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

Written by Rebecca Turley

scientist using ai

The power and influence of artificial intelligence can be felt in all sectors and in nearly every industry. AI is revolutionizing systems, practices, and processes and prompting everyone from decision makers to policymakers to explore its capacity to transform everything from medicine to manufacturing. Advanced technology is the party that everyone wants to be invited to, and AI is the guest of honor.

Never one to be late to a party, Tennessee has embarked upon a digital journey that embraces today’s tech landscape and artificial intelligence’s illustrious position within it. Tennessee’s state agencies are hard at work, modernizing systems and integrating emerging technologies aimed at IT service expansion. This includes overhauling the state’s unemployment insurance, offender management, and child welfare systems and implementing AI-enabled chatbots that deftly handle requests and inquiries. The state has also begun integrating AI bots into its enterprise resource planning system to facilitate digital navigation for state employees. Thanks to AI, the Volunteer State is making significant, lasting tech strides aimed at streamlining operations, reducing worker demand, and creating efficient systems designed to benefit all Tennesseans.

But that’s not all. AI is changing the landscape of Tennessee’s biggest metro areas, prompting the growth of new tech hubs that are making waves and producing cutting-edge innovations that are transforming business and industry at every turn.

Nashville clearly got the AI memo. The Music City, which has become a rising tech hub, largely focused on healthcare technologies, is where innovation in artificial intelligence is redefining the practice of medicine and the delivery of healthcare. Its healthcare industry is massive, accounting for $97 billion in annual revenue, according to the Nashville Health Care Council. The city’s dynamic network of more than 900 healthcare companies, two medical schools and teaching hospitals, several leading research universities, and a bevy of investment firms has created an environment where advanced technologies like AI thrive in the healthcare space.

Not surprising, tech startups are as commonplace as recording studios, live music venues, and aspiring songwriters. Take, for instance, Thyme Care, which features a value-based oncology care management platform called Thyme Box. It’s powered by data analytics and designed to leverage insights to recommend personalized care and resources for patients. In 2023, the company raised $60 million in Series B funding to accelerate partnerships and expand into new markets. And there’s Monogram Health, a tech-enabled in-home kidney disease management company that uses proprietary AI systems and digital tools to identify the needs of patients with kidney disease and help them manage care from their home. In 2023, this rising Nashville tech startup raised $160 million in Series B funding.

Meanwhile, in June 2021, three big East Tennessee institutions – Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the University of Tennessee System – announced a partnership with Techstars, a startup accelerator, to transform the Knoxville-Oak Ridge corridor into a national innovation hub. Their lofty plans include supporting no less than 30 tech companies in just three years. As of 2022, they’ve managed to attract some of the most promising AI companies to the Knoxville area, such as Be Global Safety, which features an AI platform that detects and prevents workplace accidents in real-time…  Modicus Prime, whose AI platform detects contamination and anomalies in pharmaceutical drugs… and Augurisk, which uses AI to determine the impact that weather disasters and crime can have on a home’s value.

Not to be outdone, Chattanooga is creating its own robust tech environment, from the ground up. Chattanooga is now home to one of the first commercially available quantum networks in the nation. Quantum applications, though still in their infancy, are expected to revolutionize cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. The city’s quantum network lays the groundwork for unprecedented opportunities in research and workforce development, and the region’s big universities like the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are hosting Electric Power Board (EPB) Quantum Network nodes and creating a quantum ecology that includes preparing a quantum-ready workforce and supporting new business investment.

It’s an exciting time to be part of Tennessee’s burgeoning tech sector where machine learning engineers, computer vision engineers, research and development engineers, and data scientists are becoming valuable additions to a company’s AI efforts. But if you want to become part of this interdisciplinary field of study, you’ll need a solid foundation that only a formal degree can provide. Fortunately, a growing number of colleges and universities, both in Tennessee and across the country, now offer undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs in artificial intelligence. And because many of these programs are offered in fully online formats, earning the degree that will position you for success in AI is easier and more convenient than ever.

Chattanooga’s Smart Revolution: Paving the Way with an AI-Powered Intersection Network

bridge in chattanoogaChattanooga is known for its Southern charm, its rich railroad history, and soon, the largest smart intersection in the country.

Smart intersections are no longer a futuristic notion in many parts of the country. They’re transforming cities and creating safer, more efficient roadways for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. In Chattanooga, they’re taking smart intersections to the next level, harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to create an entire network of innovative thoroughfares.

