How to Become a
Machine Learning Engineer

Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep

Computer programs that use artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming more common in our digital age. Machine learning uses AI programs to help computer systems learn on their own without needing to be programmed. Machine learning is likely to have a major impact on many aspects of our lives in the future.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about becoming a machine learning engineer. If you’re interested in this lucrative career, our guide will help you get started.

What Is a Machine Learning Engineer?

A machine learning engineer is a computer science professional who develops AI software to help automate predictive computer models. These models can learn and improve certain functions without human interference. Machine learning engineers analyze datasets to develop different models.

Machine Learning Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

Machine learning engineers earn well above the national average salary. A report by PayScale shows the average machine learning engineer salary is about $112,600 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for all occupations in the US is about $56,300.

Better yet, machine learning engineers are in high demand. According to Indeed, jobs in machine learning grew by more than 344 percent between 2015 and 2018. This means that if you become a machine learning engineer, you’re guaranteed to have a selection of job opportunities to choose from.

Below are some entry-level requirements for a machine learning engineer that will help you get started.


Average Salary


Top Salary

Entry-Level Machine Learning Engineer Job Requirements

Most companies hire machine learning engineers who have a Master’s Degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering, or a related field. However, a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science with a focus on machine learning might suffice for some entry-level positions.

How to Ace Your Machine Learning Engineer Job Interview

If you know what to expect in your machine learning job interview, you are more likely to get the job. You will be asked both personal and technical questions. Below are some job interview questions that you should be ready to answer.

Common Machine Learning Engineer Job Interview Questions

  • Explain the different types of machine learning.
  • How would you program a machine to recognize all of the images in a set that feature a landscape?
  • What is your take on the relationship between statistics and machine learning?
  • What are Fourier transforms, and how are they related to neural nets?
  • Explain your experience with the R programming language, and list data pipelines in that specific environment.

What Degree Should I Get to Become a Machine Learning Engineer?

The best way to become a machine learning engineer is to earn a master’s degree in a related field. However, a bachelor’s degree might suffice if you’re seeking an entry-level position.

Below are the college and university programs you should consider pursuing to launch your career in machine learning.

Associate Degree in Machine Learning

An associate degree is a good choice if you want to take some classes to see if machine learning is right for you. Most associate degree programs take two years to complete. As the first step in your machine learning education, you should look for a college that offers an Associate Degree in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

These programs will cover common AI concepts and methodologies. You’ll also learn how to apply these concepts to your own machine learning projects. After completing an associate degree, you will be qualified for a job as a computer system analyst or a computer information research scientist.

Bachelor’s Degree in Machine Learning

Getting a bachelor’s degree is a good choice if you want to become a machine learning engineer. You should consider a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering, Information Technology, or Computer Science. These four-year programs will provide you with all the technical training you need to become a machine learning engineer.

Master’s Degree in Machine Learning

Machine learning engineers who aspire to work in advanced positions are expected to have a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. The level of knowledge you will obtain in this two or three-year program is critical to your success as a machine learning engineer.

Machine Learning Doctoral Degree

Top-level machine learning managers generally have a PhD in Machine Learning or Computer Science. This degree can take four to six years to complete. In a machine learning PhD program, you will study AI, robotics, deep learning, web information and retrieval, and data mining. You may also do important field research.

What Does a Machine Learning Engineer Do?

In general, a machine learning engineer creates systems that can help a machine learn on its own. To do this, they perform a series of tasks, some of which are listed below.

Designs Machine Learning Systems

Machine learning engineers use algorithms and existing datasets to conduct experiments to help their machine learning models improve. The type of system the engineer builds depends on the needs of the organization they work for.

Researches and Improves Infrastructure

Part of your duty as a machine learning engineer is to improve machine learning infrastructure. This infrastructure is the basis for the development of all machine learning models. To do this, you will need to have sufficient knowledge in data engineering so data can flow smoothly between backend systems and other databases.

Deploys Machine Learning Solutions

Machine learning engineers are also responsible for deploying the machine learning solutions that they have successfully developed. The method used to put these models into production will vary depending on the size of the company.

Essential Machine Learning Engineer Skills

Machine learning engineers must have technical skills to complement their soft skills in problem solving and communication. Below are some of the hard skills that all machine learning engineers should have.


Machine learning engineers must learn Python. Python is a programming language that is used in combination with the Anaconda program in data science, data engineering, predictive analysis, and machine learning applications.

Python code is easily interpreted by both humans and machines, which makes it ideal for building machine learning models. Machine learning engineers must also be skilled in Numerical Python and Scientific Python, also known as NumPy and SciPy.

Deep Learning

Deep learning is a subdivision of machine learning characterized by multilayered neural networks. These networks are designed to perform like the human brain by learning when large amounts of data are input. Deep learning is the key to many practical applications of machine learning.


TensorFlow is an open-source machine learning platform that enables the user to develop models and libraries. Machine learning engineers use TensorFlow to quickly set up and carry out experiments.

How to Become a Machine
Learning Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide

There are many paths you can take to become a machine learning engineer. The best choice is to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you start your journey to becoming a machine learning engineer.


Earn a Degree

The best way to become a machine learning engineer is by earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree. This is a basic prerequisite for most entry-level machine learning positions. Consider pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and a Master’s in Machine Learning or AI.


Study Advanced Mathematics

If pursuing a bachelor’s degree is not an option, then you should start your journey to becoming a machine learning engineer by first studying advanced mathematics. You should focus on linear algebra, probability, and calculus. Many online courses can help you get up to speed on these subjects. One option is MIT’s six-week machine learning program.


Learn Programming Languages

Programming languages are also an essential part of machine learning. As mentioned above, Python should be your priority because it is used to build most AI libraries. One of the best ways to learn any programming language is to enroll in a coding bootcamp. These programs run for an average of 16 weeks and have flexible online schedules.


Practice Machine Learning Specifics

Machine learning demands lots of reading and practice. Once you know the basics, you should start working on your personal side projects. Practice coding your own machine learning algorithms and build up a library.


Gain Experience and Apply for Jobs

After you have acquired technical training and practiced independently, the next step is to gain work experience. Most intermediate job positions will require a few years of experience to complement your degree. Starting with an internship or an entry-level position is a good way to get some formal experience under your belt.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Machine Learning Engineer?

The number of years it takes to become a machine learning engineer will depend on your chosen education path. If you choose to get a bachelor’s degree, it will take you about four years to be qualified for an entry-level machine learning position.

Should You Become a Machine Learning Engineer in 2021?

Yes, you should become a machine learning engineer in 2021. The demand for these professionals will grow exponentially over the next several years. Not only that, but the AI industry will only generate even more of these jobs as it continues to expand.

In addition, as a machine learning engineer, you’ll earn a salary that is significantly higher than most other professions. If you enjoy working with computer hardware, software, programming languages, or data, you should consider a career as a machine learning engineer.

Machine Learning Engineer FAQ

Are machine learning engineers in demand?

Machine learning engineers are in very high demand. According to Indeed, the demand for these professionals grew by 344 percent between 2015 and 2018.

Is working as a machine learning engineer a good career?

Machine learning is a good career if you enjoy math and data and are looking for a job that will bring in a high salary. You’ll be able to choose from many positions in both machine learning and AI.

How much does a machine learning engineer make?

Machine learning engineers earn a high salary. Reports from PayScale suggest that they earn about $110,000 per year.

Is machine learning hard?

Machine learning is often considered difficult because it involves carefully constructed advanced algorithms. If an algorithm is incorrect, the machine won’t function as intended. To succeed in this field, you will need to be focused and have great intuition.

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