The transition from school to college where one says goodbye to one part of life and enters into another is probably the most memorable in everyone’s life. However most of the students are confused about what career to follow next. In today’s parlance, they become bewildered to see the thousands of career options. Choosing a right career path becomes even more difficult if they don’t have clear idea about what do they want to do? Following below mentioned steps may make it easy and increases the chances of taking a good decision for one:

  • Self-Assessment: One must attempt to learn about oneself in terms of interests, aptitude, values, soft skills, and personality type.
  • Prepare a List of Career Options: Prepare a list of careers appealing to you based on your interests and those are a good fit for you. Also include the career options you know a bit about and those about which you don’t know much too.
  • Explore the List of Career Options: Gather basic information about each of the career option in your list in the form of job opportunities in that domain and educational training required for the same. One should also look for higher study options in the same domain.
  • Narrow Down the List of Options: Based on the information gained in the previous step, narrow down the list of options by eliminating the options you are not interested in pursuing.
  • Gather Concrete Information: Meet people working/teaching the area you are interested in and gather concrete information of the option in which you are interested.
  • Finalize your Career Option: Finalize the option now which you find most satisfactory for you and you wish to pursue as a career.
  • Define Goals: Define your long as well as short term goals. Long term goals include completing the education required to pursue your choice as a career and short term goals could be applying to right university, training, internship, and apprenticeships.
  • Develop an Action Plan: Develop an action plan laying down the steps to follow to achieve short term and in turn long turn goals. It should also incorporate the plan to avoid/resolve any hindrances in your way.

Now let me help you out in answering the following question:

How to Choose the Best Career Path: Machine Learning Engineer or Data Scientist

Now days, we are generating thousands of Terabytes of data per day, and a person who can handle this huge amount of data and offer business solutions is highly in demand. So, Machine Learning Engineer and Data Scientist are two such most sought after professions these days.

The competition between Machine Learning Engineer and a Data Scientist is increasing day by day and the line between them is diminishing. Traits like experience, and analytical skills required in them are very hard to find and hence qualified Machine Learning Engineers and Data Scientists are in high demand.

Introduction to Machine Learning

Alan Turing stated in 1947 that “What we want is a machine that can learn from experience.”

This was perhaps the time Machine Learning began. We use machine learning several times a day without even being aware of it.

You became wondered. How? Right!

Just think of YouTube recommendations and Facebook image recognition features. With YouTube as soon as you finish watching a tutorial or video on any topic you start receiving a recommendation to watch other videos on the same topic or genre .You might be wondering how does YouTube come to know about what to recommend you next? It really seems complex but YouTube analyses everything you watch and even keywords in the videos you watched previously. Based on this it recommends you. Isn’t it amazing, right?.

Similarly, you can be amazed by the tagging feature of Facebook. Suppose that you upload your vacation pictures with your friends on Facebook and it tags your friends in each and every picture very intelligently in no time [4]. You may also consider about the Google Map which offers you so many features without revealing the complex logic behind it. Machine learning has so strongly been integrated into our day to day activities now that we don’t even become aware of its presence now and keep working. Machine Learning is actually a type of Artificial Intelligence itself.

As you can see from the figure above, Artificial Intelligence consists of Machine Learning which in turn consists of Deep Learning Artificial Intelligence makes use of Machine Learning in order to enable them to learn a task from previous experience without explicitly programming them. All we need to do is, feed machines with good quality data and train them by developing various learning models using data and learning algorithms. Choice of learning algorithms depends on the type of data in hand and the type of task which needs to be automated.

All this makes Machine Learning a most popular career opportunity amongst youngsters. According to Indeed, with a growth rate of 344%, Machine Learning Engineer was awarded best job of 2019 with an average base salary of $146,085 per annum. It can greatly optimize human efforts in enabling machines to learn from them and increases their performance. This results in many popular and well paid career options such as Natural Language Processing Scientist etc.

