The AI industry has shattered the long-held belief that significant change can only occur gradually and in phases. Six months since the launch of ChatGPT 3, hundreds of AI tools have flooded the market at an astonishing pace. It seems developers have been eagerly waiting for an AI tool to test the waters first. If you are a student who has been curiously watching the AI space and considering a career in AI, you are about to enter one of the top industries in terms of job creation. According to the World Economic Forum, in its latest Global Risks Report 2023, it is estimated that around 85 million jobs may be displaced by 2025 due to the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related technologies. However, the report also suggests that the growth of AI and tech is expected to create 97 million new jobs. Despite the displacement of some jobs, the overall impact of AI on the job market is expected to be positive, creating ample opportunities for skilled people.
Before discussing future careers in AI, however, it is crucial to understand the current AI education landscape. Because, unlike traditional courses, AI is relatively new, and the avenues of learning from skilled teachers and professionals are extremely limited at this point in time. Since it might take a few years for AI to become a mainstream subject in institutions across the world, the students of today, who are passionate about AI, need to be extremely agile and smart in the way think about and approach AI education. Similarly, educators and educational institutions are now in the position to rethink and innovate teaching methods to suit the needs of the students of the AI world.
The current state of AI education
AI as an industry has already started to boom, and in the near future, we will witness its direct impact on all aspects of our lives. However, since AI education is at a nascent stage, the number of qualified teachers and educational institutions that can teach AI is disproportionately low compared to the exploding demand for AI education. Additionally, more standardised curricula and assessments for AI education are required for educators to impart their students with the necessary skills and knowledge to be employable. Therefore, educational institutions and industry experts should collaborate and co-create curricula for AI education. This collaboration will prove to be a win-win for the industry and the AI education sector since it will lead to more high-quality students taking up top jobs in the industry, which can, in turn, evoke interest in more students to pursue AI education. In this direction, some organisations have started developing standardised curricula and assessments, while others are providing resources and training for teachers who want to learn more about AI. So, the right efforts are underway and soon, AI courses will be widely accessible across most parts of the world.
The skills students need for AI-related jobs
Like any other industry, the AI industry also demands a combination of technica
l and soft skills. Since AI holds tremendous potential that needs to be utilised responsibly, it is imperative that students possess high levels of ethics and awareness to function in the AI space. They should also be able to look beyond immediate applications and make decisions considering the long-term implications. With that said, here are the 5 essential skills students will need to become professionals in the AI industry.
1. Technical skills: To pursue careers in AI, students must have strong technical skills in programming, data analysis, and machine learning. They need to be proficient in programming languages such as Python, R, and Java and have a good understanding of algorithms, data structures, and statistical analysis.
2. Soft skills: In addition to technical skills, they also need to have strong soft skills such as critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. AI projects often require teamwork and problem-solving, so they should be capable of working effectively with others and thinking critically about complex problems.
3. Domain-specific knowledge: AI is being applied in various fields, from healthcare to finance to transportation. When they work in these fields, they should quickly gain domain-specific knowledge and understand the applications of AI in the industry.
4. Ethical and legal considerations: AI raises several ethical and legal concerns, such as privacy, bias, and accountability. Therefore, they need to be aware of these considerations and be able to apply them in their work.
5. Lifelong learning: AI and related technologies are constantly evolving, so they need to adapt to new technologies and learn new skills throughout their career. They should be passionate enough to be a lifelong learner and willing to update their skills and knowledge continually.
Teaching AI in schools
Incorporating AI education into the curriculum can be challenging for schools today, but making the right efforts in their capacity to prepare students for AI-related jobs will help the school stay ahead of the curve. Adopting AI education at this early stage can be mutually beneficial for both schools and students in the long term. So, here are some strategies for schools to teach AI today.
1. Incorporating AI into existing courses: One way to teach AI is to incorporate it into math, science, and computer science courses. For example, students can learn about algorithms and data analysis in math class or study machine learning in computer science.
2. Offering dedicated AI courses: Another option is to provide dedicated AI courses. These courses can cover machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision. However, it is essential to have qualified teachers on board to teach these courses.
3. Providing resources and tools: A variety of resources and tools are available to help teachers incorporate AI education into their classes. For example, Google has developed an AI education platform called TensorFlow, which provides resources for teaching machine learning.
4. Fostering hands-on learning: AI is best learned through hands-on learning experiences, such as projects and competitions. Schools can encourage students to participate in AI hackathons, build their AI projects, and collaborate with peers on AI-related projects.
5. Partnering with industry: Partnering with industry can provide schools access to the latest technology and expertise. This can include internships, apprenticeships, and partnerships with AI companies and organisations.
AI education outside of schools
As mentioned earlier, if you are a student, it is important to make use of learning opportunities outside of school. Here are some options for you to learn AI outside of school:
1. Online courses and certifications: Various online courses and certificates are available for students who want to learn more about AI. Platforms such as Coursera, Udacity, and edX offer courses in topics such as machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing.
2. Bootcamps and workshops: Bootcamps and workshops are intensive training programs that provide students with hands-on learning experiences. These programs can range from a few days to several months and cover topics such as machine learning and data science.
