AI in Business and Government: AI Degrees For Careers Working with Tools and Techniques Revolutionizing Business and Government Operations

Written by Scott Wilson

ai business

Artificial intelligence is a marvel, there’s no doubt. But today, some of the biggest and most awe-inspiring demonstrations of the new power of machine reasoning are only beginning to be realized.

Who would have guessed that the first wave of artificial intelligence would be the court jester, a chat bot commanded to create songs, weave stories, and answer random questions at the command of capricious commoners at their kingly keyboards?

ai helping businessmanThis is what academics and the best minds of a generation of AI researchers have come up with: tools that create paintings of six-fingered people and generate an unlimited supply of dirty limericks.

If AI is going to change the world—and it will—it’s going to need masters that have a bigger vision. It’s going to need professionals skilled in both the heavyweight details of algorithms and the demands of business and governance.

Fortunately, there are degrees in AI that can prepare you for both.

Identifying the Best Degree Programs to Drop You into Business Roles in AI Management

As it stands, these are just one of three general types of AI degree programs that are starting to emerge across the American university landscape. The other two are:

Clearly there is room for an entire class of experts that fall somewhere between those two ends.

Generalists who understand the technology, but who can also see broader implications in various types of businesses, are going to be crucial.

While these individuals will fall into those roles through their personal inclinations and abilities, they are going to need both advanced AI training and more general business and communication skills. While you can get to such a point through any sort of AI degree, programs in this category will get you there faster and with less additional work.

They are aimed at graduates who will tackle some of the tough problems in implementation that AI faces today:

Careers Available to Graduates with Business-Oriented AI Degrees

ai machine learningThe best thing about careers for graduates with these kinds of degrees is that they will be available in just about every industry, in almost any field imaginable. Accounting systems in the automotive parts supply business will be impacted by AI; so will big Hollywood studios, architecture firms, and marketers working for fast-food chains. And each and every single one of those will come from very different applications.

Naturally, you’ll still find all the longstanding conventional roles and job titles in business using AI to augment their work in HR, marketing, accounting, finance, corporate law, business analysis, and the rest.

But, just as naturally, there will be a great need for people to help spot the opportunities where AI should step in, and then architect the systems and train the machines to get the job done. They’ll often have shiny new job titles like:

And there will be many of the same job titles as exist throughout corporate IT departments in America already, but which will soon take on additional roles and responsibilities in dealing directly with AI systems:

Also in this general field are the jobs that society will rely on to oversee and manage AI for the good of all. Many roles in non-profit think-tanks or at public agencies will need the kind of expertise it takes to understand the implications and capabilities of AI as it evolves. They might fall into roles like:

There’s also a lot to do in management to break new ground for AI systems. AI degree holders with solid organizational and business skills will also find themselves climbing toward the top of any company that needs strong technical plus strong leadership skills to handle the big transitions to an AI-enabled economy.

How Do ML and AI Technologies Help Businesses?

There’s no specific set of companies that will be the first on this bandwagon. It’s going to be down to market forces and leadership to see who the early adopters are.

Anywhere that automation is already in play and competition is high, expect to see corporations building out their AI capabilities.

automated robotics in warehouseThere’s also a set of companies that are cleanly aligned with some of the current breakthrough capabilities that AI is demonstrating. The film industry is clearly intrigued by photorealistic AI mimicry that can provide a cast of thousands for a payroll of a few dozen. Publishers are lining up to see what GPT text generators can do to punch up their word count while slimming down their bottom line. And the transportation industry is all agog at self-driving vehicles and safety enhancements that visual processing systems are enabling.

Not every company in every industry is going to hire someone as high-caliber as a master’s graduate with deep technical skills in AI, though. Like other kinds of specialist companies that serve most industries, there are likely to be a lot of AI service and consulting firms. For that matter, big consulting firms already working in business today are hiring AI experts left and right… they see where the trend is heading.