Introduction to Data Science

In Simple words, we can define Data science as the describing, predicting and drawing causal inference from data to help individuals and businesses in better decision making. Data can be structured as well as unstructured. Data Science also takes care of origination of data, representation and the process of transformation of data into a valuable resource. It also helps business houses in :

  • Gaining a competitive advantage
  • Identifying new market opportunities
  • Increased efficiency
  • Reduction in costs

To achieve these objectives, it makes use of computer science disciplines like mathematics and statistics. It also employs techniques like data mining, cluster analysis, visualization, and—yes—machine learning to some extent.

Who is a Machine Learning Engineer?

Sophisticated programmers whose aim is to develop machines that can learn on their own and apply knowledge without any specific direction are Machine Learning Engineers. They write programs to enable machines to act humanly without being directed specifically to perform certain tasks. They are also required to analyse data and design various machine learning algorithms that can run autonomously without human intervention .

Who is a Data Scientist?

A Data Scientist is a specialist professional who solves complex data problems in scientific disciplines with his/her expertise. As mentioned previously also, they conduct a statistical analysis to decide which machine learning algorithm to use. Then they model the algorithm and put it into testing. Businesses look towards a Data Scientist to gather, process, and derive valuable insights from the data in order to answer a question or solve a problem. They help companies in achieving sustainable growth by better understanding themselves and their customers.

Machine Learning Engineer vs. Data Scientist

We may consider the following parameters to answer the question of Machine Learning Engineer vs. Data Scientist:

• Salary Trends
• Job Trends
• Skills Requirements
• Must-Have Machine Learning Engineer Skills
• Must-Have Data Scientist Skills
• Roles and Responsibilities

Salary Trends

Table below shows the average salary of a Data Scientist as well as of Machine Learning Engineer in India and US based on 4,575 and 1,542 salaries reported by people on job seeking site

Experience Data Scientist Machine Learning Engineer
Entry Level – IND ?306,054 – ?1,215,966 ?405,650 – ?2,105,761
Entry Level – US $60,894 – $124,247 $76,184 – $141,190
Experienced – IND ?972,106 – ?2,928,194 ?1,112,565 – ?4,024,375
Experienced – US $79,321 – $167,947 $95,254 – $235,640

Factors like the company and the location of the company also affect these figures however we have reported the average salary range for different levels of experience. So, if we compare the Salary Trends of Machine Learning Engineer and Data Scientist, we can see that in general, a Machine Learning Engineer earns a little more than a Data Scientist.

Job Trends

Table below shows the number of jobs reported in different three different locations of US and Bengaluru India in 2019.

Data Scientist Job Trends
Location No. of Jobs
Seattle, WA 2065
New York, NY 1189
San Francisco, CA 1107
Bengaluru, Karnataka 1101
Machine Learning Engineer Job Trends
Location No. of Jobs
Seattle, WA 1544
New York, NY 1813
San Francisco, CA 1487
Bengaluru, Karnataka 936

We can see from the above tables that although there are more job openings for a Data Scientist than a Machine Learning Engineer, yet the later get slightly more paid than a Data Scientist. This is due to the fact that Machine Learning Engineers work on Artificial Intelligence which is relatively a new domain.

Skills Requirements

There are several skills which are required by both a Machine Learning Engineer and a Data Scientist. So let’s first look at the common skillsets:

