By Adrienne Sylver
When Goldman Sachs issued a report recently that estimated artificial intelligence could replace 300 million jobs around the world, doomsday headlines quickly appeared. But experts at FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing were quick to put the news in perspective. They say that AI has the potential to increase productivity and actually create new tech jobs never imagined before ― and they are preparing their students for leadership roles in the industry.
“It’s a magical time in history for our students,” says Steven Luis, the college’s executive director for technology. “We are at the beginning of the AI wave and those who jump on that wave right now are going to reap the benefits and rewards.”
While Luis recognizes the concerns about AI and understands the challenges and pitfalls that come with any new technology, he believes that there will continue to be plenty of career opportunities for students graduating from university computer and engineering programs, as well as for those already established in the field.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics agrees, projecting job growth of 25-35 percent in the next decade in occupations including data scientists, information security analysts, statisticians, software developers and other related fields.
There are literally thousands of computer technology job openings posted on any given day from San Francisco to Boston to Mumbai. For example, as of mid-July, OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, was searching for a research scientist for machine learning, a software engineer for product development and a manager for science deployment, all paying $200,000 and above. Microsoft was seeking a data annotation specialist, Anthropic listed a job for a prompt engineer and librarian and Geico had an opening for a natural language processing position. Amazon had 112 open jobs in its machine learning science division.
“These are real positions, paying real salaries with real companies. And they are hiring FIU grads,” Luis says.
One of those is Samira Pouyanfar, who received her doctorate in computer science at FIU in 2019. Today she is a senior data and applied scientist at Microsoft.
“At FIU, and specifically in the lab, I learned how to lead projects and supervise junior students and how to do research and be independent while working in a team. I learned many technical details in my area," Pouyanfar says of subjects such as deep learning and AI, “and so I was confident during my interview at Microsoft, showing both my technical and soft skills.”
Pouyanfar believes that staying on top of new technologies will help current students when it comes time to enter the workplace. “Although AI may change our jobs and automate some of them, it can also create lots of opportunities and increase productivity,” she says. “New opportunities need new skills sets. My suggestion is to always learn, learn, learn.”
Luis Robaina is a senior artificial intelligence engineer at MITRE, which provides systems engineering, cybersecurity, research and development services for the federal government and state and local agencies. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science from FIU in 2019 and later received a master’s in computer science from another institution.
“My FIU undergrad curriculum has proven indispensable in my professional journey,” he says. “I firmly believe that a comprehensive education in computer science will remain an asset, regardless of how the global landscape evolves. Equipped with a solid foundation in computer science, you will have the tools necessary to quickly adapt to new developments or shifts in field priorities. After all, the software industry has been accustomed to constantly shifting paradigms for decades. The key to navigating the fast-changing domain is maintaining a commitment to lifelong learning.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does predict that the demand for workers in some computer science positions will decrease in the next decade. But for the moment, the agency reports that the bigger threat to American workers is the offshoring of jobs, where companies move some or most services to another country where the costs of labor and operations are lower.
“AI may eliminate some jobs while others will change or be created. Think about how many of today’s jobs in the industry didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago," Luis says. “AI is requiring us to rethink the way we use technology to solve problems. We have some new tools in our toolbox and we are in the discovery phase of what this new tool can do.”
Across FIU’s colleges, AI is a topic of conversation at every faculty meeting, he adds. As the use of AI continues to expand, students will be given guidance from faculty for its appropriate use in the classroom and in their specific coursework.