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

ai montana

AI is sweeping through Montana. The good news is that you’re still ahead of the curve if you’re just tuning in now.

In late 2023, public school teachers began an online high school course on AI as part of the Montana Digital Academy, highlighting the fact that school leaders along with state policy makers are aware that more must be done to prepare today’s youths for the jobs of tomorrow. This particular course introduces students to AI tools and concepts.

Bozeman is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation and Bozeman Health is acting proactively to stay ahead of supply chain issues. In 2023 BH announced it was partnering with business cloud software company Infor to improve its supply chain using AI-powered analytics tools. More broadly, this move foreshadows the pertinence of new AI software for any business or organization that’s reliant on a supply chain.

Timber and forestry products represent some of Montana’s largest manufacturing industries. AI is already starting to make inroads in these sectors by being able to identify tree species, detecting wood defects, and enabling individual log tracking.

Hunting isn’t going to escape AI’s reach either. Just think of how much deer habit data you could gather sitting in a tree stand all day, and now multiply that by AI analysis of multiple 24-hour trail cams.

If you have skills in AI techniques like natural language processing, database querying, machine learning, or image recognition then it hardly matters what industry you want to work in – virtually all offer opportunities.

How AI is Bringing Native Language to Life for Montana’s Cheyenne

little bighorn monumentThere are the usual players you’d expect to be investing in AI development – universities, tech startup incubators, aerospace companies – but a Native American tribe?

Natural language processing (NLP) is a major sub-discipline of AI. So it’s no surprise that students of all languages would be interested in AI, including those indigenous to the State of Montana.

Michael Running Wolf, who grew up in southeastern Montana’s Birney, envisions a future where AI helps to reclaim languages spoken by Native Americans.

But when it comes to applying AI strategies to Native American languages there’s currently a shortage of available data. There are tons of NLP applications for English and other common languages because there are literally millions of hours of audio that can be used for training AIs.

By contrast, the Northern Cheyenne language has about 100 hours of audio that can be used for NLP training, according to a 2023 article in the Missoulian. And the same ratio holds more or less true for every Native American language, including those of Montana’s tribes.

Theoretically, AI can “learn” any language if it has sufficient examples for training. Right now the biggest challenge for AI in perfecting Native languages is sourcing enough examples of data to create well-rounded trained output. Efforts by Running Wolf and like-minded AI professionals aim to bridge that gap.

Once that happens Alexa or Siri can respond to queries in a language like Cheyenne.

As far as language contributes to culture and identity, the potential for AI to strengthen the Native communities in Montana and across the nation may also prove invaluable. For his part, Running Wolf envisions AI’s NLP potential to even extend to being an impetus for Native Americans to learn programming.

And NLP has potential even beyond augmenting culture and identity. Linguists and anthropologists have a vested interest in seeing Native American NLP applications succeed.

With so much converging interest it’s only a matter of time before Siri gives you directions in Cheyenne.

AI Jobs in Montana

2024 projections from the International Monetary Fund show that AI is going to affect approximately 40% of all jobs worldwide. It will certainly affect the largest industries in Montana like finance, real estate, professional services, business services, tourism, and manufacturing.

2021 research revealed that 12 million tourists parted with $5 billion while they were visiting Montana. Today there’s an AI app designed to plan and book vacations called Wanderbot.

Real estate is a significant industry in Montana. In 2023 a home was on the market a median of 93 days. Montana has the fourth-lowest foreclosure rate of all states in the nation.

Using the latest advancements in AI, you can now tour a property in 3D, virtually stage custom furniture throughout a house, automate marketing, price based on predictive analytics, and discuss mortgage details with a sophisticated chatbot.

Artificial Intelligence Jobs in Missoula and Billings

In academia research into AI is revealing interesting results. As a highly technical emerging field, many AI jobs are at the intersection of where academia meets the private sector.

In one 2023 example, a professor at the University of Montana did a study scoring GPT-4 responses on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. When he compared the AI’s responses to actual student responses the result was GPT-4 ranking in the top one percent.