  • Programming Languages: Both of them are required to have a good understanding of programming languages like C++, Java, R, and preferably python as it is easy to learn and its applications are wider than any other language.
  • Statistics: Both are required to know Statistics and should be familiar with Matrices, Vectors and Matrix Multiplication.
  • Data Cleaning and Visualization: Data pre-processing in the form of cleansing and visualization is a valuable process. It helps you in saving time and increasing your efficiency by quickly identifying your findings. Data visualization can have a make-or-break effect when it comes to the impact of your data.
  • Machine Learning and Neural Network Architectures: Machine Learning and predictive modelling are the two buzzwords today. Both professionals are supposed to understand machine learning techniques like supervised and unsupervised machine learning, decision trees, and logistic regression etc. It will help them solve different analytical problems based on predicting major organizational outcomes.Inspired by biological neurons (Brain Cells), Deep Learning takes traditional Machine Learning approaches to next level. It attempts to mimic the human brain. A large network of such Artificial Neurons is known as Deep Neural Network.
  • Big Data Processing Frameworks: Huge amount of data is being generated these days called Big Data. We, therefore, require frameworks like Spark and Hadoop to handle this Big Data. Big Data Analytics is a must-have skill for both professionals to gain hidden business insights.
  • Industry Knowledge: Successful projects address the real business issues. No matter which industry one work for, one should be aware of the working of that industry and what is in interest of business. Both the Machine Learning Engineer and Data Scientist are therefore required to have business acumen so that all their technical skills can be channelled productively to make up a successful business model.

Must-Have Skills for a Machine Learning Engineer

  • Language, Audio and Video Processing: Machine Learning Engineers are supposed to have a good control over libraries like Gensim, NLTK, sentimental analysis, and summarization. This is required as Natural Language Processing combines Computer Science and Linguistics and need to work with text and audio/video.
  • Applied Mathematics: A Machine Learning Engineer is required having a firm understanding of algorithmic theory and concepts like Convex Optimizations, Gradient Descent, Partial differentiation, and Quadratic Programming.
  • Signal Processing Techniques: A Machine Learning Engineer is also required to have an understanding of Signal Processing. It helps to solve different complex problems as feature extraction, time-frequency analysis and wavelets- which are integral to signal processing are important parts of Machine Learning.
  • Software Development: Being inherent software developers, Machine Learning Engineers need to have a sound understanding of software engineering principles and concepts like Data Structures, Memory Management, and how to package software.

 Must-Have Skills for a Data Scientist

  • Creative and Critical Thinking: There is a saying that smart people ask hard questions while really smart people ask simple ones. Data Scientists must be able to play with numbers. They must look at numbers, trends, and data to draw new conclusions.
  • Effective Communication: A Data Scientist need to have effective communication skills as they work with peoples from different segments including laymen, marketing and sales person to a team of engineers. They should be able to convey their findings effectively to people with little or no expertise.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Now let’s see the challenges faced by them and the roles and responsibilities borne by them:

Roles and Responsibilities of a Machine Learning Engineer:

  • Study and transformation of various Data science prototypes
  • Design and develop new Machine Learning Systems
  • Carry out Research on new Machine Learning algorithms and tools
  • Develop new machine learning applications to fulfil requirements
  • Selection  of appropriate Datasets and Data Representation Methods
  • Run Machine Learning Tests and Experiments
  • Perform Statistical analysis and Fine-Tuning of parameters using Test Results
  • Train and Retrain Systems as and when necessary
  • Extending existing ML Libraries and Frameworks
  • Keep abreast of Developments in the Field of Artificial Intelligence

Roles and Responsibilities of a Data Scientist:

  • Selecting features, Building and Optimizing Classifiers using Machine Learning Techniques
  • Understand the customer’s business needs and guide them to a solution
  • Data mining using state-of-the-art methods
  • Processing, cleansing, and verifying the integrity of data used for analysis
  • Perform Market Research
  • Obtain Data and Recognize its Strength
  • Use Deep Learning frameworks like MXNet, Tensorflow, Theano and Keras to build Deep Learning models
  • Pinpoint Trends, Correlations, and Patterns in complicated data sets
  • Identify new opportunities for process improvement
  • Work with Professional Services like DevOps consultants to help customers operationalize models after they are built

No matter you work as a Machine Learning Engineer or as a Data Scientist, you are going to work with cutting edge technologies to offer simple solutions to complex business problems. Young bright minds with requisite skills will be highly in demand in this space for years to come as demand for such talent far outpaces supply. So whatever path you choose, you are always on the right path.