As of December 1, 2020, the UC Riverside Academic Senate unanimously endorsed a proposal submitted by the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering (BCOE) to establish a new Master of Science Degree in Robotics. If approved by the Systemwide Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs and the University of California (UC) Office of the Provost, the new M.S. degree could accept its first cohort of students early as Fall 2021. The program would become the first Master’s Robotics program within the UC system.
Robotics is a fast-growing field driven by recent advances in artificial intelligence research and technology development and presents a wealth of career opportunities in industries such as manufacturing, logistics, health care, public safety, government, and the military.
At the National Science Foundation (NSF), robotics is at the forefront of multiple initiatives, including NSF’s 10 Big Ideas, Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation which is focused on soft robotics, and the National Robotics Initiative and Cyber-Physical Systems program. Robotics is also a critical part of many research programs at the U.S. Department of Defense, which plans to invest over $2 billion over the next five years in artificial intelligence research.
Currently, BCOE offers coursework in relevant sub-areas of robotics: mechanical engineering offers courses in robot design and control, electrical engineering in control and machine learning, computer engineering in real-time system design, and computer science in machine learning and data mining.
In response to the student demand of these popular BCOE courses, if approved, the M.S. Robotics curriculum will provide a more holistic understanding of robotics and culminate in an interdisciplinary training in the design, construction, and deployment of robots and autonomous systems. The program will be open to students with undergraduate degrees from the above-mentioned departments, and potentially to those with backgrounds in physics or mathematics.
The job growth outlook and salary opportunities for robotics are promising. In its report "The Future of Jobs 2018," the World Economic Forum projects that artificial intelligence could create 58 million new jobs globally by 2022. What's more, LinkedIn has seen hiring for artificial intelligence specialists increase by 74 percent in the past four years, and hiring for robotics engineers increase by 40 percent.
By earning an advanced educational degree, BCOE engineering students can greatly increase their earning potential for the long-term. The National Research Council states that “salaries of master’s degree holders in science and engineering have grown faster over the past 10 years than salaries of baccalaureate or doctorate holders.”
More updates and details of the program are expected to follow, pending additional approval by UC entities.