AI and future jobs: what college students should know about artificial intelligence’s impact on the job market

    Dr. Michael Nietzel
    Dr. Michael Nietzel

    Dr. Michael Nietzel is a Senior Educational Policy Advisor to the Missouri Governor. He was appointed President of Missouri State University in 2005. He has also worked as the Director of Clinical Psychology at the University of Kentucky, where he was Chair of the Psychology Department, Dean of the Graduate School, and Provost.

    AI and future jobs: what college students should know about artificial intelligence’s impact on the job market
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      As breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) continue to accelerate, one implication is becoming ever clearer: AI is bringing about massive changes in the global economy, fundamentally changing the knowledge and skills workers of all kinds will need in the future.

      The rapid deployment of AI tools is taking place in virtually every business sector, including medicine, law, finance, design, communications, education, transportation, manufacturing, the defense industry, and content creation and curation.

      Among the likely implications of the AI revolution are changes in what college students elect to focus on in their studies. What new majors will emerge? Which ones will see increases resulting from AI’s sweeping developments? What fields of study are likely to decline in popularity? How should college curricula evolve to meet the growing demand for AI skills?

      Here’s an overview of what economists and futurists are predicting and how these developments might affect what students study in college.

      The disruptive impact of AI

      According to a 2023 Goldman Sachs study, developments in AI could impact as many as 300 million full-time jobs worldwide over the next decade, leading to a “significant disruption” of the job market.

      Roughly two-thirds of U.S. occupations could ultimately be exposed to some degree of automation by AI, and between a quarter to as much as half of the workforce associated with those jobs could be replaced.

      But not all that automation will mean layoffs, according to the report’s authors, economists Joseph Briggs and Devesh Kodna. “Although the impact of AI on the labor market is likely to be significant, most jobs and industries are only partially exposed to automation and are thus more likely to be complemented rather than substituted by AI,” they write.

      In a recent interview with CNN, Goldman Sachs’ chief economist, Jan Hatzius, offered an optimistic view about what AI would mean for the U.S. economy. Hatzius said he was confident AI would significantly accelerate economic growth over time by making workers far more efficient.

      “I see it as a productivity enhancer,” Hatzius said. “A large number of workers in the economy will become more productive. That is very, very likely.”

      However, AI will not have uniform effects on all types of jobs.

      A 2023 report from McKinsey estimated that by 2030, “activities that account for up to 30 percent of hours currently worked across the US economy could be automated,” a trend driven by generative AI.

      As a result, about 12 million Americans working in occupations in less demand might need to change jobs.

      McKinsey’s experts believe generative AI will enhance how STEM, creative, business and legal professionals perform their work, while automation may harm workers in other jobs like office support, customer service, and food service employment.

      Other experts believe that white-collar jobs, exactly the ones that many students go to college to prepare for, may be particularly vulnerable to AI modification, if not outright replacement.

      The jobs most at risk from AI

      A recent article in Business Insider surveyed recent trends to identify the jobs most likely to be modified or replaced by AI. Here were 10 job categories judged at most risk:

      Coding and computer programming

      While these skills are currently in high demand, it’s likely ChatGPT and other AI tools may replace or at least alter them in the future. Because AI is fast and good at performing mathematical functions, jobs such as software developers, web developers, computer programmers, coders, and data scientists – as they currently exist – may become vulnerable.

      Media jobs

      Work in advertising, technical writing, journalism, and other areas involving content creation is being transformed by AI, which is very good and becoming better all the time at reading, understanding, and writing text.

      Legal workers

      Jobs such as paralegals and legal assistants require reading and summarizing large amounts of information, exactly the kinds of tasks at which AI is proficient. While it’s improbable that lawyers will ever be replaced by machines, generative AI will free up more time for attorneys to concentrate on those services that machines can’t duplicate, like applying human judgment to best understand and serve their clients.


      Education is another area already being transformed by machine learning. AI will modify the work of teachers rather than eliminate the need for them. It’s already happening as teachers turn to AI tools to plan lessons, develop syllabi, grade exams, provide feedback on assignments, and even detect the type of plagiarism that Chat GPT can enable.

      Market Research Analysts

      Because AI is adroit at analyzing large amounts of data and using it to predict trends and outcomes, market analysis is another job where it’s increasingly being deployed.

