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How should I factor AI into my decision about what to study after school?

As Year 12 students across Australia ponder their next move, the world of work is undergoing a seismic shift. Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are reshaping industries, creating new opportunities and making some traditional roles obsolete.

Many young adults may worry about how to incorporate AI into their decision about what to study after school.

But before you panic, let’s address what AI means for the future careers of today’s school leavers.

The world of work is undergoing a seismic shift. So how might it affect your study choices?
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Technical competence is in demand – but that is not the whole story

AI aims to change the world of work.

As my colleagues and I have pointed out in a latest bookindeed, this technological revolution creates both opportunities and challenges for the workforce.

AI can help us do things that worked a while ago, like robotic scientist Navinda Kottege Set it in our book, “too boring, too dirty, too dangerous or too devilishly impossible” to think about.

There is clearly a demand for more technical experts to help in that endeavour.

But despite all the AI ​​hype, the wages for jobs using AI skills in Australia are comparatively low; lower than in the US, UK or Singapore.

It seems Australia isn’t quite ready to pay top dollar for tech talent just yet. So by all means pursue a career based on AI development, if that interests you and you don’t mind moving abroad to achieve the top earnings.

But don’t assume there is no future for non-technical skills and degrees.

Comprehension, communication and articulation

It’s not just about technical know-how anymore. As pointed out this spring Bookwhile robots may steal some jobs, new roles will emerge that blend technological skills with uniquely human abilities.

For example: even as AI technology becomes more complex and sophisticated, its successful application depends on the AI ​​essence user friendly.

This means that we don’t all need to become computer scientists and we don’t all need to be able to design or build AI tools; we just need to learn how to use them. In other words, don’t feel like you need to rush out and sign up for a degree on how to become an AI engineer (unless that’s where your interest and passion lies!)

The real challenge lies with educators and tool designers who need to bridge the gap between complex AI systems and user-friendly applications.

So yes, AI will become ubiquitous, with tools that automate various tasks becoming increasingly sophisticated and widespread.

But we should not forget the need to train for the basic skills that help us run and fix the everyday devices and applications we use at home or at work.

And whatever we run or fix, we will need to document it and explain the process to others.

Technical skills will be in demand, but employers will also need people with good understanding, communication and articulation skills.

Critical thinking is essential

We must also utilize our ability to think critically and discern truth from fiction.

This skill involves not only identifying false information, but also recognizing when true information is used to draw inappropriate conclusions.

This is a skill that will be used over and over again workplacesin politics and in the field of social media.

Universities and professional institutions will specifically need to teach students how to:

  • evaluate sources critically

  • understand context

  • recognize faulty reasoning and misleading statistics

  • distinguish between correlation and causation

  • identify potential biases in AI-generated content.

Students should look for higher education institutions that understand how to teach these skills and why they are critical.

So what’s a school leaver to do?

Thanks to the astonishing pace of AI development and adoption, the world is still in significant change – and likely to remain so for some time.

Perhaps the best plan is not to allow AI to completely shape your decisions about what to study after school. Follow your passion and keep an eye on the job market but remember that the future is not set in stone.

Trying to predict exactly what the labor market will look like ten years from now is folly. The job you do and love in the future may not even exist yet.

Instead, be curious, be flexible, never stop learning, and don’t be afraid to chart your own course.

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