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Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are the most popular Ph.D. specialities among graduates in the computer science, computer engineering and information fields, a new report finds.

The Computing Research Association’s annual Taulbee survey revealed that, for the last academic year in North America, more than a quarter (28 percent) of awarded doctoral degrees in those computer-related fields had a speciality focus in machine learning or AI.

Human computer interaction was the second most popular area of focus for doctoral degrees, followed by security/information assurance, software engineering and robotics/vision. Human computer interaction and robotics vision were new in the top five concentrations, having been absent in the 2021–2022 academic year.

The report, which surveyed 176 higher education institutions from fall 2023 through Feb. 14 of this year, addressed areas including degree enrollment, degrees awarded and employment for those in the three areas (computer science, computer engineering and information).

The number of graduates in the three program areas rose across the board. The 40,583 master’s degrees and 21,241 Ph.D.s awarded were the largest totals since the survey began more than 50 years ago.

The doctoral programs saw an increase of 3.2 percent from the 2021–2022 year. Bachelor’s degree programs increased 17.6 percent, while the master’s degrees awarded more than doubled with a 51.7 percent jump.

The large increase for computer-related master’s degrees is not surprising given the rise in enrollment over the last two years, according to the report.

However, “the record production of master’s graduates is not expected to continue this year,” the report said, noting that master’s programs have already seen a slight enrollment dip of less than 1 percent.

At the same time, enrollment was up for other degree types. Bachelor’s degree enrollment across all three areas was up 15 percent compared to the previous academic year, while Ph.D. programs had a 4.7 percent increase.