3. Internships and apprenticeships: Internships and apprenticeships provide students with real-world experience in AI-related fields. They can allow the students to work with AI professionals and gain practical experience applying AI techniques to real-world problems.
4. AI clubs and organisations: Many schools and communities have AI clubs and organisations that students can join. These groups provide students with the opportunity to collaborate with peers and work on AI projects together.
By taking advantage of these opportunities for AI education outside of schools, students can gain valuable experience and knowledge in AI-related fields. These experiences can help you prepare for careers in AI and make you more competitive in the job market.
The Importance of Diversity in AI Education
For several reasons, diversity in AI education is highly crucial. By its very nature, the technology requires a diverse pool of people to build and train it. Here is a simple breakdown of why promoting diversity in AI education is essential:
1. Addressing bias: AI systems are only as good as the data on which they are trained. If the data is biased, the AI system will be biased as well. By promoting diversity in AI education, we can be confident that AI systems are trained on diverse data sets, which can help mitigate bias.
2. Increasing innovation: Diverse perspectives can lead to increased innovation and creativity. By promoting diversity in AI education, a broader range of viewpoints is brought to the table, which will lead to new ideas and solutions.
3. Creating a more inclusive industry: The lack of diversity in the AI industry is a well-documented problem. By promoting diversity in AI education, we can ensure that a more diverse pool of candidates is entering the industry, which can help create a more inclusive and equitable industry.
4. Addressing the skills gap: There is currently a skills gap in AI-related fields, which means that there are more job openings than qualified candidates to fill them. By promoting diversity in AI education, we can increase the number of qualified candidates and help address the skills gap.
The onus of ensuring diversity is on all the major stakeholders of the industry. We need to identify ways to include underrepresented groups in AI education and training. This can be achieved by providing scholarships and other financial assistance and developing outreach programs encouraging them to pursue AI-related careers. By prioritising diversity in AI education, we can build a future that is inclusive and equitable.
VII. The future of education with AI
The conventional methods of teaching and learning are about to undergo a massive change with the advent of AI technology and tools. The scale of change in the education industry that AI will cause is tough to imagine today. But, here are the imminent changes already underway and soon to pick up the pace and become the new normal.
1. Personalised learning: AI has the potential to personalise learning for each student by providing tailored content and assessments based on their learning style and abilities. This can help students receive the education they need to succeed.
2. Intelligent tutoring: AI-powered tutoring systems can provide students with individualised feedback and support. These systems can adapt to each student's progress and provide targeted guidance to help them overcome challenges and master new concepts.
3. Enhanced accessibility: AI can help improve accessibility for students with disabilities. For example, AI-powered tools can provide real-time closed captioning for students with hearing impairments or assistive technology for students with visual impairments.
4. Improved administrative efficiency: AI can help automate administrative tasks such as grading, scheduling, and student record-keeping. This can free up time for educators to focus on teaching and interacting with students.
5. Continued learning and upskilling: AI is constantly evolving, which means that students and educators will need to continue learning and upskilling throughout their careers. AI-powered education platforms can provide ongoing training and development opportunities to keep up with the latest advancements in AI and related fields.
What are the best programming languages for learning AI?
Several programming languages, including Python, R, and Java, are commonly used in AI. Python is often recommended for beginners because of its simplicity and readability. R is widely used for data analysis, and Java is often used to build large-scale AI applications. However, the best programming language for learning AI may depend on the area of AI you are interested in, so it's essential to research and choose the language that best suits your needs.
Do students need a degree in computer science to get a job in AI?
While a degree in computer science or a related field can be beneficial, it is only sometimes necessary to get a job in AI. Many AI-related jobs require specific skills, such as programming, data analysis, and machine learning, which can be learned through online courses, boot camps, and other training programs. However, having a degree in a related field can help make candidates more competitive in the job market.
What kind of jobs can students get with AI skills?
A wide range of job opportunities are available for students with AI skills. Some examples include machine learning engineers, data scientists, AI software developers, AI project managers, and AI researchers. AI skills can be applied in various fields, including healthcare, finance, transportation, and more.
How can schools incorporate AI education into their curriculum?
There are several strategies that schools can use to incorporate AI education into their curriculum. Integrating AI into math, science, and computer science courses is one option. Another option is to offer dedicated AI courses. Schools can also provide resources and tools for teachers to teach AI and foster hands-on learning experiences, such as projects and competitions. Schools can also partner with industry to provide students with real-world experience in AI-related fields.
As a student passionate about pursuing Artificial Intelligence as your career, you are after the power to make a positive impact on the world. With AI, you can solve complex problems, automate processes, and even create groundbreaking innovations that transform entire industries
With the power of AI in your hands, effectively addressing global challenges, such as climate change or healthcare access, is a real possibility. Also, you will take an active part in developing AI systems that are unbiased and ethical, ensuring that it is used responsibly and for the benefit of all. These are just some of the possibilities that await you in the field of AI.
Therefore, as a student, if you have the curiosity and attitude to acquire the necessary skills despite the challenges, you can position yourself to succeed. In this exciting field, you can contribute to a brighter and more equitable future. So, start exploring the world of AI and make a real difference!