Machine Learning Engineer: Job Description & Salary

Machine learning engineers are sophisticated programmers who develop machines and systems that can learn and apply knowledge without specific direction. This article explores the work machine learning engineers do and how to become one.

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Career Definition of a Machine Learning Engineer

Artificial intelligence is the goal of a machine learning engineer. They are computer programmers, but their focus goes beyond specifically programming machines to perform specific tasks. They create programs that will enable machines to take actions without being specifically directed to perform those tasks. An example of a system a machine learning engineer would work on is a self-driving car.

There are a number of applications for the work that machine learning engineers do. They may program services so that they can try to identify a specific person's interests or needs. From customized news feeds to tailored web searches, machine learning engineers are contributing to the daily lives of many individuals and how they use technology.

Educational Requirements Master's or doctoral degree
Job Skills Computer programming skills, strong mathematical skills, knowledge of cloud applications and computer languages, excellent communication skills
Median Salary (2017)* $106,225
Job Outlook (2014-2024)** 11% (computer and information research scientists)

Sources: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Most employers hiring machine learning engineers expect applicants to have a master's or doctoral degree in a relevant discipline. Fields of study include computer science or mathematics. Experience in computer programming is often required and employers may expect applicants to have knowledge of specific computer programming languages, such as C++ or Java.

Required Skills

The type of programming that machine learning engineers do is very sophisticated and it's common for those in this field to be required to have exceptional mathematical skills in order to perform computations and work with the algorithms involved in this type of programming. Communication skills are also important because machine learning engineers will need to explain their process to people who are not programming experts and some positions also require machine learning engineers to publish articles on their work. Strong analytical skills are needed since the work that machine learning engineers do involves projecting outcomes and isolating issues that need to be resolved to make programs more effective.

Career and Salary Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have a separate listing for machine learning engineers. This occupation is grouped under computer and information research scientists, and as part of this category machine learning engineers should expect to see an 11% rate of job growth from 2014 to 2024. PayScale reported that, as of 2017, machine learning engineers took home a median annual salary of $106,225.

Related Careers

Machine learning engineers share some similarities with other professionals, such as computer engineers, computer scientists and software developers. Software developers also create computer programs and computer scientists develop technology and applications for existing technology. Computer engineers can work on computer software programs or on building computer systems.

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