In January 2023, the City of Chattanooga’s Department of Innovation Delivery and Performance announced that it had begun working with Seoul Robotics, a company behind 3D infrastructure technology, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to build the largest smart intersection in the country. The Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the smart city and urbanization research center, is also working on this groundbreaking project.

This project will result in 86 new smart city intersections throughout Chattanooga—the largest of its kind in the country.

To get the ball rolling, the U.S. Department of Transportation will dedicate $4.5 million to create a “living laboratory” that will help researchers on the project better understand the city’s traffic flow. Once roadways and intersections have been mapped and tracked, they’ll begin installing the systems that will essentially blanket the entire downtown area – 100 intersections in total.

These smart intersections will use Seoul Robotics’ 3D perception software called SENSR, which is designed to detect, track, and predict the movement of people and cars using advanced deep learning AI technologies. They work with LiDAR sensors to provide accurate, real-time data to identify possible hazards, incidents, and traffic congestion and bottlenecks. The City of Chattanooga also has plans to leverage this data to prepare for the transition to electric vehicles.

AI Jobs in Tennessee

According to the U.S. Department of Labor stats, Tennessee is among the top states in the nation for its job growth for AI scientists and engineers (classified as computer information and research scientists). In the decade leading up to 2030, these jobs are expected to grow by an impressive 32 percent. During this ten-year period, the state is expected to see about 30 annual job openings in the field due to a blend of new job creation, retirements, and natural job turnover.

According to CompTIA’s 2023 State of the Tech Workforce, there were 123,909 people employed in Tennessee’s tech sector in 2022, which is about 3.7 percent of the state’s total workforce. Between 2021 and 2022 alone, tech jobs in Tennessee grew by 6.2 percent, or 7,228 jobs. CompTIA projects that between 2022 and 2023, tech jobs in the Volunteer State will rise again by 4.8 percent, or 5,962 jobs.

Artificial Intelligence Jobs in Nashville, Franklin, Memphis, and Knoxville

From the west to the middle to the east, Memphis to Nashville to Knoxville, AI scientists and engineers are the behind-the-scenes stars of Tennessee’s AI revolution.

AI Companies in Memphis, Nashville, Oak Ridge, and Brentwood

Tennessee is abuzz with activity in AI. From emerging to established companies utilizing the power of AI to solve some of the most pressing issues in areas like medicine and manufacturing to top research universities exploring the social implications of this emerging field to federal research labs focused on the use of AI for national security, Tennessee is teeming with opportunities to become part of the swiftly growing AI landscape.

Nashville has always been a major player for Tennessee technology. Facebook (Meta), Dell, Oracle, Eventbrite, Lyft, and Postmates have all established tech hubs in Nashville. And in 2020, Amazon announced that it had already hired 1,000 employees for its Nashville office. The company selected Nashville as its East Coast hub in 2018. Called its Operations Center of Excellence, this hub expects to bring about 5,000 jobs to Nashville in the years to come.

There are also plenty of emerging companies making significant strides in AI across the state. For example, PathAI in Memphis is a laboratory services company that’s developing AI models designed to accurately analyze patient tissue samples for clinical trials and diagnostic use. Through their crowd-sourced pathology network that includes more than 450 pathologists, PathAI is able to leverage data from more than 15 million annotations to help accelerate drug development and improve the accuracy of diagnoses.

And in Nashville, Universal Logic provides full-stack automation solutions for supply chains. Its Neocortex software platform uses sensor data, machine control and AI to control robots to perform semi-skilled labor tasks. Their Neocortex Pallet Sorter offers hands-free sorting via an industrial robot that’s controlled by the Neocortex software “brain.”

A bevy of companies are also making their way to Tennessee to take advantage of its robust startup support environment. For example, Genus AI is a San Francisco transplant that moved its headquarters to Nashville in 2023. This company boasts a generative AI platform that helps brands grow across social media channels. This rising star has garnered $11 million in funding since its creation in 2017 – $6 million of which was raised since its move to Tennessee.

