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Should Machine Learning Be A Separate Major Like Computer Science?

Should Machine Learning Be A Separate Major Like Computer Science?

Richa Bhatia

This is the time when a strong Computer Science background is highly-recommended for budding Machine Learning practitioners. In fact, students are closing the statistics gap with online programs as well. So is it time Indian universities start offering a major in machine learning? ML jobs are booming in India — recent example being that US online payment giant PayPal is planning to hire 600 tech experts in the field of artificial intelligence and ML. Indian telecom giant Reliance Jio is also planning a separate AI team.

While there are a lot of edtech companies that offer structured in-person as well as online ML training in conjunction with industry partners, Indian institutes like the University of Hyderabad, IIT Bombay, IIT Madras, IISc Bangalore and ISI Kolkata, which have thriving ML departments also offer specialisations in ML and AI-related field.

US universities, especially the big four (MIT, CMU, Stanford, University of California and Berkeley) are already ahead of the pack in machine learning research and artificial intelligence. Not just the US, Canadian universities, especially the University of Toronto and Montreal lead in the computational side of things. In India too, IIT Hyderabad’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering offers an MTech in machine learning which prepares students for ML-oriented jobs as well as research areas. In fact. IIT-H’s CSE department is active in research areas such as networking, distributed systems, algorithms, graph theory and also offers a three year research-oriented MTech programme which enables students to work on sponsored research projects along with the coursework. There is also a two year MTech course in Machine Learning and Computing offered by Mathematics department of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST).

What Should Students Opt For? A Major In ML Instead Of CS?

Wider Scope Of Application: So, is pursuing a graduate degree in CS a better idea than majoring in ML? Machine Learning offers a wider scope of application of degree and also leads to a pathway to higher pay packages and jobs at leading firms such as Samsung, Flipkart, Amazon and Accenture, among others.

Got A Strong Interest In AI, Go For MS In ML: If you have a strong interest in AI and have a fairly good programming background, then a degree in ML from India or abroad will be extremely beneficial for further employability as well research. Learning how to implement models will definitely be helpful in breaking into the highly competitive industry. Also, an MS is the best way to get past the HR screen to land a coveted job in the machine learning field.

Rise Of ML-Focused Data Science Jobs: With the rise in machine learning-focused roles at companies across the board, most interviews around data science job positions revolve around algorithms and code architecture. A strong academic background and strong CS fundamentals will help secure a job in an ML-oriented company. Since employers use a degree to screen applicants, an MS in machine learning can teach you the state-of-the-art algorithms used by big tech firms.

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On The Other Side

Most Computer Science programs offer a number of electives to students to choose from which is helpful in getting in-demand industry skills. Also, according to Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands, computer science master’s program offers excellent learning trajectories since they combine modules such as information systems, software development, system architecture and theory algorithms – thus offering the students a wider scope of application. Theory and algorithms module covers topics like data structures, logic and set theory, DBL algorithms, discrete structure and more. Most CS programs also feature modules such as data mining and machine learning that covers important areas like probability and stochastics.

Other times, employers prefer candidates with a CS background or formal training as opposed to heavy statistics knowledge. MS in machine learning is also preferred for candidates who are more interested in pursuing research opportunities as opposed to professionals who want to work on ML-focused jobs. Most CS candidates are also trained in cleaning datasets, building models and churning out solutions for business problems. So, a CS route also opens up employability and research options alike. Another key point is that machine learning programs are better suited to candidates with a heavy statistics background and usually the Master’s candidates go for further research.


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