligence bachelor’s degrees

Earning a bachelor’s degree in artificial intelligence means either majoring in the subject itself or something relevant, like computer science, data science, or machine learning, and taking several AI courses. It’s worth noting that AI bachelor’s degree programs are not as widely available in the US as other majors, so you may find you have more options if you explore related majors. 

It takes four or five years to complete a bachelor’s degree in AI when you’re able to attend a program full-time, and your total cost of college will depend on several factors, including whether you attend a public or private institution. For example, annual tuition at a four-year public institution costs $10,940 on average (for an in-state student) and $29,400 for a four-year private institution in the US [3].

Artificial intelligence major

A small but growing number of universities in the US now offer a Bachelor of Science (BS) in artificial intelligence. However, you may sometimes find AI paired with machine learning as a combined major. AI majors tend to be housed in computer science departments. As such, your bachelor’s degree coursework will likely emphasize computer systems fundamentals, as well as mathematics, algorithms, and using programming languages. 

Examples of AI coursework: 

  • Introduction to algorithms

  • Introduction to machine learning

  • Computer organization and systems 

  • Design and analysis of algorithms 

  • Principles and techniques of algorithms 

  • AI and decision making

Learn more: Machine Learning vs. AI: Differences, Uses, and Benefits

Artificial intelligence minor

Instead of offering a full AI major, some universities offer students the chance to minor in AI, which can be a valuable way to earn a bachelor’s degree in a broader subject, like computer science, while developing a specific focus on artificial intelligence. As with your major, you can list your minor on your resume once you graduate to show employers the knowledge you gained in that area.  

Deciding whether to major or minor in AI, or another relevant subject, depends on your larger educational interests and career goals. Learn more about how to pick the best college major for you.

Other majors for studying artificial intelligence

Given that AI is still a newer offering in terms of college majors, you may find more bachelor’s degree options by studying one of the subjects below, which often involve taking AI courses: 

  • Computer science: Many universities offer a computer science major, which may allow you to take courses in AI as part of your major or specialize in AI as a computer science track. 

  • Data science: Often, data science majors will include coursework on both AI and machine learning, which can be useful to gain a better understanding of the subjects and develop your skills accordingly.

  • Robotics: Whether you study robotics or robotics engineering, you’ll likely have to take courses in both AI and machine learning as part of your degree program. 

Jobs you can pursue with a bachelor’s degree in AI 

With a bachelor’s degree, you may qualify for certain entry-level jobs in the fields of AI, computer science, data science, and machine learning. The salaries listed below are for 0-1 years of experience, according to Glassdoor (October 2023). 

Job titleAverage total salary (US)
Data analyst$67,366
Software engineer$104,896
Junior machine learning engineer$126,197
Junior AI engineer$127,207

Explore more jobs you can get when you graduate with a bachelor’s degree in: 

Learn more: Top 5 Entry-Level Computer Science Jobs + How to Get One

Artificial intelligence master’s degrees 

Earning your master’s degree in artificial intelligence can be an excellent way to advance your knowledge or pivot to the field. Depending on what you want to study, master’s degrees take between one and three years to complete when you’re able to attend full-time. In the US, they typically cost between $30,000 and $120,000 [4].

Specializing in AI 

At the graduate level, you may find more options to study AI compared to undergraduate options. There are many respected Master of Science (MS) graduate programs in artificial intelligence in the US. Similar to undergraduate degree programs, many of these degrees are housed in institutions’ computer science or engineering departments. 

Beyond in-person programs, there are a number of online master’s degrees in artificial intelligence, as well as professional master’s degrees, which tend to take less time (around one year) and focus more on practical skills development.  

At the graduate level, the focus of your program will likely move beyond the fundamentals of AI and discuss advanced subjects such as ethics, deep learning, machine learning, and more. You may also find programs that offer an opportunity to learn about AI in relation to certain industries, such as health care and business. 

Examples of AI master’s coursework: 

  • Natural language processing (NLP)

  • Machine learning for signal processing

  • Context modeling

  • Intelligent information systems

  • Introduction to pattern recognition 

  • Reinforcement learning

Linked image with text "See how your Coursera Learning can turn into master's degree credit at Illinois Tech"

Jobs you can pursue with a master’s in AI 

With a master’s degree in AI, you may find that you qualify for more advanced roles, like the ones below. Explore more AI jobs worth considering.

Job titleAverage annual salary (US)
Data engineer$96,372
Computer research scientist$136,620* (median salary)
Data scientist$106,403
AI engineer$108,117

All salary data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Glassdoor (October 2023).

Why earn a degree in artificial intelligence?

Earning a degree can lead to higher salaries, lower rates of unemployment, and greater competitiveness as an applicant. Even if a degree doesn’t feel necessary at this stage of your career, you may find that you need at least a bachelor’s degree as you set about advancing. 

Learn more about whether a bachelor’s degree is worth it or whether a master’s degree is worth it for your specific goals.


Alternatives to earning your degree in AI 

There may be times when a full degree is not the best option for your goals. In that case, the options below may be worth exploring to level up your AI knowledge: 

  • MOOCs: Enrolling in massive open online courses (MOOCs) means you can learn in a more flexible and self-paced manner. MOOCs tend to be a great way to gain a foundational sense of subject or dive into something more niched and advanced. On Coursera, check out DeepLearning.AI’s AI for Everyone or IBM’s Introduction to AI

  • Professional certificates: With a professional certificate, you’ll take a series of MOOCs usually over several months to earn a verified credential you can feature on your resume and LinkedIn page. Professional certificates can be a great way to strengthen your skills in an area while learning more about it. Check out professional certificates in AI and related subjects on Coursera, such as the IBM Applied AI Professional Certificate or the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate.

Earn your degree through Coursera

Earn your bachelor’s or master’s degree in either computer science or data science through a respected university partner on Coursera. You’ll find a flexible, self-paced learning environment so you can balance your studies around your other responsibilities. 

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Article sources


PwC. "Global Artificial Intelligence study," Accessed October 24, 2023.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.