      Financial analysts and advisors

      These jobs also put a premium on being able to access and interpret large volumes of data quickly and accurately. AI is making more aspects of the work automatable, yielding increasingly sophisticated market forecasts.


      AI has come to Wall Street. College graduates hired by investment firms to run Excel models will now be in competition with AI algorithms that can do the job faster and better.

      Graphic designers

      AI can now generate images in just a few seconds and allow their manipulation in highly creative ways, changing how designers and even architects do their work.


      While accounting continues to be seen as a stable profession, AI is being rapidly integrated into this profession, particularly in areas of tax research and interpretation of tax laws.

      Customer service agents

      Chances are good you’ve already had a service request answered by a robot or a chatbot. These autonomous systems are being used increasingly in the marketplace. While many customers find them annoying, service bots are probably here to stay.

      Implications for students

      What does this kind of information mean for students? How should it affect their decisions about college and careers? Here are 4 things to keep in mind.

      First, no one can predict the future with complete accuracy.

      The projections summarized here are educated guesses, not guaranteed certainties. View them with caution. As Bryan Alexander, a noted futurist and senior scholar at Georgetown University, recently told me, there are at least 3 distinct possibilities for how AI might affect the labor market in the future, and he’s not sure which will occur, or if they might affect different areas of the country in different ways.

      • AI developments may mimic an old industrial model in which some jobs and businesses fade away, but more jobs and businesses are created by new technology, yielding a net economic gain.
      • They could result in more people losing their jobs and not being replaced elsewhere. Under this worst-case scenario, unemployment – or underemployment – could grow as AI takes over the jobs people used to perform.
      • They could mutate jobs rather than eliminate them. AI and related tech will seep into many positions, requiring workers to learn new skills as they adapt to different job demands.

      Second, study what interests or excites you the most.

      If your personal aim is to be a teacher, if you’ve always dreamt of being a nurse, or if your passion is music, art, or theater, AI developments should not be a reason for you to abandon those goals.

      Study what matters to you. You can still pick up some basic AI skills and literacy by considering the next option.

      Nevertheless, while the true cost of college may be falling, remember that college remains a big investment. If you choose a major that does not directly lead to a lucrative career, prioritize affordable colleges that offer you financial aid.

      Third, supplement your major with coursework or applied experiences in AI, data analytics, or machine learning.

      Students who want to maximize their opportunities in an AI-influenced workforce — regardless of their major — can enhance their job prospects by taking electives in AI, machine learning, statistics, data analysis, and other quantitative reasoning courses. Other, more intensive options would be to complete a short-term certificate (15 credits or less) focused on AI, data analytics, or other quantitative techniques; or take an AI-related summer internship like those now being sponsored by more and more employers.

      » Also read: The difference between certification, certificates, and licenses

      Fourth, earn a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in artificial intelligence or related field.

      The rapid growth of AI applications and related technology has resulted in colleges and universities gearing up to add new undergraduate majors and graduate programs in the field.

      New programs are being announced almost every week at colleges across the nation. In February, the University of Pennsylvania became the first Ivy League institution to launch an AI undergraduate major in the form of a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Artificial Intelligence.

      This month, the University of South Florida said it was forming an entire new academic college focused on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and computing. Expected to open in the fall of 2025, the college would offer both undergraduate and graduate programs in these fields, as it gears up to address the current shortage of workers prepared to work in them. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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      The best of the new programs train students in the basic principles of AI and machine learning, but they also help them learn how to apply the technology in a responsible and ethical way, including understanding the many security, privacy, bias and accuracy issues that surround the use of AI.

      The Florida Institute of Technology announced this month that it would offer a new bachelor of science degree centered on applied math, artificial intelligence and data science as soon as Fall 2024.

      However, an even more interesting sign of AI’s increasing importance on college campuses was Florida Tech’s decision to add AI content to its University Experience course, a one-credit seminar for first-year students that will start building AI literacy among entering students.

      Look for more universities to do something similar with their freshmen orientation courses. Embedding an introduction to AI in a required first-year course is a good way for colleges to help students enter a workforce and prepare for a world where AI is a part of almost every aspect of life.

      See our rankings of the best computer science programs to find a high-value program that prepares you for tomorrow’s job market.

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