How to Become a Machine Learning Engineer in Canada
Find out how you can enter the world of artificial intelligence with a career as a machine learning engineer.
In today’s society, artificial intelligence has been a big topic of conversation. In this year alone, talk of AI has increased significantly with the rise of generative AI tools, like ChatGPT. But AI has been around a lot longer than you may think. It’s what filters our spam emails into the junk folder, recommends products and shows based on your online activity, and converts your speech to texts.
If artificial intelligence is something that interests you, then consider pursuing a career as a machine learning engineer!
What is machine learning?
Machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence where computers learn how to perform tasks without specifically being programmed to do so. This process incorporates the process of supervised learning, where the computer receives examples of data from a human, and unsupervised learning, where it uses its previous knowledge that it’s been provided to find patterns.
Basically, just like humans continue to learn as they grow up, computers can be trained to do so as well. This type of AI learns from its interactions with humans to automate tasks, like when you use facial recognition to unlock your phone, or a voice command to ask your phone or your Alexa to play your favourite song.
For a deeper look into what machine learning is and how it relates to artificial intelligence, then check out these two videos by the University of Oxford and the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM):
What is a machine learning engineer?
A machine learning engineer programs these algorithms that are able to self-educate and learn. Machine learning engineers can work in various sectors, such as technology, government, supply chain, financial, automotive, and more. As advancements in AI happen more and more, the possibilities for how you can use machine learning in any sector will be endless.
How often and for how long a machine learning engineer typically works will vary on the company they work for and the project they’re working on. Many machine learning engineers will work full-time 9-5 each week, but there will often be projects, issues, or ideas that pop up and require extra work to be done outside of traditional working hours.
What do machine learning engineers do?
Machine learning engineers design machine learning systems by organizing data, performing tests and analyses, monitoring the program output, and making adjustments to the algorithm if needed.
Here’s a few daily tasks that you may perform as a machine learning engineer:
- Searching for and selecting appropriate data sets
- Performing statistical analysis with these data sets to determine outcome
- Training machine learning systems with the data
- Identify discrepancies between data that could affect model performance in real-life
- Verifying data quality
- Testing and adjusting machine learning algorithms
How to become a machine learning engineer
If machine learning sounds interesting and like a good fit for you, then follow these steps to become a machine learning engineer in Canada:
Step one: Undergraduate education
To begin your journey of becoming a machine learning engineer, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, mathematics, data science, or in a field related to programming. Some schools may even offer bachelor’s degrees that specialize in machine learning, like Carleton University’s Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning program.
However, most schools will offer bachelor’s degrees in computer science that will provide the option to specialize or take courses in artificial intelligence. Degrees in computer science will help you develop your algorithm analysis and design skills.
In your search for schools, try finding a program that offers a co-op or internship opportunity as part of the degree. This way you can get a taste of whether this career is for you before going further in your education.
Step two: Graduate education
After you’ve completed your undergraduate education, the next step many people take to become machine learning engineers in Canada is to pursue a graduate degree in a specialization that will help them learn more about machine learning or build essential programming skills.
While a graduate degree is not mandatory for this career, many companies will prefer applicants to have a master’s or doctoral degree in computer science with a focus on machine learning or a related field.
Step three: Gain experience
Many machine learning engineers begin their careers as data scientists or software engineers as they get their foot in the door. These roles will help you gain experience in computer programming, analyzing and designing software systems, and will have you working alongside software developers and machine learning engineers.
Once you’ve gained enough experience as a software engineer or in a related role, then you can begin to move up the ladder to become a machine learning engineer.
Step four: Stay up to date in your field with certifications
New technologies and software are constantly being created, and programming languages are continually evolving. As a machine learning engineer, you’ll need to stay up to date on industry trends and technologies to succeed in this ever-changing field.
You’ll need to be well versed in programming languages like structured query language, R, Java, and more. You’ll can also use certifications to help you get to the next level of your career. Here are five popular machine learning certifications you can explore:
- IBM’s Machine Learning Professional Certificate — an online, six course program that covers supervised/unsupervised learning, deep learning, and survival analysis
- Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning Specialization — offered by Stanford University and DeepLearning.AI, this course will cover building and training machine learning models
- Google’s Professional Machine Learning Engineer Certification — a two-hour, multiple-choice exam that demonstrates your skills in designing, building, and producing machine learning models using Google Cloud
- University of Washington’s Machine Learning Specialization — a four-course program that covers major areas of machine learning, like prediction, classification, and information retrieval
- Amazon Web Service’s (AWS) Certified Machine Learning - Specialty Certification — demonstrates your skills in building, training, and running machine learning models in AWS
Unfortunately, certifications can’t replace a degree in your goal to become a machine learning engineer. Many certifications require you to have some experience in the role before you can take the course, and you can’t gain experience as a machine learning engineer without a degree.
What’s the difference between data scientists and machine learning engineers?
Data scientists and machine learning engineers can seem similar when comparing them, but check out what actually makes these two careers different:
Data scientists and machine learning engineers both have a similar education background in computer science, understanding data analytics and predictive models, and programming codes and languages, like Python and R. In fact, many machine learning engineers may start out as data scientists.
Since both careers have such similar education and training backgrounds, data scientists could become machine learning engineers (and vice versa!), but data scientists are typically considered to be more of an entry-role to machine learning engineers.
The roles of data scientists and machine learning engineers are where they differ. Data scientists collect data and use machine learning algorithms to identify patterns that can help a business make better decisions.
Machine learning engineers build and develop these machine learning algorithms that data scientists use.
How much do machine learning engineers make in Canada? Machine learning engineers can be grouped with data engineers, who, on average, make $102,710 per year. As you advance in your career, machine learning engineers can earn more than the average with years of experience and additional certifications. Machine learning engineers are in demand in Canada, so you’ll find plenty of opportunities when you graduate.
If you’ve got the knack for coding and you’re interested in artificial intelligence, then a career as a machine learning engineer could be for you! Take the first step to becoming a machine learning engineer in Canada by finding the right program for you.
Explore your computer science program options