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

Written by Rebecca Turley

ai student in illinois

The world is on the precipice of an artificial intelligence revolution. This emerging field has the power to disrupt and transform everything from how we do business to how we combat climate change, and its influence is felt across all industries and sectors. In Illinois, AI is leading the charge in the modernization of the life sciences sector, leveraging data to solve complex medical challenges, fast track drug development, and streamline clinical decision-making like never before.

From drug discovery to disease diagnosis, Illinois’ life science sector has always been a powerhouse, both in the state and across the country, so it’s no surprise that it’s home to some of the latest AI innovations. It’s a massive sector here – more than 41,000 people are employed in the 98-billion-dollar life sciences sector in Illinois.

The sector is undoubtedly anchored by Cook County, which is home to three major research universities making significant strides in AI research: Northwestern, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. It’s also where you’ll find a thriving startup community and major pharmaceutical companies like Astellas. In fact, Chicagoland has emerged as the state’s life sciences leader, and it shows.

For example, Tempus, led by Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky, chose Chicago for its headquarters a few years ago. This precision medicine startup, which is using AI to collect and analyze molecular and clinical data to fight disease, is now valued at $8.1 billion.

Chicago ranks as the fifth largest life sciences metropolitan region in terms of employment in the life sciences, and its leading universities and medical centers are just a few of the reasons why startups are drawn to the region. Today, Illinois is ranked among the top recipient states in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding. In recent years, 12 Chicago institutions and two national labs have received about $2.5 billion in academic research funding.

Inspired by the growth of Tempus and the superb talent pool from the region’s top universities, many more startups in life sciences sector have begun emerging in Chicago. Venture capitalists like John Flavin (Portal Innovations) have also begun flocking to the state to create the next generation of AI-powered life sciences companies. Flavin announced he’s bringing about 750,000 square feet of state-of-the-art lab space to Fulton Market. And Illinois Governor Pritzker recently announced that the state will invest about $9 million to support grants to lab incubators here.

Just some of the AI-powered life sciences companies to emerge in the Chicagoland area, courtesy of Flavin’s Portal Innovations, include:

From rising tech startups to established names, Illinois is where you’ll find AI-fueled companies that are changing the face of business and industry. AI opportunities in Illinois are plentiful; now it’s time to earn the degree that’ll position you for top roles in the field. Whether you choose one of Illinois’ AI degrees or you find an online program that’s aligned with your goals, you’ll always be well-served by adding AI education credentials to your resume.

Innovating Conversational AI: The AICE Partnership Between UIUC and Amazon

ai conversationThe University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign isn’t a stranger to industry collaboration, but it’s 2023 partnership with Amazon seeks to be a gamechanger in conversational AI.

The Amazon-Illinois Center on Artificial Intelligence for Interactive Conversational Experiences Center – better known as AICE, will become a hub of novel innovations for conversational AI systems.

Part of the Grainger College of Engineering, AICE will support the college’s researchers as they seek novel approaches to conversational AI systems. Conversational AI has the potential for many uses in the future, including data collection and translation.

Researchers are working on creating AI systems like Alexa that are able to pick up on social and emotional cues in human conversations. They are also finding novel ways to make AI programs learn from conversation and remember specific details of their users.

Researchers will be entrenched in the study of contextual understanding, emotional intelligence, personalization, and non-verbal communication as they relate to conversational AI during this multi-year partnership. (Amazon is investing $1 million into AICE over the next two years.) Annual fellowships will also be awarded to doctoral students conducting research in this area. Fellowship recipients will enjoy unmatched mentoring from Amazon scientists.

AICE will also host public symposiums where university researchers and Amazon scientists will have the opportunity to share their work in the field and discuss emerging areas of interest.

AICE continues the university’s strong tie with Amazon. Since 2017, Amazon has bestowed 23 Amazon Research Awards to UIUC faculty. It also supported the 2021 Speech Accessibility Project at UIUC, which seeks to improve voice recognition algorithms for people with disabilities.

AI Jobs in Illinois

There’s plenty to get excited about in Illinois if a career in AI is in your future. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, scientists, engineers, data analysts, and similar AI professionals in Illinois are expected to increase by 21 percent in the years leading up to 2030.

In 2020, there were about 380 of these professionals in the Prairie State. By 2030, this number is projected to increase to about 460. The state should see about 40 job openings annually in this emerging field during this time.