Similarly, governments are preparing at federal, state, and local levels to deal with AI. The United States Digital Service is one recent effort looking to hire AI experts. Serving as a kind of internal consultancy for government, they are doing the kind of big-picture thinking and scoping that AI experts with these types of degrees will excel at.

Secret Careers in AI Are Already Taking Off

high tech control roomThere will be the government jobs that no one spends a lot of time talking about – those in defense and intelligence. AI will profoundly change both those roles, probably in ways that aren’t fully understood yet. Expertise is going to be needed to help see both threats and opportunities from AI at the Pentagon and at agencies like the NSA (National Security Agency) and CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).

In defense, new threats from autonomous drones loom large on the horizon, with drone warfare already dominating the Russia-Ukraine war and becoming prominent in the Israel-Hamas conflict. And the clear threat of AI in cyber warfare is already changing cybersecurity in both corporate and government circles.

AI experts will have to both develop ways to fend off adversaries and develop AI weapons that can be used safely by American forces.

In intelligence, it tells you something that the CIA is already recruiting for open source targeting and collection specialists who have AI skills. The ability to quickly process and analyze vast amounts of data can turn up new intelligence sources in plain sight… only where humans could never take in enough information to reveal them.

It’s an exciting and important niche for AI, which these kinds of degrees can help qualify you to perform.

With Big Profits on the Line, AI Jobs in Business Are Likely to Command Top Salaries

coin and arrowsIt’s too soon to have an accurate picture of what salaries will look like for AI professionals in the business and engineering world. But if there is one thing you can bet on, it’s that they are likely to be higher than the average for their categories.

So, for all the salary data listed below, we’ve taken Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) measures for the top ten percent in those roles.

But that just brings us to another challenge: BLS doesn’t cover any special industry or position categories for AI. And since we’re talking about roles emerging throughout corporate and government structures across the country, that leaves a broad swath of data feeding the averages.

There’s also little correlation between job titles from company to company, which makes tying them to BLS data a little fuzzy. Someone should build an AI to figure that out!

But what we have come up with is a list of established BLS categories that represent where most AI jobs in most industries fall today, together with what the top ten percent in those jobs are earning:

Since this data is from 2022, you must account for the huge leaps that the market for AI professionals in the business world has undergone since.

Curriculum Makes All the Difference in Studying Business-Focused AI Engineering

coding reflection in glassesWhat makes these degrees different from those in the other two categories is, in a word, curriculum. The specific classes you take will have a slightly broader and less focused set of subjects to deliver a balanced education in both AI and social and business considerations.

That means coursework like:

Principles of Software Development

Building new tools for business and consumers in the software world is like no other kind of manufacturing. But putting together AI systems is closer to this than any other. So learning how software is built and deployed is part of the process for business-oriented AI degrees.

Management for the Computer Science Professional

Learning to adapt information technology departments and development toward business needs and serve as the connecting point between business professionals and the tech team is important in these jobs. You’ll get a look at project and resource management skills and tools and learn how to communicate technical details to non-technical staff.

Ethical Leadership in Software Development

AI leaders must be extra attentive to the ethical challenges on this new technology frontier. So coursework in the ethics of personal privacy, information security, and bias in algorithmic reasoning will all be covered in depth.

Of course, these come on top of the standard core education in advanced AI systems and programming, with classes like:

In some cases, you’ll find that arts degrees are the best choice for this career path. That’s because degrees in the arts lean more toward humanities and soft skills, even when they are covering hardcore STEM fields like AI. A sciences program will fill every nook and cranny of your studies in hard sciences. That’s ideal if you’re going into the computer science side of AI, but for business applications, it’s useful to broaden your knowledge of philosophy, communication, and other traditional liberal arts subjects.

What Level of Degree Do You Need to Qualify as an AI Expert in Business?

young graduateWhile it’s master’s degrees that are getting most of the attention in the world of AI right now, you don’t jump immediately to the graduate level without some serious preparation. And for many AI professionals, a master’s is just another steppingstone to more advanced education.

