Skip to main content
A machine learning engineer holding a tablet is briefing team members who are working on computers.

What Is Machine Learning? Salary and Career Outlook

What Is Machine Learning? Salary and Career Outlook

Artificial intelligence (AI) can be defined as a computer’s practical or theoretical ability to carry out tasks that would normally require human intelligence. AI automates a variety of processes that range from simple to complex, which can save people time and allow them to work more efficiently. The field of AI can be divided into several subsets, including computer vision, robotics, natural language processing, expert systems, and machine learning.

Machine learning is one of the fastest-growing subsets of AI, and mastering it can help those interested in a high-tech career pursue exciting opportunities. Enrolling in an AI and machine learning bootcamp is an empowering, comprehensive, and convenient way to discover what machine learning is and gain the skills required to thrive in any of these careers.

What Is Machine Learning?

Machine learning systems consist of algorithms that pore over vast amounts of data looking for patterns so they can learn and adapt without instructions. Unlike natural language processing, which involves teaching computers to understand human language, or computer vision, which enables computers to interpret visual information, machine learning empowers computers to learn from data and improve their performance over time—without explicit programming.

Machine learning is the driving force behind much of the technology people use every day. Examples include the following:

  • Chatbots: A chatbot is a form of AI built into an organization’s website that answers common questions for users or directs them to the correct department, page, or person.

  • Streaming Services: Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu use machine learning to determine recommendations for what a viewer should watch next.

  • Social Media Platforms: Machine learning algorithms dictate which posts people see first in their feeds on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

  • Predictive Text: Predictive text uses one of the simplest forms of machine learning algorithms. It can be found in text messaging, instant messaging, and email applications.

The concept of machine learning was born in the 1930s when Alan Turing, a British computer pioneer, had a vision of an abstract machine that could scan its own memory and add to it using external information without limit. This concept is known as the Turing machine. Since then, machine learning has continued to become more sophisticated. Self-driving cars, smart home assistants, e-commerce websites, and other technologies rely on machine learning systems.

What Is the Machine Learning Salary?

According to Payscale, professionals who are skilled in machine learning had a median annual base salary of about $112,000 as of June 2023. Several factors may influence an individual’s salary in this field, including their experience, specific career type, and geographic location. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), data scientists who work in states with the highest concentration of jobs and location quotients—such as California and New York—earn a higher mean wage than their counterparts in other states—such as Utah and Missouri.

A person’s chosen career path within the machine learning field is important, as well. For example, data scientists’ annual salaries range from about $59,000 to $167,000, while business analysts’ annual salaries range from about $48,000 to $161,000, according to the BLS.

Machine Learning Career Paths

What is a machine learning career going to look like in the future, and what kinds of careers are available now? Machine learning encompasses several exciting career paths, and each one features unique responsibilities, salary figures, and job outlook information.

Machine Learning Engineer

A machine learning engineer is someone who researches, designs, and builds software that automates AI systems. These programs look at massive amounts of data to find patterns and develop algorithms that can provide insights, offer helpful predictions, and even perform cognitive tasks previously only possible for humans.

According to Lightcast™, artificial intelligence and machine learning engineers had a median annual salary of about $147,000 as of February 2023. The BLS predicts that jobs for professionals in data science—which includes machine learning engineers—will skyrocket by 36% between 2021 and 2031. As technologies continue to become more sophisticated, the demand for skilled machine learning engineers will increase.

Data Scientist

A data scientist uses data and mathematics to address real-world issues. Machine learning algorithms help data scientists collect relevant statistics that they can then use to analyze past results or predict future ones. Some data scientists develop algorithms and models that support machine learning in specific scenarios, but others spend much of their time finding new data using existing machine learning systems.

Lightcast™ reports that data scientists had a median annual salary of about $132,000 as of February 2023. As noted above, the BLS predicts that job openings for data scientists will grow by 36% between 2021 and 2031. The growing demand for data-driven decisions and the sheer volume of data available will mean more data scientists who can mine and use that data will be needed.

Business Analyst

Business analysts leverage data and analytical tools to tackle practical business challenges. They work with various data sources to extract valuable insights that aid in understanding past performance and forecasting future outcomes. They interpret historical trends and make informed recommendations using techniques like statistical analysis and data visualization. While some business analysts focus on creating specialized models for specific business purposes, others discover new insights through existing analytical frameworks.

The BLS predicts the employment of operations research analysts—including business analysts—will increase by 23% between 2021 and 2031. The median annual salary for data analysts is about $86,400 as of February 2023, according to Lightcast™.

Artificial Intelligence Engineer

Artificial intelligence engineers are the professionals behind AI and machine learning technology and tools that help businesses run more efficiently and aim to assist individuals in spending their resources more effectively. These individuals develop and train the algorithms behind AI to make them function more like human intelligence.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning engineers had a median annual salary of about $147,000 in February 2023, according to Lightcast™. Engineers with more experience and multiple degrees or certificates tend to earn more. The field is expected to see steady expansion due to the growing demand for AI solutions.

Influence Society’s Future

What is machine learning? Why are careers in this field so lucrative? Artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to change the way people live well into the future. From providing custom content recommendations to analyzing vast stores of data to making predictions about specific consumer markets, machine learning affects the choices and interactions of individuals and businesses on a daily basis, making it one of the most impactful technological developments in modern history.

Discover how you can influence society’s future and change lives for the better with the live online AI and Machine Learning Bootcamp at Fullstack Academy. This convenient 26-week, part-time program teaches all the skills you need to specialize in this rapidly growing field.

Recommended Readings


Britannica, “Alan Turing and the Beginning of AI”

Indeed, “How to Become an AI Engineer (Plus Job Duties and Skills)”

Indeed, “Software Engineer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications”

Investopedia, “Artificial Intelligence: What It Is and How It Is Used”

LinkedIn, Data Scientist Job Description

Payscale, Average Data Scientist Salary

Payscale, Average Machine Learning Engineer Salary

Payscale, Average Machine Learning Engineer with Artificial Intelligence (AI) Skills Salary

Payscale, Salary for Skill: Machine Learning

TechTarget, “Machine Learning Engineer (ML Engineer)”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Technology Occupations

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Data Scientists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics for Data Scientists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Operations Research Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers