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

Written by Rebecca Turley

virginia ai program

A near-flawless convergence of academia, government, and private business has allowed Virginia to become a veritable powerhouse for advanced technologies like artificial intelligence. While Silicon Valley is busy garnering the lion’s share of national attention for its tech industry, Virginia is quietly building its tech workforce, attracting unparalleled R&D and a bevy of corporations who love its East Coast location. The result: the D.C. metro now boasts the most concentrated tech talent market in the nation, just behind San Francisco. Here, tech jobs account for 8.3 percent of all jobs in the region. And in Fairfax, one out of every four jobs is tech-related.

Virginia has become a model of success for how to build a resilient tech industry. Its world-class talent, coupled with its pro-business climate and lower cost of living compared to its West Coast competition has allowed Virginia to become a hub of tech business creation, relocation, and expansion. Global powerhouses like Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, and Google have all made Virginia home, and rising stars in artificial intelligence, fintech, cybersecurity, manufacturing technology, and Software as a Service (Saas) continue to bolster the burgeoning tech industry here. As a result, Virginia enjoys a number of national accolades, including:

Virginia’s top-ranked tech talent pool wasn’t happenstance or sheer luck. Instead, it is the result of a focused endeavor that continues to be the single largest U.S. investment in computer science education to date. Through the creation of the Tech Talent Investment Program, Virginia has committed $2 billion to ensure the continued growth of its talent pipeline of tech professionals, with the goal of doubling the number of grads in computer science and related fields. Each year, Virginia colleges and universities produce about 12,000 graduates in these fields. As a result of the Tech Talent Investment Program, the state projects an additional 32,000 jobs over the next 20 years.

Virginia’s commitment to its tech talent pipeline has inspired many major companies to hedge their bets here. In 2018, Amazon announced plans to invest $2.5 billion to established a new headquarters (called HQ2) in Virginia, resulting in 25,000 high-paying tech jobs. And in 2020, Microsoft pledged some $64 million to develop a software development and R&D regional hub in Fairfax County, resulting in 1,500 new jobs. As a result, the region has seen a steady uptick in the number of both tech companies and tech jobs.

From emerging startups to big multinationals, Virginia’s tech companies are creating unprecedented opportunities for professionals in artificial intelligence. From machine learning engineers to data scientists to computer vision engineers to software architects, scientists and engineers in artificial intelligence are part of a growing number of tech professionals who are making waves in Virginia’s biggest industries like advanced materials, aerospace, and cybersecurity. Thanks to a proliferation of AI bachelor and master’s degree and certificate programs across the nation, both aspiring and practicing AI professionals have more opportunities than ever to make their mark in this innovative field.

How the VA Is Transforming Veteran Care Using the Power of AI

va using aiThe Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to improve veteran health and the care they provide to our nation’s heroes.

In 2019, they formally kickstarted their AI quest by forming the National Artificial Intelligence Institute (NAII), with the goal of creating a hub of AI research, implementation, policy, and collaboration throughout the VA system. Through the NAII, the VA creates and nurtures partnerships with leaders across government, industry, and research communities to produce the latest research in AI. AI experts at the VA’s twenty-plus medical centers and offices across the country put this research into motion by implementing AI technologies aimed at improving veteran care.

As a result, the VA has risen to the top to become a leader in AI technologies. The VA is now leveraging the power of AI to draw unique insights into veteran care using data collected through its Million Veteran Program. Since its creation in 2011, the Million Veteran program has amassed more than 800,000 veterans’ data, with the primary focus to explore how genes, lifestyle, and military exposure affects both health and illness in veterans.

In recent years, the VA has also implemented AI technologies to advance its system of care. For example, they’ve begun using AI and ML tools to help reduce wait times for veterans and identify those at high risk of suicide.

The VA employed the use of AI to help the Veterans Crisis Line train and maintain a team of responders. They also began using an app called Battle Buddy that utilizes conversational AI (with information gleaned from the VA’s Suicide Safety Planning program) to conduct daily check-ins with at-risk veterans. And they instituted the Stop Soldier Suicide’s Black Box Project, which uses machine learning to identify suicide risk patterns and match them with intervention services.

AI Jobs in Virginia

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of jobs for AI scientists and engineers in Virginia, who are categorized as computer information and research scientists, will increase by 13 percent in the decade leading up to 2030. During this ten-year period, the state should see about 320 annual job openings for AI professionals due to a blend of new job creation, retirements, and natural job turnover.