You will find programs that help build your portfolio from the undergraduate level on up. A Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence is a firm foundation, offering core math, statistical, and computer science fundamentals to build on. It also comes with a comprehensive liberal studies curriculum that serves as a good start to the kind of communication and leadership skills that engineers in business and government AI projects must have.

The Master of Arts in Artificial Intelligence puts the finishing touches on most qualifications for careers in this area of the field. With extensive higher math, programming concepts, and studies of logic and reason, you come out with a high-level understanding of the latest in AI application and development. Advanced specializations in specific fields are also possible in these two-year programs.

Although it’s not a hard and fast rule, one clue that you are getting a business-oriented AI education is when you find applied degrees, like a Master of Science in Applied Artificial Intelligence.

For even more focus on AI as a whole or in specific areas, a PhD in Artificial Intelligence is the ultimate prize. Taking around three years to complete, you can tailor your studies to become an expert in any narrow slice of AI you are interested in. While many PhDs are more computer science focused, a Doctor of Engineering in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning offers another path more suited to AI roles in business, and of course, engineering careers. The DEng is just as intensive, but more grounded in real-world applications and with a leadership focus.

Although demanding, these programs, at both the master’s and doctoral levels, deliver great flexibility in choosing your areas of study. A thesis or capstone project requirement is built in, but since you select the subject, your research and thinking can align closely with your career objectives.

There are also Certificates in Artificial Intelligence available at the graduate and postgraduate levels. These are designed to build on existing degrees you may hold, adding in a reduced, but focused set of coursework in AI or a subfield of AI, as is the case with a Certificate in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning or a Graduate Certificate in Ethical Artificial Intelligence. If you already have the extensive computer science, math, and communication skills needed for these careers, a certificate can fill in any gaps you have that are specific to AI.

Finding Schools That Offer the Ideal Education for Business-Focused AI Professionals

studying in headphonesMore and more schools are offering degrees in AI all the time. So how do you find the right programs for AI business?

The only sure way is to dive into the details of the curriculum being taught. Making sure it has the right spectrum of communication and overall business coursework will tell you plenty about the aim.

You might find that the difference isn’t necessarily in the degree program itself, but even between specific concentrations offered at the same school. In other cases, multiple AI degrees from the same university might suggest different intentions… one offered by the school of engineering, for example, is probably more practical while one coming from the computer science department is likely to be more research and development oriented.

Ensuring You Get the Right Balance of AI and Business Skills by Picking the Right University

heading to classIn every case, though, you want to make sure you get a quality education as well as one that is focused on your areas of interest.

Fortunately, the features you want to look for are aligned with both goals. For example, strong partnerships with existing businesses and industry are a good sign of a program that offers real-world training valued in the job market. But it’s also a way to see what kind of education you will be getting—if companies in a certain industry are flocking to a particular school, it’s a good sign their degrees are what that industry is looking for.

You’ll also want to take a close look at your prospective professors. They should have a substantial background in AI work, with a publication and research track record that tells you exactly where their expertise is.

Finally, you need all the various kinds of academic support and counseling that any student will need to get through a tough degree program:

It’s worth evaluating related schools at the university to see how they hold up to your criteria, too. If you’re looking for a career in business, check out how the business school ranks and what relationships it has in industry. If government is more your goal, look at the public policy or public affairs departments to see how they stack up. Whatever your goal in business or other applied AI fields, make sure you are getting one-stop shopping for that expertise at your university of choice.

While AI programs for business professionals may be the least well-developed path in AI education right now, it’s the path with the most room to grow. Every potential breakthrough in the field needs to be adapted to real-world uses and made to work in actual business processes. And it will be graduates with this kind of education behind them who will be prepared to meet the demand for professionals capable of doing that work.

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Computer Hardware Engineers, Computer Systems Analysts, Computer Programmers, and Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed December 2023.