Nashville’s tech ecosystem has been carefully crafted and nurtured, thanks to an outstanding startup support system. LRVHealth, Altitude Ventures, and Hashed Health are just a few of the VC firms that are backing the newest healthcare-based tech enterprises. Nashville is also home to the Greater Nashville Venture Capital Association (GNVCA), which promises to keep both capital and talent in ready supply as to attract new VCs to the region, and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, which connects startups with the resources they need. In the last decade alone, the Center has helped more than 14,000 Nashville entrepreneurs raise more than $319 million in capital.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science national laboratory, leads the pack for R&D efforts in Tennessee. ORNL is home to more than 6,000 people who have been working in AI research for more than 40 years. Today, ORNL’s AI Initiative is focused on the use of safe, dependable, and energy-efficient AI for three domains: scientific discovery, experimental facilities, and national security. They’ve recently launched its Center for AI Security Research (CAISER), which seeks to scientifically analyze vulnerabilities, threats, and risks related to artificial intelligence. Its focus on emerging AI threats emphasizes cyber, biometrics, geospatial analysis, and nonproliferation.

Of course, the state’s leading research universities are putting the muscle behind the AI talent and tech startups that are emerging throughout the state.

For example, the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Tennessee State University, and Vanderbilt University are all founding members of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) new Mid-South Innovation Corps Hubs, a regional hub that of nine universities that are working together to prepare and support the growth of tech talent and new, high-growth companies and the creation of new innovation centers.

Vanderbilt University is knee deep in exciting research in artificial intelligence throughout its university system. In November 2023, Vanderbilt University Medical Center announced the creation of AVAIL: Advanced Vanderbilt Artificial Intelligence Lab, which will provide leadership in the creation, testing, and management of AI technologies across the VUMC enterprise. At the Vanderbilt University School of Law, the Vanderbilt AI Legal Lab (VAILL) focuses on how AI intersects with the delivery of legal services and access to justice, while the Vanderbilt Data Science Institute hosts the Initiative on the Future of Learning & Generative AI, a hub for the entire Vanderbilt community that will search for new and responsible ways to use Generative AI.

And the AI Tennessee Initiative at the University of Tennessee Knoxville is focused on collaborating with academic, industry, and community partners across the state to leverage the benefits of artificial intelligence in all disciplines and economic sectors.

AI Salary in Nashville and Knoxville

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), AI scientists and engineers (categorized by the BLS as computer and information research scientists) in Tennessee earned a median salary of $111,680 as of May 2022. Those newest to the profession earned about $106,030, while those at the top of the pay scale earned about $200,940.

AI professionals in the Knoxville metro area earned a median salary of $106,810 and a top salary of $200,910 as of May 2022, while those in the Nashville metro area earned slightly more, with a median salary of $117,990 and a top salary of $210,100.

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

Artificial intelligence degree and certificate programs are rising in popularity, both in Tennessee and across the country, creating exciting opportunities for aspiring and practicing engineers and scientists with ambitions of being valuable members of this advanced technology that’s disrupting nearly everything in its path.

AI bachelor’s degrees, which are usually designed as part of a computer science or engineering degree, provide a broad foundation in the field. These programs feature a strong math core, with courses like linear algebra, statistics, and calculus, alongside both theory and practical applications in AI. Courses often include an examination of AI subfields like machine learning, computer vision, and data science.

AI master’s degrees and graduate certificate programs are ideally designed for practicing engineers and scientists and career changers with a background in a similar field. Most colleges and universities offer AI master’s degrees as part of engineering or computer science programs, although some are also offered in schools of arts and sciences, philosophy, and even more, reflecting the field’s interdisciplinary nature.

The University of Tennessee Knoxville offers two options for study in artificial intelligence at the master’s level: an MS in Computer Science with a concentration in Data Mining and Intelligent Systems and a graduate Certificate in AI and Machine Learning, both of which are offered through the Tickle College of Engineering. The AI master’s degree is offered as a fully online format for outstanding convenience and flexibility, while the AI graduate certificate offers your choice of an online or on-campus format.

AI Computer Science Degree and Certificate Options in Knoxville

AI computer science degree and certificates allow students to study the field of artificial intelligence as an emerging area of computer science. These programs are rich in software engineering coursework and study in AI areas like data mining and analysis, deep learning, and computer vision.

University of Tennessee Knoxville

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Philadelphia, PA

university of tennessee knoxville

MS in Computer Science with a Data Mining and Intelligent Systems concentration (online)

Total Estimated Program Cost: $21,120 ($779 per-credit out-of-state)

Only public AI master’s degree in Tennessee.

Graduate Certificate in AI and Machine Learning (on-campus, online)

Also offers:

Total Estimated Program Cost: $11,265 ($779 per-credit out-of-state)

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 February 2024.