A biology professor at the U of M also made headlines using machine learning to identify weaknesses in lung cancer cells. AI was able to help identify patterns that would be too intricate for humans to zero in on, and these affected cancer cell metabolism and division rates.

It’s not uncommon for many AI jobs to be related to healthcare. Billings Clinic announced in 2022 that it was partnering with medical software company DreaMed to deploy diabetes care remotely that’s backed up by an AI clinical decision support tool.

This tool collects data about patients and reports the details remotely to clinicians so they can create personalized treatment plans based on real-time information. The AI crunches large amounts of data with the result being that patients can receive quick and accurate information for an optimized insulin dosage to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

AI Companies in Missoula

With its engineering offices in Missoula and its manufacturing-testing site in Stevensville, Skyfish is a company that combines drones and audio-visual. Summed up in three words Skyfish is drone data collection. This includes autonomous work drones, mission control flight planning, and data processing. Ideal uses include survey-quality inspections for power lines, bridges, and wind turbines.

Workplace impairment can be deadly. So can operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. Drug tests are a hassle and results can take time while not detecting everything. Roadside sobriety tests are a pain for everyone. Enter Gaize: an impairment detection device that’s worn like VR goggles and uses AI to measure eye movement and compute a wearer’s level of impairment. Results are ready in six minutes.

Gaize’s eponymous company is based in Missoula. It’s a startup that has a product that speaks for itself and is getting international attention.

Software as a Solution (SaaS) products are growing fast and quickly closing the gap between maximized efficiency and companies large and small. Missoula-based Workiva is a case-in-point. It’s a business platform designed to optimize audit, risk, financial reporting, and ESG. Workiva incorporates AI to bring the latest emerging SaaS technologies to your fingertips. For example, it uses generative AI for financial reporting and ESG teams.

AI Salary in Billings, Great Falls, and Missoula

AI salaries are rising across the nation, and that includes in Montana. Represented by 2022 US Department of Labor statistics for Computer and Information Systems Managers, in Montana the average statewide annual salary for AI professionals is $122,290.

Broken down by region, the highest average salary for AI professionals can be found in rural southwest Montana at $128,300.

Average salaries for AI professionals in urban settings work out to:

AI professionals at the tops of their game –represented by 90th-percentile annual salary figures– earn just shy of $200,000 in rural southwest Montana. Their urban counterparts earn $173,260 in Billings, $162,110 in Missoula, and $159,000 in Great Falls.

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

Educational options for AI are growing and schools in Montana are keeping up with the trends.

Montana State University’s Gianforte School of Computing is already offering an online graduate certificate in AI.

Meanwhile at the University of Montana professors are beginning to use AI in their research, attracting international attention.

As the options in Montana grow there are additional opportunities offered nationwide with online programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Machine Learning Degree and Certificate Options in Butte and Missoula

Academics are already making inroads in ML throughout the state.

A biology professor at the University of Montana is using it to develop lung cancer diagnostic tools. Some faculty at Montana Technological University in Butte are proud to specialize in ML.

AI Robotics Degree and Certificate Options in Bozeman

Robotics is a field developing a plethora of applications for the private, public, and defense-aerospace sectors.

The Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Montana State University offers an undergraduate minor in mechatronics.

AI Computer Science Degree and Certificate Options in Bozeman and Missoula

CS is the basic architecture on which more advanced AI learning can develop.

MSU’s Gianforte School of Computing offers degrees in computer science at the bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD levels. It also offers an MS in data science.

Meanwhile the University of Montana hosts a BS in computer science with options to specialize in fields like algorithm design, data science, and mathematical sciences.

AI Engineering Degree and Certificate Options in Missoula, Bozeman, and Butte

AI and computer engineering is where software meets hardware.

The Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering at Montana State University offers a BS in computer engineering and a specialized MS in optics and photonics. Those are in addition to its Ph.D. and master’s programs in electrical engineering.

The University of Montana offers a BS in computer science with a specialization in software engineering.

Montana Technological University hosts a BS in software engineering.

Montana State University (Public)

Gianforte School of Computing
Bozeman, MT

Montana State University

Graduate Certificate in AI (online)

Total Estimated Program Cost: $5,136 ($1,403 per-credit out-of-state)