DANIEL BOURKE

@mrdbourke

Should you do a Udacity AI Nanodegree or an AI Masters Degree?

I created my own Artificial Intelligence Masters Degree. Within it are two Udacity Nanodegrees, among other courses.

  1. Udacity Deep Learning Nanodegree
  2. Udacity Artificial Nanodegree

Udacity’s classes are of the highest quality I’ve ever taken.

I’ve never done an actual Masters Degree but let’s compare anyway.

Cost

I went to an open day at my university to look at postgraduate studies. The computer science program I looked into was $42,000 per year over two years. And you needed to pay 50% up front.

I didn’t have $42,000 to spare. So I looked elsewhere.

Creating my own learning path, I’ve spent a total of $3500. On various courses, books and tools. $3500 isn’t free but it’s far less than $84,000.

Paying for everything up front means I don’t have any debt either.

Time

If I signed up to the computer science program, it would take a minimum of 2-years to complete.

I’m a year into my own curriculum and nearly finished.

However, learning these technologies is never-ending. Every week there’s a new state of the art benchmark to get acquainted with. Every week! It’s great fun.

Learning

I looked into studying computer science because I wanted to learn about artificial intelligence. That’s what sparked my interest more than anything.

But the curriculum offered by the university seemed to teach everything but what I was after.

Going online, I could study anything I wanted. I went straight to the source of what I wanted to learn. It was hard. But learning new things is always hard. You might as well dedicate the effort to something you want to learn.

Feedback

During my undergraduate degree, I’d hand in assignments and sometimes not get feedback on them for 3-months. By that time, it no longer mattered to me. The same went for exams.

Udacity reviewers get back to you with feedback and advice on your projects within 24-hours of submission, sometimes within the hour. Not to mention the Udacity forums and Slack channels. These have been invaluable to my learning. Rather than being stuck on a problem for weeks at a time, help is available (almost) instantly.

Quality

I’m a visual learner. I have to see things happening for me to understand them. Reading dozens of lecture notes isn’t the best way for me to learn.

Udacity’s animations team does a great job crafting visualisations to go along with their lectures. I often find myself rewatching the visualisation a dozen times to have the concept wired in my mind.

Udacity also partner with industry experts. In the Nanodegrees I’ve taken, there have been people from IBM and Google offering their insights.

Content

Does my own Master’s Degree stack up to a real one?

I don’t know the answer but look at it this way.

University Master’s Degree’s have stood the test of time. They’re set up in a way to prepare you for further study and research. And many companies still recognise them as valuable or even required credentials.

Sure, there will be some holes in my Master’s Degree and the Nanodegrees won’t cover everything you need to know, hence the name. But what’s more important is I created my own path consisting of exactly what I wanted to learn. This has made learning far more enjoyable.

The best courses are ones which spark your interest in furthering your knowledge. Udacity courses have done this for me.

Opportunities

Two months ago, I started as a Machine Learning Engineer. Since then, I’ve worked on a bunch of projects requiring the skills I learned in the Nanodegrees.

However, I’ve also had to learn more depending on what the project required.

Would I be able to apply for more opportunities with a Master’s Degree? Possibly. But I don’t have one.

Instead, I knew the skills I’m learning are valuable and made sure to build an online portfolio to use as my proof of work.

Udacity also partners with technology companies and offer career services to help you find a role, however, I’m yet to take advantage of these.

Further Learning

I remember about 1% of what I learn. It’s why my catchphrase is keep learning.

Most of the data in the real world aren’t as neatly packaged as what you’ll find in some courses, including the Nanodegrees. You’ll have to continually think of new ways to get data in a format you can use artificial intelligence techniques on.

Graduating from a Nanodegree or from a Master’s Degree is not the end of your learning journey but the starting point for a new one.

You’ll never be fully prepared for the challenges you take on but with the foundation skills you gain, you’ll be able to learn what you need.

Summary

Am I the best artificial intelligence engineer after completing the AI Nanodegree?

No.

Would I have been better off doing a traditional Master’s in AI?

Maybe but I don’t plan on doing one.

Can I learn new techniques as required and apply them to new problems?

Yes.

Do the courses I’ve been doing excite me?

Yes.

Are there some pitfalls to my knowledge?

Yes, but I can surround myself with people who are better than me in those areas and learn from them. Or, I can figure out where I’m weak and fix it.

If you want to save on cost and time and dive straight into the cutting edge of artificial intelligence, I’d recommend courses such as the Artificial Intelligence Nanodegree.

If you’re after a more traditional and rounded education with the prospect of going into further studies, PhD programs and the like, go an Artificial Intelligence Master’s Degree.

There is no shortage of problems you can use these skills for. There’s a reason they’re in big demand.

Keep learning.

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