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A future proof degree? Artificial Intelligence is now a major at this university

Despite a tight labor market, schools are positioning computer science graduates for a rapidly changing jobs ecosystem

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Undergrads at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science (SCS) can now major in one of the most hyped computer science fields in recent memory: Artificial Intelligence.

The new degree is touted as the first of its kind in the nation, and it takes dead aim at a high-salary computer science job market primed for growth. It's also in line with a trend toward increasing specialization within American undergraduate computer science programs.

That's in part a response to upward pressure from students abroad, including in developing countries like India, Lagos, and Kenya, where a new generation of cheap computer science talent has attracted interest from Silicon Valley.

Numbered are the days when BS candidates choose among a small handful of computer science tracks and graduate as generalists.

"Specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers," according to Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science. "Carnegie Mellon has an unmatched depth of expertise in AI, making us uniquely qualified to address this need for graduates who understand how the power of AI can be leveraged to help people."

The market-oriented approach is familiar territory for the Pittsburgh-based university.

CMU's Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation frequently helps undergrads and grad students take student projects to market, for example, and the Robotics Institute at CMU is known in the industry for pushing technology research that often winds up in commercial applications.

The philosophy major in me mourns the loss of a generalized approach to undergraduate education. But there's no doubt students with specialized training will command higher salaries out of college, and CMU is using that as a selling point.