Learn AI in Colorado: A Guide to Artificial Intelligence Degree Programs & Certificate-Level Training Courses Online & in Colorado

Written by Rebecca Turley

working late using ai in colorado office

Artificial intelligence is swiftly carving out a place of prominence in society. Its ability to sense, comprehend, act, and learn is transforming every walk of life and changing the way nearly every sector solves problems. And while business and industry are gaining the lion’s share of attention with their transformative AI solutions, in Colorado, it’s also being used to tackle one of the state’s most pressing environmental challenges: wildfires.

On December 30, 2021, the suburbs between Denver and Boulder experienced the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history. Two people perished, more than 1,100 homes were destroyed, and damage totaled about $2 billion. It was but one example of Colorado’s wildfire problem which, according to statistics, continues to grow due to a drier and hotter climate. In fact, nine of the state’s largest 20 wildfires have occurred between 2018 and 2020 alone.

And though it may seem like an issue of this proportion can’t be solved (aside from stopping climate change in its tracks), Colorado lawmakers are betting on artificial intelligence to make it happen. In fact, in January 2023, a Colorado Senate committee voted unanimously to move forward with the creation of a $2 million pilot program that will use AI-monitored video footage to detect early signs of a wildfire. The program, which will involve mounted cameras in high-risk locations and an AI program that will analyze the images and sounds of the camera footage, is already being used in California, Nevada, and Oregon with much success. With persistent drought conditions across much of the Western United States, this type of AI-powered technology couldn’t come at a better time.

The Colorado program will alert firefighters and other first responders when the AI algorithm detects a plume of smoke, thereby allowing them to respond to the emerging fire before it becomes an uncontrollable blaze. The company behind the AI technology, Pano AI, says that AI uses a dataset of more than 300 million images to teach the program to identify smoke from a fire.

This wildfire prevention pilot program is just one of the many ways Colorado scientists and researchers are using AI to combat climate change. In May 2023, Colorado State University announced a partnership with the University of Minnesota to create a new National Artificial Intelligence Research Institute. The scientists, engineers, and AI and climate experts of this $20 million program will seek to use AI to create practices that will absorb and store carbon while also boosting the agricultural and forest industries. (Farms and forests can be used to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, essentially serving as carbon depositories.) And it’s just one of seven new institutes funded by the National Science Foundation and the USDA to bolster collaborative AI research across the country.

AI innovations are booming across all sectors and industries In Colorado, calling for experts in computer science, engineering, data science, business, and more. If you want to be a part of this emerging field, a formal course of education is a must. Fortunately, colleges and universities, both in Colorado and across the country, are answering the call for both undergraduate and graduate degrees in artificial intelligence. Whether you’re a newcomer to the field or advancing in it, there’s a growing number of programs in artificial intelligence that are designed with you in mind.

How AI Managed to Disrupt the Colorado State Fair

enjoying art gallery at colorado state fairWhat is art?

Artificial intelligence has been referred to as a major disruptor, changing the way we think about and approach nearly all aspects of society. While questions of privacy and bias generally garner the most attention when considering the potential negative implications of AI, at the 2022 Colorado State Fair’s art competition, the trending question was: Is art really art if it’s AI-generated? Instead of rodeos and cotton candy, AI became the trending topic when one of the winners of the annual art competition was announced.

That’s because the winner wasn’t an artist, in the traditional sense. Jason Allen of Pueblo West created and entered a piece in the competition that was created not with a brush, charcoal, or pencil; instead, he used Midjourney, an AI program that allows users to create hyper-realistic graphics from lines of text. Entitled “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” his work received the top prize in the category of emerging digital artists – the first AI-generated piece to do so.

Call it groundbreaking, revolutionary, radical… just don’t call it art, according to a league of not-so-happy artists. Swift and harsh backlash quickly followed Allen’s win, with many artists claiming that using AI to produce art is akin to cheating.

Allen, on the other hand, defended his work. When he submitted his piece, he made sure to note that it was created by Midjourney; therefore, he deceived no one and broke no rules for the competition.

Though AI-generated art has been available for some time, some of the newest AI software tools have advanced the medium by leaps and bounds, allowing amateur artists to create awe-inspiring works of art by simply typing words into a prompt.

Scores of artists have begun exploring what these AI art apps can do. Allen, for his part, submitted a piece out of curiosity. He became fascinated with the realistic images that he could create using Midjourney, calling some of the resulting artwork almost “otherworldly.”

While some artists found Allen’s submission interesting, noting that it still required human creativity to provide the software with the prompts to produce the piece, others referred to it as the “death of art” and simply “gross.”

And many more consider it plagiarism, as apps like Midjourney are built by assembling millions of images on the Internet. Artists uploading their works to the Internet may be unknowingly adding to the app’s algorithms.

Whatever side of the argument people find themselves on, this experiment-turned-blue-ribbon-award-winner serves as another reminder of the power of AI and its controversial applications.

