China is forecast to produce 8.2 million fresh graduates this year, and many will struggle to find work — unless they majored in a subject related to artificial intelligence.
Hu, a master's student of pattern recognition at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Automation, said his only struggle has been deciding between job offers from six well-known companies.
The first came from JD Finance in July, almost a year before he was due to graduate, but he eventually chose to join e-commerce giant Alibaba.
The salaries on offer ranged from 300,000 to 500,000 yuan ($47,680 to $79,470), according to the 25-year-old, who asked to be identified only by his surname as he is still negotiating his contract.
With a major perfect for image analysis, which is in high demand from AI companies, Hu said all his classmates had received more than one offer by the end of November.
A report by recruitment website Zhaopin may go so way to explain why Hu and his classmates are so popular.
Big data analysis of the website's 135 million users found a 179 percent increase in the demand for AI expertise in the third quarter of last year compared with the first quarter of 2016, which is when AlphaGo recorded a shock 4-1 victory over 18-time Go champion Lee Se-dol, one of the ancient Chinese board game's all-time masters.
The demand has also made those with majors loosely related to AI popular.
A graduate surnamed Wang who majored in computer technology at the University of Science and Technology Beijing was offered a job last month at CloudMinds, a startup focused on cloud intelligence applications. He learned image analysis while interning at the company in May.
"I've learned the traditional way of doing image analysis, but this is new," Wang said. "I always look up things I don't know on the internet and talk with my colleagues to get ideas for possible solutions."
Another master's student called Hu majoring in integrated circuit engineering at Tsinghua University has also received six offers from AI companies — despite only teaching himself AI a year ago.
"My major is more related to hardware, like the chip industry, and has nothing to do with AI," he said, adding that he learned basic AI knowledge by reading books and studying online projects.
"There have been ups and downs in the history of AI development, and we're now perhaps witnessing one of the rising trends, which makes it relatively easy to get a job."
Promising as it seems, the field of AI technology has not been without bubbles, though.
"The rising trend might fall, and it is too early to tell," Hu at Tsinghua said. "Overall, I believe it's positive. AI is improving productivity, and the products it provides will replace some of the work humans do."
Zhu Fangjie contributed to the story. chinadaily.com.cn Updated: 2018-02-01