Do You Need a Ph.D. To Work in AI?

Do You Need a Ph.D. To Work in AI?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a critical role in the present and upcoming tech revolutions. As a result, a rising number of high school and undergraduate college students wish to work as data scientists one day. However, can you land a job working in AI if you do not have a Ph.D.?

You do not need a Ph.D. to work in AI, as companies such as Facebook and Google hire data scientists with diverse educational backgrounds. If you want to work in AI, a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science could be very helpful, but a Master’s degree or Ph.D. is entirely optional.

This article will detail the educational experience and areas of study that can help someone get a job in AI. Read on to learn about how you can become a data scientist within a few years.

Pursuing a Career in AI With A Bachelor’s Degree

Pursuing a Career in AI With A Bachelor’s Degree
Pursuing a Career in AI With A Bachelor’s Degree

Artificial intelligence is growing exponentially, with Global Market Insights estimating that AI in retail alone will be worth up to $20 billion by 2027. There is no better time to enter the industry or begin your educational journey as you seek a career in AI or machine learning.

Majors such as computer science, data science, software engineering, and mathematics can push you towards a career in AI. Prominent colleges in the United States, such as Drexel University, also offer Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Master of Science degrees.

If you know that you want to work in AI, pursuing a Bachelor’s in a related field will be a great first step in your journey. Then you can focus on getting internships and an entry-level job before deciding whether you want to pursue your Master’s.

What Fields of Study Can Lead to a Career in AI?

What Fields of Study Can Lead to a Career in AI?
What Fields of Study Can Lead to a Career in AI?

Data science, statistics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering are the top five fields of study among people who received job offers from companies in the 365 Data Science study.

While these majors are the most common, they are not the only areas of study you can pursue your Bachelor’s or Master’s if you want to work with AI. Companies hire people who study information technology, economics, physics, and other subjects.

Even if you strive to earn your Ph.D. in the future, you do not need to gain these degrees before finding your first job in AI. You can complete your Bachelor’s, work in AI for a few years, pursue your Master’s degree, work in more prominent positions, and then decide if you still want to earn a Ph.D.

Top Artificial Intelligence Careers

Artificial intelligence connects to nearly every industry in the world, which means that the broad and varied use of AI means job opportunities in the field are equally diverse. A person who wishes to work in AI can do many jobs, depending on their interests, educational background, and work experience.

Some of the career opportunities available to people who want to work in AI include:

  • AI Developer
  • AI Researcher
  • Data Analytics
  • Data Engineer
  • Data Scientist
  • Machine Learning Engineer
  • Machine Learning Specialist
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Programmers
  • Software Architect
  • Software Developer
  • Software Engineer
  • User Experience

While all these jobs involve artificial intelligence, they are significantly unique as well. 

  • AI Researcher: An AI researcher advances data systems, oversees the development of new software, or focuses on the ethics and accountability of creating AI tools.
  • User Experience Specialist: User experience specialists work with products to ensure customers understand their functions and maximize their utility. A UX engineer’s responsibilities include determining how people interact with AI tools and identifying AI functionality to improve using those tools.
  • Machine Learning Engineer: Machine learning engineers design and program machines and software to handle autonomous tasks. Such programs are prevalent among businesses in nearly every industry, as they reduce the workload for employees.
  • Natural Language Processing: Natural language processing is another prominent job in AI, as many consumer interactions with AI require language processing. If you have ever used a chatbot or a virtual assistant, you interacted with an AI.

Please see some of our other interesting articles like “How Does AI Make Decisions?” or “Smartphone AI: Reactive Programming and Mobile Computing Machinery.”

Educational Background of Data Scientists

Educational Background of Data Scientists
Educational Background of Data Scientists

The data science job market is experiencing significant evolution, with more companies showing an interest in hiring data scientists. 365 Data Science, a company that helps train data scientists worldwide, ran a study to better understand the jobs available to people in the sector.

The study focused on 1,170 job postings from 357 companies and included the educational requirements, fields of study, work experience, and other criteria companies sought when hiring in AI.

There were 209 job openings with no educational requirement, 544 that required a Bachelor’s degree, 367 asking for a Master’s degree, and only 50 seeking Ph.D. graduates. The 365 Data Science study also broke down the numbers based on the size of the hiring company. 

Small and mid-sized companies only asked for a Bachelor’s Degree, compared with a Master’s Degree or Ph.D. qualifications, by a two-to-one margin. The requirements from larger companies for Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees were pretty equal, but very few postings mentioned requiring a Ph.D.

Such data corroborate the experiences of data scientists in the United States. Rachel Thomas, who works as a data scientist, created an extensive list of high-profile data scientists who do not have PhDs.

Transitioning From a Career in IT to AI

Given the projected growth of artificial intelligence in the coming two decades, people working in Information Technology (IT) industries might be interested in transitioning into a career in AI.

As per the head of technology strategy at OpenText, Zachary Jarvinen, a role in AI is a natural next step for many people currently working in the information technology sector. Your background in technology is an asset in the field already.

IT professionals who wish to transition to artificial intelligence should start by honing their programming skills. Your training can expedite the process, and if you have java programming skills, that is also a further advantage. Programmers with experience in languages like Python and R can quickly learn the skills required to become data scientists.

Training With Programming Languages Like Python Could Help

Training With Programming Languages Like Python Could Help
Training With Programming Languages Like Python Could Help

According to Ram Palaniappan from TEKsystems, there are many programming languages used in AI, and Python is an advantageous language to learn. Python is widely used for artificial intelligence.

Books such as Python Crash Course by Eric Matthes from can help you learn the programming language. Matthe’s book teaches you how to use Python libraries and tools, make 2D games, and create web apps.

There might be a specific sector where you have an interest in applying artificial intelligence to solve problems. If that is the case, you must spend time understanding that sector and its issues before you attempt to create an AI-based solution.

Others Have Made the Leap

Software engineers are also in a prime position to transition into a career in AI, given they already possess some of the necessary skills to work in machine learning.

Guillermo Carrasco Hernández, a machine learning engineer at Zettle by PayPal, writes about his journey from software engineer to AI in a blog post for KD Nuggets. 

Hernández spent a lot of time learning Python before becoming more comfortable with the software development required for machine learning. He was not afraid to leverage free or modestly priced online resources, such as courses at Udacity.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts - Do You Need a Ph.D. To Work in AI?
Final Thoughts – Do You Need a Ph.D. To Work in AI?

Young people are unsurprisingly eager to work with artificial intelligence in some capacity. More companies rely on computer vision, language processing, speech analysis, and other forms of AI. The evolution of AI is likely to change the world in the coming decades. 

If you hope to work in AI, you do not necessarily need to pursue your Ph.D. Having a Bachelor’s is a great start, and a Master’s degree even more advantageous. Gaining relevant work and life experience and showing a willingness to learn on the job can help you start a career as a data scientist.

Don’t let anyone box you in, as the true breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence will come from areas we never imagined.


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John Mortensen

As a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, geologist, or scientist. I became a project manager which is involved with many of those things. I am a project manager and tech writer who researches the latest alternative and green technologies. We write helpful articles about green electronics and green technology products. AI, extreme weather, electric vehicles, are all in our future and we want to know the best way to deal with the effects of these on the power grid and emergency preparedness.

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