Job descriptions and industry overviews

Machine learning engineer: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:42

A machine learning engineer researches, designs and builds self-running artificial intelligence systems to automate predictive models.

robotic hand to represent artificial intelligence

Machine learning engineer : What does a machine learning engineer do? | Machine learning engineer salaries | Typical employers | How to become a machine learning engineer: training and qualifications needed | Key skills for machine learning engineers

Machine learning engineers are IT programmers who create software that provides computers and machines with the ability to function, learn and improve on their own (without being directed by humans). Every time the software performs an operation, it ‘learns’ from those results so it can carry out future operations more accurately – AKA predictive modelling. A self-driving car or recommended adverts are prime examples of this. These can be referred to as ‘software robots’.

What does a machine learning engineer do?

Typically, a machine learning engineer will:

  • write and create machine learning algorithms, applications and tools
  • develop machine learning applications that operate computers or machines
  • evaluate and document machine learning processes
  • liaise and work with data scientists and data engineers
  • perform statistical analyses
  • identify bugs in programming code
  • run machine learning tests
  • use test results to improve and develop models
  • train and re-train machine learning systems and models.

Machine learning engineers typically work a 40-hour week, Monday to Friday. Occasionally they work outside these hours and on weekends depending on the projects they are working on. There are opportunities for machine learning engineers to work full time in an office and remotely.

Some machine learning engineers work freelance or on a fixed short-term contract (the organisation employs them to work on a project or set tasks for a specific amount of time) – something that is becoming more common as this area of work evolves.

Machine learning engineer salaries

Based on individual job listings we’ve looked at, graduate machine learning engineers can earn between £30,000 and £45,000 per year, depending on location and employer. The Institute of Student Employers (ISE) surveyed 168 of its members across August and September in 2022 – typically the largest employers with graduate programmes – and revealed that the average salary for graduates in the digital and IT sector is £32,441.

Machine learning engineer salaries can increase rapidly with experience. According to the Hays UK Salary and Recruiting Trends report from 2023 – which compiles data from 13,000 employers and professionals who recruited through them in the past 12 months – typical salaries for experienced machine learning engineers range from £55,000 to £105,000 depending on location.

We dissect salaries for graduate IT schemes, the best paying graduate IT jobs, negotiating higher salaries and more in our graduate IT salaries article.

Typical employers

Machine learning engineers can work for:

  • tech companies (such as gaming or phone companies)
  • hospitals
  • internet security companies
  • engineering companies
  • pharmaceutical and scientific research companies.

How to become a machine learning engineer: training and qualifications needed

Most employers will look for a masters-level degree or a PhD (some employers do accept undergraduate degrees) in a relevant discipline for a job in machine learning, such as:

  • computer science
  • statistics
  • electrical engineering
  • mathematics
  • data science
  • data engineering
  • software engineering.

See our selection of articles on postgraduate study for the lowdown on postgraduate degrees and postgraduate study options for your chosen career.

In addition to studying for a relevant degree, you could complete an internship, this will demonstrate to employers that you have industry knowledge and hands-on experience – improving your employability when you start to apply for graduate jobs.

Knowledge of programming languages, along with the relevant degree, is expected. Many employers will want to see practical knowledge and understanding of programming languages such as Java, Python, C++ and JavaScript. YouTube tutorials can be a good place to start, but you can also check out our coding 101 article for tips on building coding skills, gaining coding experience and more useful advice.

To find vacancies, take a look on targetjobs for graduate IT jobs or internship opportunities. You can also seek out vacancies on the websites of individual employers that hire machine learning engineers.

Key skills for machine learning engineers

  • Strong analytical skills.
  • Mathematic abilities.
  • Good communication.
  • Experience in using a programming language such as Java.
  • The ability to work unsupervised.
  • Engineering skills.
  • Problem solving.
  • Analytical skills.
  • Innovation.

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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