AI Jobs in Colorado

It’s no surprise that roles in AI are growing swiftly in Colorado, given that the state’s long been known for its flourishing tech sector. In fact, the Centennial State ranks among the top five states in the nation for entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s home to a robust community of angel investors, the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN), the largest startup week in North America, and the highest tech startup density in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, jobs for computer information and research scientists in Colorado are projected to increase by 20 percent in the years leading up to 2030, rising from 410 jobs in the field in 2020 to a projected 490 jobs by 2030. During this period, Colorado should see about 40 annual job openings due to a blend of new job growth, retirements, and natural job turnover.

Artificial Intelligence Jobs in Littleton, Colorado Springs, Centennial, and Denver

Artificial intelligence is quickly showing its potential for changing how we do business. No longer relegated to just tech companies and research labs, AI is being used in nearly every part of the business world, from insurance companies to digital marketing companies. And in Colorado, the need for AI professionals across the spectrum is clear:

AI Companies in Denver, Louisville, and Longmont

From startups to established names, AI companies in Colorado are situated in some of the state’s big metro areas, particularly Denver’s tech hub.

For example, Vorto in Denver is a big name in supply chain automation. They use AI-powered technology to transform their B2B supply chain automation, which allows businesses to operate in a more economically and environmentally sustainable fashion.

AMP Robotics in Louisville is another Colorado company that’s using AI to modernize the world’s recycling infrastructure. By applying AI and automation to better recover commodities as raw materials for the global supply chain, they’re changing the way how today’s recycling facilities operate and how they recover recyclables.

Scythe Robotics in Longmont is also focusing their efforts on AI-powered automation. Here they produce sustainable autonomous technology for use in the maintenance of off-road environments. Their Terrain Aware technology allows robot-mowers to navigate any environment while protecting sensitive turf.

Denver’s Enova is using AI to change the way financial services are delivered. They provide online financial services using their AI and machine learning-powered lending platform to service both consumers and small businesses.

Artificial intelligence is also making its mark in Colorado’s leading universities. For example, the University of Colorado School of Medicine recently launched the Department of Biomedical Informatics, which focuses on addressing health disparities and improving the quality of healthcare using big data and AI. And Colorado University Boulder is also quickly emerging as a leader in AI research. Their NSF AI Institute for Student-AI Teaming (iSAT) serves as an interdisciplinary research community that’s focused on transforming classrooms into more equitable and effective learning environments. It’s a $20 million program that brings researchers from around the country to study how AI is shaping the future of education.

AI Salary in Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Denver

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), AI professionals, who fall under the broader category of computer and information research scientists, earned a median salary of $112,220 as of May 2022. AI professionals with little to no experience earned about $98,030 during this time, while those with extensive experience and advanced degrees in the field earned about $159,810.

The Boulder metro area reported one of the highest median salaries for AI professionals, at $133,410, although both the Denver and Boulder metro areas reported similar top salaries for these professionals, at about $171,000.

AI professionals like data scientists, computer scientists, and software engineers in the Colorado Springs and Denver metro areas earned a median salary of $103,500 and $107,000, respectively as of May 2022.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Master’s Degree and Certificate Courses in Colorado and Online

AI-focused degrees are still emerging in Colorado, so just a few options currently exist. However, a growing number of colleges and universities across the country have already rolled out both undergraduate and graduate degrees in AI. Because many of these degrees are offered online, students in Colorado and across the country can advance their formal education in artificial intelligence without leaving the comfort of their home.

Most bachelor’s degrees in AI are found within computer science programs and therefore offered through computer science departments, although a number of schools have also begun offering undergraduate degrees dedicated purely to AI engineering. These programs include a strong foundation in math and science, with required courses including calculus, analytic geometry, and linear algebra, alongside an AI core that includes introductory courses in AI, data science, and ethics that provide a comprehensive overview of this field of study.

Master’s degrees in AI are designed in a number of ways and offered through schools of engineering, computer science, business, arts and sciences, and more, thereby reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the field. The goal of these programs, regardless of how they’re designed, is to build a foundation for AI theory and practice. Study in the field is often offered as a specialization to a computer science or engineering degree, although stand-alone programs are also gaining in popularity.

For example, the University of Colorado Boulder offers an MS in Computer Science that includes a research focus on AI. This program also comes with options to specialize in subplans like data science and engineering, software systems and cloud computing, and robotics.

AI master’s degrees and AI engineering master’s degrees also often offer the option of further specializing in areas like data science, robotics, bioinformatics, computer vision, and machine learning.

Some of the courses commonly offered in AI master’s degrees include:

AI Computer Science Degree and Certificate Options in Boulder

Take your career in computer science to the next level by earning a master’s degree in the field that includes a specialization in AI and you’ll open new doors to in-demand positions in academia, research, and private industry:

University of Colorado Boulder

College of Engineering and Applied Science
Boulder, CO

university of colorado boulder

MS in Computer Science-AI research area (online)

Professional MS in Computer Science (online, on-campus)

Offered with sub-plans in:

Total Estimated Program Cost: $28,230 ($2,090 per-credit out-of-state)

Only public AI masters’ degrees in Colorado.

Also offers: PhD in Computer Science with an AI research area

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for computer information and research scientists. Job growth projections from the US Department of Labor-sponsored resource, CareerOneStop. Figures are based on state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed November 2023.