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AI Is Disrupting Professions That Require College Degrees. How Should Higher Ed Respond?

The latest wave of AI tools like ChatGPT seem certain to disrupt the workplace in the years ahead — and the most-disrupted professions may be ones that require college degrees. That presents an unprecedented challenge for colleges already struggling to prove their value.

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A study published last year used a sophisticated analysis to try to determine which types of jobs are most at risk of major disruptions and shrinkages due to large-language AI models. Topping the list are disciplines popular at colleges around the country — a large number of them in the teaching profession. For instance, eight of the top 10 most exposed jobs are teachers in various fields. Topping the list is telemarketers, and number 10 is sociologists.

The researchers looked at dozens of skills people use in their jobs, such as writing and reasoning, and then analyzed the potential for new AI tools to either supplant or support humans in those tasks.

For this week’s EdSurge Podcast, we connected with one of the researchers on the study, Robert Seamans, a professor of management and organizations at New York University’s business school.

And he stressed that while colleges should pay attention, the changes to these fields and their related workplaces won’t happen overnight.

“It takes a really long time before technology has these really dramatic changes,” he says. “In 2018 or so Elon Musk said there would be fleets of driverless Teslas everywhere by 2020. But looking out my window at the New York City streets and I just saw a yellow cab go by that’s not a Tesla. I’ve never seen a driverless Tesla.”

Seamans, who saw his own job of teaching business make the list of most-disrupted professions, has some advice for what colleges can do to prepare for what ChatGPT will do to the workplace.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, YouTube or wherever you listen to podcasts, or use the player on this page.

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