According to CompTIA’s 2023 State of the Tech Workforce, Virginia’s tech workforce is massive, totaling 358,713 as of 2022, which is nearly 9 percent of the total workforce here. During this time, the tech industry in Virginia had a total economic impact of $62 billion, or nearly 11 percent of the state’s total GDP. CompTIA also reported 23,483 tech businesses in Virginia as of 2022.

Between 2021 and 2022, CompTIA reported a 1.4 percent increase in the number of tech jobs in Virginia, or 4,898 jobs. Between 2022 and 2023, CompTIA projects another increase of 2.1 percent, or 7,579 tech jobs, here.

Artificial Intelligence Jobs in McLean, Arlington, Virginia Beach, and Richmond

In Virginia, AI scientists and engineers are busy behind the scenes, creating, refining, integrating, and implementing the AI technologies that are disrupting nearly every corner of business, industry, and society.

AI Companies in Arlington

In addition to global tech giants like Meta and Microsoft, Virginia has become a hub for no less than 24 Fortune 500 companies representing industries like aerospace, financial services, advanced technology, and retail. Northrop Grumman, CarMax, Dollar Tree, Capital One, General Dynamics, Boeing, and Raytheon Technologies are just some of the big names that seek out the expertise of AI scientists and engineers.

Arlington has become a prominent hub for artificial intelligence and machine learning companies. Here, private companies like Amazon and Deloitte are collaborating with federal and private research agencies like the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the Office of Naval Research, the DOD’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, the Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics, and the Accenture Federal Generative AI Center of Excellence to grow the AI field and integrate it into new and existing technologies.

Not surprisingly, Arlington has embraced tech startups here by the dozens. In fact, since 2018, the region has been home to about 200 venture capital merger and acquisition deals totaling some $7 billion.

Just some of the rising stars in AI in Arlington include:

It’s also full steam ahead for university R&D in artificial intelligence in Virginia. Thanks to the support from the Tech Talent Investment Program, some of Virginia’s biggest research universities have been able to significantly bolster their R&D efforts. For example, Virginia Tech established a $1 billion Innovation Campus (set to open in 2025) where academia, government, and industry will collaborate on projects involving emerging technologies. And at George Mason University’s Arlington campus, the Institute for Digital Innovation serves as a catalyst for the growth of the Rosslyn-Ballston innovation district. Just some of the advanced technologies being studied here include artificial intelligence, machine learning, responsible AI, autonomous and collaborative robotics, advanced transportation systems, integrated intelligence, and quantum computing.

AI Salary in Charlottesville, Richmond, and Virginia Beach

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), AI scientists and engineers in Virginia (categorized by the BLS as computer and information research scientists) earned a median salary of $137,240 as of May 2022. Those newest to the profession earned about $106,840 during this time, while those at the top of the pay scale earned about $198,890.

Median salaries for AI professionals in Virginia’s metro areas closely reflected the state’s median, with the exception of the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metro area, which fell about $10,000 below the state median:

The highest paid AI professionals in Virginia are found in Charlottesville, which reported a top salary of $216,040 as of May 2022, followed by Richmond and Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News at $173,260 and $170,380, respectively.

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

Exciting careers and professional opportunities in Virginia abound for those in the field of artificial intelligence. While experience plays a large role in this field, a formal degree or certificate program has become a valuable—and many times essential—addition to any AI professional’s resume. Fortunately, a growing number of colleges and universities across the country now offer these programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Best of all, many of these degree and certificate programs are offered in fully online formats to accommodate the needs of today’s busy, working adults and those with geographical limitations.

Though not as widely available as graduate degrees, AI bachelor’s degrees have become an increasingly popular pursuit among aspiring engineers and computer scientists. These programs, which are usually offered as part of an engineering or computer science program, feature a strong mathematics core that includes courses like linear algebra, calculus, and probability. These programs offer a comprehensive examination of both AI theory and practice. Some of the AI courses offered include computer vision, data science, machine learning, and robotics.

AI master’s degrees and certificate programs are expertly designed for career changers and practicing AI professionals looking to specialize in the field. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the field of AI, these programs feature extensive opportunities to choose a concentration. Some programs allow students to choose electives from across different departments to create a truly personalized course of graduate study. Most AI master’s degree programs are grounded in engineering or computer science and include concentration options like cybersecurity, robotics, machine learning, and autonomous systems.

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 March 2024.