Employers favor AI talent with master’s degrees, job posts indicate

Dive Brief:

  • Jobseekers with master’s degrees are favored by 3 in 4 employers looking to fill AI positions, according to a report from National University published in June. The California-based institution reviewed nearly 15,000 full-time job listings on Indeed.
  • Employers are drawn to candidates with graduate degrees for their solutions-oriented mindset, adaptability and deep technical and analytical capabilities among other skills, said Linda Travis Macomber, associate professor at National University, in an emailed statement.
  • More than two-thirds of employers added bachelor’s degree requirements to their AI-focused job postings, according to the analysis.

Dive Insight:

The vendor landscape is teeming with self-serve AI solutions, but the technology has proven less plug-and-play than previously thought. The mismatch between available skills in the job market and the technical gaps in the IT workforce are among the most stubborn challenges confronting CIOs.

A CompTIA analysis of Lightcast job posting data shows a smaller percentage of graduate-level degree requirements for AI workers. Just over half of employers prefer candidates with master’s degrees or doctorates when hiring for dedicated AI job roles, such as AI engineers, the IT trade group said.

“At this point in the AI cycle these dedicated AI roles focused on building AI components account for a relatively small share of overall AI hiring,” said Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA. “This follows the common pattern with emerging technologies whereby the technology first appears as a skill add-on to existing job roles before maturing into a dedicated job role.” 

A larger share of AI hiring focuses on the skills and experience needed to leverage AI as an enabling technology, such as integrating AI components into existing IT assets, Herbert said.

“While there is a slightly higher rate of job postings specifying a master’s degree or Ph.D. the majority of employer hiring is in the 4-year degree or less segments,” he said.

The talent crunch has pushed leaders to upskill workers: AI sits along cybersecurity and data as the top categories for upskilling investments, according to a Skillsoft report published last week.

Vendors, including hyperscale leaders AWS and Microsoft, have set up training opportunities to address the adoption bottleneck. But difficulties remain for CIOs as technologies evolve faster than the pace of training and formal education.

“Given the newness and rapid evolution of many facets of generative AI it does raise questions around the relevance of advanced degrees that predate these developments,” said Herbert. “Education, training and certification programs continue to play catch up with a moving target.”