Artificial Intelligence Jobs in Chicago, Hillside, and Lemont

AI scientists, machine learning engineers, software architects, data scientists, research analysts, and a bevy of other professionals are in demand throughout Illinois, across all industries and sectors. For example:

AI Companies in Chicago, Aurora, Champaign, and Springfield

Not surprising, Chicago has become a breeding ground for AI companies that are making serious inroads in this emerging field. For example, Chicago’s Production Edge, a digital business consultant, has been using innovative digital strategies and engineering solutions, including artificial intelligence, to help clients in healthcare achieve better customer experiences, improve efficiency, and increase profitability.

But there are also plenty of strides in AI being made in other parts of the state. For example, Aurora-based Global Sciences Data Inc., a pioneer in data collection, visualization, integration, and results modeling, solves and resolves inventory problems for customers. Their AI research arm explores, analyzes, and advances artificial intelligence and machine learning to build upon their services in predictive analysis, supply chain optimization, shop floor visualization, inventory reduction, and electronic data interchange.

And groundbreaking advances in AI are always being made at the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont. One of six U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science national user facilities, Argonne National Laboratory serves as a multidisciplinary science and engineering research center for the facility’s researchers, as well as from visiting researchers from all over the world.

Not to be outdone, Illinois universities are home to outstanding innovations in artificial intelligence:

AI Salary in Illinois

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), AI professionals in Illinois, who fall under the broader BLS category of computer and information research scientists, earned a median salary of $114,330 as of May 2022. AI scientists and engineers with little experienced earned a salary of about $93,220 during this time, while those at the top of the pay scale, likely those with advanced degrees and extensive experience, earned about $143,720.

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

A growing number of colleges and universities, both in Illinois and across the country, have begun offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees in AI. Because many of these degrees are offered online, students can advance their formal education in artificial intelligence without leaving the comfort of their home.

AI bachelor’s degrees in AI provide students with a comprehensive foundation in the emerging field, usually from a computer science perspective. However, a number of AI bachelor’s degrees are also being offered as stand-alone degrees that draw from a number of colleges and departments within the college or university. You can expect a strong math and science focus, with courses like linear algebra, calculus, and probability as normal fare.

Master’s degrees and graduate certificates in AI are designed for practicing computer scientists and engineers who want to focus their skillset on this field or a subset within the field. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the field, AI master’s degrees and graduate certificate programs are offered through schools of engineering, computer science, arts and sciences, and more.

For example, the Illinois Institute of Technology offers an MAS in AI and a Graduate Certificate in Computational Intelligence through its College of Computing, while Northwestern University’s MS in AI, MS in Data Science with a specialization in AI, and Advanced Graduate Certificate in AI are all offered through the university’s McCormick School of Engineering.

Many graduate programs in AI offer many specialization options that allow students to focus their study on AI topics like machine learning, robotics, intelligent systems, deep learning, and computer vision. Many programs allow students to choose from a variety of electives that draw from various colleges across campus.

AI Computer Science Degree and Certificate Options in Chicago

AI computer science degree and certificate programs in Chicago are where students learn to apply problem-solving, creative thinking, algorithmic design, and computer programming skills to build modern AI systems.

AI Engineering Degree and Certificate Options in Evanston

AI engineering degree and certificate programs in Evanston allow students to learn to master the depth and breadth of complex AI technologies and the way intelligent systems are designed and deployed.

Illinois Institute of Technology

College of Computing
Chicago, IL

illinois institute of technology

MAS in AI (online)

Total Estimated Program Cost: $51,360

Total tuition comes in at $33,551 below the state average for similar programs.

Graduate Certificate in Computational Intelligence (online)


Total Estimated Program Cost: $15,408

Also Offers: BS in AI, Minor in AI, MS in Computational Decision Science and Operations Research, and Certificate, PhD with research in AI and Machine Learning

Northwestern University (Private)

McCormick School of Engineering
Evanston, IL

northwestern university

MS in AI (on-campus)

MS in Data Science - AI Specialization (online)


Total Estimated Program Cost: $84,911

Advanced Graduate Certificate in AI (online)


Total Estimated Program Cost: $13,716

Saint Louis University (Private)

McCormick School of Engineering
Evanston, IL

Saint Louis University

MS in AI (on-campus)

Offered with concentration options in:

Also offers:

Total Estimated Program Cost: $42,000

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.