2023 — and every year after — will see more students seeking education in artificial intelligence and machine learning than ever before. This growth is occurring from the undergraduate level on up.
Stanford’s AI Index found that the number of AI & ML courses for undergrads doubled over the four academic years from 2016 to 2020, with enrollment in introductory courses increasing by over 60% in the same time frame. At the graduate level, course offerings have also expanded by 60% in recent years at the same time as 18 top programs surveyed by Stanford have added over 60 new professors specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Those seeking training in AI & ML have a good reason: the job market is hot, and companies in almost every industry are offering six-figure salaries to those with the skills necessary to develop and implement AI & ML solutions.
Despite the financial upside of an artificial intelligence career, the skyrocketing cost of higher education continues to make all students closely consider education costs, and that includes individuals interested in AI, machine learning, and data science. The good news? There are loads of scholarships and other sources of financial aid out there if you know where to look.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the best ways to finance your education without paying too much out of pocket or taking out too many loans: scholarships, teaching assistantships — even fully funded doctoral fellowships! For each, we’ll provide crucial details like eligibility criteria and deadlines so that you can get started investing in your future.
The DeepMind scholarship program aims to increase representation in the field of artificial intelligence by offering full financial support (tuition, stipend, professional development fund) and mentorship to talented students from currently underrepresented groups who are seeking to complete graduate-level AI study.
DeepMind scholarships are offered by universities around the world, so US-based and international students alike stand to benefit. Participating universities include:
New York University, University of California–Los Angeles, and University of California–San Diego in the United States
McGill University in Canada
University College London, University of Edinburgh, and Cambridge University in the UK
Makerere University in Uganda
Universidad de Los Andes in Colombia
Istanbul Technical University in Turkey
and many others around the world.
Each university runs its own DeepMind scholarship program, so the exact eligibility requirements — including which particular underrepresented groups are targeted — can differ.
In the US, for example, NYU offers 2 fully funded DeepMind scholarships for its Master’s in Data Science program. All applicants are screened for eligibility, so there is no need to submit additional materials if you are interested in a scholarship.
For UCLA’s DeepMind fellowships, however, prospective master’s students in computer science are required to fill out an application around the same time they are filling out their application for admission to the program.
In the end, your best bet is to find a participating program through DeepMind’s portal, then inquire with that program (or check their website) about the exact application requirements.
AWS AI & ML Scholarship Program
Amazon’s AWS AI & ML Scholarship program focuses on helping high school and college students from underserved communities gain the necessary skills for a career in artificial intelligence or machine learning.
Through AWS DeepRacer Student, young adults aged 16 and up can access free AI & ML learning materials and put what they learn into practice in a student-only online racing league. After using machine learning to train their car to get around the virtual track faster, students have the opportunity to compete to win Udacity scholarships.
But winning the DeepRacer racing league isn’t the only way to win an AWS AI & ML scholarship. Underrepresented high school and college students are also able to apply to receive one of 2,000 full scholarships for Udacity’s AI Programming with Python Nanodegree program. Top performers can then receive a second scholarship for a more advanced AI & ML Nanodegree program.
Along the way, all scholarship recipients have the opportunity to learn from experts in the field, with seminars on career guidance, practical experience, and many other topics.
October: Students must complete prerequisites on AWS DeepRacer Student to establish eligibility for the scholarship program.
February: Students can submit an application on Udacity to join the next scholarship cohort.
June: Scholarship formally begins with the kickoff of the Udacity AI Programming with Python Nanodegree program.
Vector Institute’s Vector Scholarship
A more narrow opportunity is Vector Institute’s Vector Scholarship in Artificial Intelligence, restricted to those seeking master’s level study in Ontario, Canada. Each year, Vector offers CAD 17,500 to approximately 100 students in an approved AI master’s program or engaging in AI-focused independent study or study in a complementary field.
Applications for the 2023-2024 scholarship open in early January 2023 and must be completed by March 22, 2023. Applicants must be entering a full-time master’s program during the 2023-2024 academic year and have high undergraduate marks.
Applicants should supply the following:
Additional materials as required
Teaching & Research Assistantships
The scholarships outlined above are competitive, with only a few spots open to lots of interested applicants. For those who don’t receive a scholarship, however, there are other options to help defray the cost of an AI education, the first of which is a teaching or research assistantship.
In a teaching or research assistantship, master’s and Ph.D. students assist professors to manage their course load or research. This might mean marking exams, holding office hours or discussion sessions for undergrads, or helping out in a professor’s AI lab. In exchange for this labor, TAs often receive a stipend that can knock off a significant part of their tuition bill. Sometimes, TAs can even receive a tuition remission, where they don’t have to pay tuition at all.
In the US, most top doctoral programs in computer science, information technology, artificial intelligence, and machine learning will offer Ph.D. candidates full funding for the duration of their studies. This means that in addition to receiving a remission of tuition fees, they will receive a modest living stipend, as well as professional development funds. Oftentimes, these fellowships in turn require doctoral students to work as teaching and research assistants for some or all of their time at the university.
Getting paid to study sounds like a great deal — and it is — but as you are considering it, keep in mind that doctoral programs are long and admission is competitive. If you are admitted as a Ph.D. student, expect to spend 5–7 years at school working long hours on a meager salary.
Of course, this might end up being worth it: while the primary focus in Ph.D. programs is on academic research, more and more newly-minted machine learning PhDs are entering the industry, working as high-level machine learning engineers and AI research scientists in artificial intelligence and machine learning labs like Google’s DeepMind and Meta AI. Salaries at these labs start in the mid-$100ks and quickly grow. While a difficult path and by no means a sure thing, remaining debt-free en route to a six-figure salary is a win-win, whichever way you slice it.
Starting any course of study is a big decision, especially as tuition continues to rise around the US. Scholarships can certainly help simplify the decision-making process, but in the end, they are few and far between. While the vast majority of students enrolled in institutes of higher education receive some form of financial aid, most will still have to pay at least something out of pocket.
To give some context to your calculations as you determine whether a career in artificial intelligence or machine learning is right for you, it’s also helpful to dig into the other side of the equation. Yes, AI & ML education is expensive — but what is the return on investment? How much are artificial intelligence and machine learning engineers earning exactly?
To answer this question, head to our articles on master’s in artificial intelligence salaries and machine learning careers, both of which will help clarify how much you can expect to earn once you get out of school and help you determine whether an AI or ML degree will be worth it.