Online Professional Certificate in Artificial Intelligence Programs Guide

Interested in pursuing a certificate in artificial intelligence (AI)? You’ve come to the right place. A certificate in AI may open doors to a variety of positions at  companies of all sizes. Read on to discover how AI works, it’s impact across industries and in daily life and the steps you may take to pursue a career in this field.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence. You’ve probably heard the term—in news headlines, science fiction movies and bestselling novels alike. But what is AI, really?

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, AI is “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.” In practice, that might mean correcting human typos on iMessage, sharing knock-knock jokes, generating personalized music playlists, or serving as your personal tour guide in a foreign city (grazie, Google Maps). 

In the modern era, AI is being used in a wide variety of settings—improving lives across industries and around the globe. Half of respondents in a 2020 McKinsey study say their organizations have adopted AI in at least one function. And this is only the beginning.  

What’s the Difference Between AI and Machine Learning?

Some people may get confused when considering AI vs. machine learning—and understandably so, as the terms are often used interchangeably. But while AI is the broader concept of machines being able to carry out “smart” tasks, machine learning is an application of AI by which machines autonomously gain intelligence.

“Machine learning is a technique that allows machines to get information that humans can’t,” explains Bethany Edmunds, the director of computer science at Northeastern University, in a recent blog post from the school. And the MIT Technology Review puts it this way “Machine-learning algorithms use statistics to find patterns in massive amounts of data.” 

Today, this process powers some of technology’s most popular consumer services—Netflix, Google, Spotify, Siri, Alexa, YouTube and more.

Why Earn an AI Certificate Online?

2019 report from Gartner shows that the number of enterprises implementing AI grew 270% percent over the previous four years. And yet, organizations across all industries still struggle with tech talent shortages. How then do we close that gap?

Aspiring tech professionals considering a career in AI may gain relevant knowledge and training by obtaining an artificial intelligence graduate certificate through an online short course. Earning an artificial intelligence certificate online can mean equipping yourself with essential skills—without uprooting your life to attend an on-campus program.

What to Expect from a Certificate in AI

Online AI certificate programs offer students the opportunity to study from the comfort of their own home, instead of commuting to a physical campus. While both options equip students with a range of skills for a career in AI, gaining an artificial intelligence professional certificate online can be a viable choice for those who crave additional flexibility in their education. 

Depending on the school or institution you’re considering, there may be no differences in terms of what is covered in the on-campus and online courses.

Online Artificial Intelligence Certificate Program Admissions 

When applying for a certificate in AI, you’ll likely need to satisfy a few different admission requirements. While test scores are not needed for certain online courses, candidates will likely encounter a few common prerequisites:

  • A statement of purpose. Through a short personal essay, applicants can share their story, speak to prior coding experience and explain how an AI certificate plays into their professional future.
  • Letters of recommendation. Admissions committees commonly request testimonials from academic or professional references who can attest to an applicant’s unique potential.
  • A minimum undergraduate GPA. Some institutions set GPA minimums—for instance, 3.0 or higher. 
  • Prior programming experience. Proficiency in Python, Java, C, and C++ can be particularly useful for AI professional programs and may even be required.

Online Graduate Certificate in AI Curriculum

Wondering which artificial intelligence courses are typically included in an AI curriculum? The specifics will vary based on your chosen program—but in general, students can expect to encounter some of the following AI courses and topics:

  • AI Strategy. In this class or module, students explore the current AI landscape and develop an effective AI strategy for their current—or future—organization.
  • Machine Learning and Algorithms. According to Columbia University, “Machine learning is a rapidly expanding field with many applications in diverse areas such as bioinformatics, fraud detection, intelligent systems, perception, finance, information retrieval, and other areas.” Courses in this subject area will give students an introduction to one or more of these areas—providing a comprehensive understanding of intelligent computer systems.
  • Robotics. In the 21st century, robots have transformed from science fiction fodder to an inevitable reality. By studying robotics, students can investigate machines that are able to perceive—and interact with—their surroundings. 
  • Deep Learning & Neural Networks. In this course, students will learn about AI functions that mimic the workings of the human brain. This may lead to the exploration of artificial neural networks, something that Harvard computer science professors Brian Yu and David Malan define as “a mathematical model for learning inspired by biological neural networks.” 
  • Data Privacy, Security and Policy. A Brookings Institute article notes: “As artificial intelligence evolves, it magnifies the ability to use personal information in ways that can intrude on privacy interests by raising analysis of personal information to new levels of power and speed.” A course in this subject area is designed to show students how to protect privacy in an AI-driven world.
  • Natural Language Processing and Speech. According to the American software company SAS, natural language processing is “a branch of artificial intelligence that helps computers understand, interpret and manipulate human language.” Courses in this area will help you better understand the inner workings of the world’s Siris and Alexas.

Prerequisites to Learn AI

Wondering about the prerequisites for learning artificial intelligence? A few common prerequisite courses for AI certificate programs might include undergraduate classes in statistics, linear algebra, calculus or computer science—all of which can help to equip students with useful tools for thinking with a strategic, data-driven mindset. 

What Can You Do with an AI Certificate?

After obtaining an AI certificate, you may qualify for a number of different AI careers to choose from. It’s up to you what direction you want to take. A few common AI jobs include software engineer, user experience designer, data analyst and AI researcher.

According to The New York Timessome high-level AI researchers at top companies make more than $1,000,000 per year—with lower-level employees making between $300,000 and $500,000 per year in both salary and stock.

What is AI Certification?

After obtaining an AI certificate via an online short course, students can pursue AI certification through organizations like the Artificial Intelligence Board of America (ARTIBA). AI certification is voluntary. By getting additional certification in AI, like the Artificial Intelligence Engineer certification, professionals can prove their preparedness for a specific job as well as their dedication to the field. As the ARTIBA website says, “The AIE™ credential, with a reach across the globe, is considered the industry standard in professional credibility in artificial intelligence by employers.” 

Additionally, ARTIBA describes its certification offering as one that “proves you have confirmed baseline level knowledge of artificial intelligence/machine learning.” So, taking the certification exam may reap benefits.

Is an Online AI Certificate Program Worth It?

There’s no denying the increasing demand for AI professionals. As mentioned earlier, a 2019 report from Gartner reported a 270% spike in enterprise AI implementations from 2015 to 2019. With companies consistently investing in tech innovation, AI jobs are becoming even more essential—and at present, there isn’t enough qualified talent to fill open roles, according to the same Gartner report.

While students have multiple options for pursuing an education in AI, including a general master’s in computer science, a specialized master’s in machine learning or a Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence, an AI certificate may help you gain relevant knowledge and put you on a fast-tracked path to potentially becoming an AI specialist and earning an AI salary.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual pay for software developers in 2019 was $107,510—and employees who specialize in AI specifically can potentially earn even more money, according to a 2017 NYT article.

Last Updated February 2021