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Bellevue College is responding to industry need for more graduates trained in artificial intelligence (AI) by offering a new degree next fall — a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) with a concentration in AI. 

“Advisory committee members, including those that work at Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, have recommended adding an AI concentration, and are excited about this new addition to the curriculum,” Alysa Kelsey, program manager for the college’s information technology programs, said in a news release.

All three companies have a major and growing presence on the Eastside.

The new AI degree focuses on teaching skills in Python programming and AI libraries, machine learning, data analytics, data modeling, cognitive computing, natural language processing, and applied statistics. The AI degree option is available to students who have completed the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Associate of Applied Science-Transfer (AAS-T) degree, or those who complete or transfer in the required prerequisite coursework. This new pathway provides an opportunity for Bellevue College students who would prefer to complete their bachelor’s degree at the college, the release said.  

People interested in applying for the new degree program should contact Kelsey at alysa.kelsey@bellevuecollege.edu before winter quarter. 

Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, noted at a Bellevue Chamber event last month that the college is a key part of the high-tech workforce pipeline, bringing high-demand bachelor’s degrees to students who need them and increasing access and equity, especially for low-income students and students of color.

Dena Laney, program chair of the BAS degree, said, “The pandemic and Great Resignation has a lot of folks reconsidering their careers, and high-tech continues to be a fast-growing field. Our AI-focused bachelor’s provides those transitioning to a different career, a low-cost, high value degree opportunity so they can be eligible for high-paying careers in AI.” 

The tech sector’s growing impact on Washington state’s economy was recently detailed in a report commissioned by the Washington Technology Industry Association. It found, in part, that the information and communications technology sector last year directly employed 278,900 workers in Washington state, nearly double from the low point of the Great Recession in 2009-10, and that tech workers earned 24 percent of all wages earned statewide in 2020, up from 10 percent in 2007. Between 2015 and 2020, ICT was responsible for 46 percent of all wage and salary growth and 66 percent of net job growth, the report said.