AI ma­jors hot ticket to salary heaven

De­mand for tal­ent out­strips sup­ply amid tech pur­suit

Global Times US Edition - - BIZUPDATE - By Xie Jun and Shen Wei­duo

Stu­dents in China are show­ing great in­ter­est in study­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) in col­lege, the lat­est hot ticket ca­reer, univer­sity re­cruiters told the Global Times.

The ris­ing in­ter­est comes as AI in­dus­tries flour­ish around the world and present bright ca­reer prospects, par­tic­u­larly as the US and China’s cur­rent contest for tech­nol­ogy supremacy pro­vokes China to speed up de­vel­op­ment in the high-tech sec­tor, one ex­pert said.

A re­cruiter from An­hui Polytech­nic Univer­sity in East China’s An­hui Prov­ince said that their new AI ma­jor is very pop­u­lar this year.

“Many stu­dents or their par­ents have called and in­quired about the score needed, the cur­ricu­lum and the em­ploy­ment prospects of the new ma­jor,” the re­cruiter, sur­named Zhang, told the Global Times on Mon­day.

Fang Yongchun, dean of the AI Col­lege un­der Nankai Univer­sity in Tian­jin, said that based on his ob­ser­va­tions dur­ing a col­lege ad­mis­sion fair in Cen­tral China’s He­nan Prov­ince, high school stu­dents were “very pas­sion­ate” about en­ter­ing smart tech-re­lated ma­jors.

“Our AI Col­lege’s ad­mis­sion quota was orig­i­nally 100 stu­dents. But con­sid­er­ing the high de­mand from do­mes­tic stu­dents, we’re now in dis­cus­sions about in­creas­ing the num­ber of places with Nankai’s ad­mis­sions of­fice.”

China’s high school grad­u­ates are cur­rently com­plet­ing their col­lege ad­mis­sion ap­pli­ca­tions af­ter re­ceiv­ing the re­sults of the na­tion­wide col­lege en­trance ex­am­i­na­tions.

Both An­hui Polytech­nic Univer­sity and Nankai Univer­sity are among the 35 Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties granted per­mis­sion to of­fer a bach­e­lor’s de­gree pro­gram in AI.

The ea­ger­ness to study AI comes at a time when the de­vel­op­ment of Ai-re­lated in­dus­tries in China is flour­ish­ing, which has caused a se­vere lack of skilled en­gi­neers.

“Nowa­days, the gap for ta­lents in the do­mes­tic AI in­dus­try is mas­sive. The de­mand for AI en­gi­neers far ex­ceeds sup­ply,” Zhao Zhiqiang, chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer of the Harbin In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy Big Data Group, told the Global Times on Mon­day.

This im­bal­ance has led to high en­try-level salaries, which is very at­trac­tive to younger peo­ple, he said.

“A grad­u­ate with a master’s de­gree in an Ai-re­lated ma­jor from the Harbin In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy can com­mand an an­nual start­ing salary of 250,000 yuan ($36,325) to 300,000 yuan,” he said.

AI will be crucial to the na­tion’s achiev­ing its Made in China 2025 goals, Zhao said. This means that de­mand for AI pro­fes­sion­als will con­tinue to out­strip sup­ply, prob­a­bly reach­ing max­i­mum de­mand in around five years.

Zhao also cau­tioned that the do­mes­tic AI in­dus­try is al­ready pre­sent­ing some bub­bles, as the fea­si­bil­ity of some AI projects still needs to be tested. “Some AI projects hire fran­ti­cally in the be­gin­ning but the projects them­selves aren’t sus­tain­able.”

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