AI Is the Future: What Does That Mean for Choosing a College Major?

AI, or artificial intelligence, has been the business buzzword since OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November of 2022. Since then, many industries have wondered (and worried) what this new technology could mean for the way they work. Current employees aren’t the only ones considering what AI-related skills could serve them in a changing economy, however. A recent study published in Oxford Economic Papers shows that recent college grads with business-focused AI experience listed on their résumé or cover letter are significantly more likely to receive an interview (and higher salary offer) than graduates without AI experience. 

This likely signals that businesses, especially large companies and corporations, will be actively searching for AI-proficient employees to add to their workforces in the coming years. 

Colleges and universities are already responding to this surging demand with AI-focused programs and departments. This fall, the University of Pennsylvania will be the first Ivy League institution to offer an undergraduate degree in AI Engineering, joining universities like Purdue and Carnegie Mellon. 

What do these new majors and programs mean for rising seniors as they work on college applications this summer and fall? That depends on what major your student is already considering. 


Majoring in AI (and Related Disciplines)

Your student may have already decided to major in AI. If that’s the case, it’s important to find a reputable, established program, but it’s equally important to find one at a university that suits your student’s personality and goals—both personal and professional. While it’s tempting to focus on getting into the most prestigious university, your student has to attend a university for 3 to 5 years, and having an educational (and social) environment that supports them will be essential to their overall success and well-being. Being able to speak to a university’s qualities and what courses excite them is also a key part of standing out in the college-specific questions required by many of these competitive programs.  

If an AI-specific degree isn’t available at a university on your student’s list, that doesn’t mean they can’t get meaningful AI experience. Degrees in computer science, data science, and robotics will cover principles directly related to AI, and they may offer courses directly focused on artificial intelligence even if they don’t offer a full degree. Similarly, mathematics, statistics, and engineering degrees are often listed in AI job postings, and it’s likely that these programs will offer courses dedicated to AI in the immediate future if they don’t already. 

Ultimately, a student being able to meaningfully study AI at college comes down to them doing their research into universities and prospective majors, which is a crucial component of the college admissions process. That’s why our college admissions consultations focus so heavily on developing school lists and college major counseling. Does a university grant a degree in AI? Does a non-AI major offer courses that are aligned with your student’s personal and professional interests? These are all important components to consider, which is part of the reason why we stress researching universities so much at The Enrichery. 


Learning to Apply AI with Any Major

When I was headed off to college, plenty of my family members offered unsolicited (and often unhelpful) advice on which major to choose. Much of that boiled down to: A STEM degree is a sure bet, and anything else is a waste of time and money. There may be some truth to this advice, but a recent Gallup poll also found that 1 in 5 people are miserable in their jobs. Harvard Business Review found that 9 out of 10 employees would be willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work. All of this to say, picking a major is deeply personal, and it’s often a mistake to pick one solely on possible job prospects (which partially explains why the vast majority of students change their major over the course of their undergraduate program). Instead, students should consider taking AI courses regardless of their major—and professors across disciplines are already working to incorporate AI into every classroom. A student’s ability to learn about AI will hinge on what is available at their school, which again underscores just how important it is to thoroughly research the colleges and universities where your student is considering applying. 


At The Enrichery, our job is to stay on top of the changing college landscape, including new fields of study and emerging careers, so that our college admissions students have expert guidance when exploring possible universities and majors. We are committed to finding the perfect fit for every student. If you or your student would like help with building a college list, researching universities, or developing application materials, please consider snagging a spot in our summer College Admissions Workshop before it’s too late!