Before we learn about the money, let’s get this question out of the way:
What Is Machine Learning?
Let’s have a look at the definition:
Machine learning (ML) is a subfield of artificial intelligence (AI) that focuses on the automatic creation of models from training data that predict outcomes accurately. The automatic creation of an ML model based on existing data is called training, whereas the prediction on new input data is called inference.
Due to the great performance of machine learning models on real-world problems such as self-driving cars, robotics, and natural language processing, the “subfield” ML became more and more important in recent years and started to penetrate into all areas of computing and even previously non-computing related fields.
This is an interesting video that explains the core ideas of machine learning in different levels of complexity:
Now that you know about what it is, let’s have a look at what it earns next!
How much does a Machine Learning Engineer make per year?
The average annual income of a Machine Learning Engineer in the United States is between $112,000 and $157,000 with a median of $131,000 per year according to multiple data sources such as Indeed, Glassdoor, Salary.com, and Payscale.
Here’s a quick overview of the raw income data:
- Indeed.com estimates the average annual income of a machine learning engineer to be $117,457 per year in the US.
- Salary.com estimates the average annual income of a machine learning engineer to be $145,297 per year in the US.
- Sandiego.edu estimates the average annual income of a machine learning engineer to be $146,085 per year in the US.
- Glassdoor.com estimates the average annual income of a machine learning engineer to be $131,001 per year in the US.
- PayScale.com estimates the average annual income of a machine learning engineer to be $112,266 per year in the US.
- Salary.com estimates the average annual income of a machine learning engineer to be $122,817 per year in the US.
- Talent.com estimates the average annual income of a machine learning engineer to be $140,000 per year in the US.
- ZipRecruiter.com estimates the average annual income of a machine learning engineer to be $157,676 per year in the US.
Let’s have a look at the hourly rate of Machine Learning Engineers next!
Machine Learning Engineers are well-paid on freelancing platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr.
- Related Article: What’s the best freelancing platform?
If you decide to go the route as a freelance Machine Learning Engineer, you can expect to make between $15 and $125 per hour on Upwork (source). Assuming an annual workload of 2000 hours, you can expect to make between $30,000 and $250,000 per year.
⚡ Note: Do you want to create your own thriving coding business online? Feel free to check out our freelance developer course — the world’s #1 best-selling freelance developer course that specifically shows you how to succeed on Upwork and Fiverr!
But is there enough demand? Let’s have a look at Google trends to find out how interest evolves over time (source):
Yes indeed! You can build your whole career on Machine Learning based on this data.
So, you may wonder: Machine Learning Engineer – what’s the definition?
Machine Learning Engineer Definition: A Machine Learning Engineer creates, edits, analyzes, debugs, models, and supervises the development of machine learning models using programming languages such as Python or C++ and machine learning libraries such as Keras or TensorFlow.
Learning Path, Skills, and Education Requirements
Do you want to become a Machine Learning Engineer? Here’s a step-by-step learning path I’d propose to get started with Machine Learning:
- Step 1: Introduction to Computer Science (~40 hours)
- Step 2: Introduction to Algorithms (~40 hours)
- Step 3: Introduction to Machine Learning (~20 hours)
- Step 4: Introduction to Machine Learning (Free Video Courses) (~10 hours)
- Step 5: Introduction to Python (~10 hours)
- Step 6: Introduction to Machine Learning (~40 hours)
- Step 7: Introduction to TensorFlow (Free Video Courses) (~10 hours)
- Step 8: Introduction to Keras (~20 hours)
- Step 9: Introduction to Keras (Free Video Courses) (~10 hours)
You can find many additional computer science courses on the Finxter Computer Science Academy (flatrate model).
But don’t wait too long to acquire practical experience!
Even if you have little skills, it’s best to get started as a freelance developer and learn as you work on real projects for clients — earning income as you learn and gaining motivation through real-world feedback.
🚀 Tip: An excellent start to turbo-charge your freelancing career (earning more in less time) is our Finxter Freelancer Course. The goal of the course is to pay for itself!
You can find more job descriptions for coders, programmers, and computer scientists in our detailed overview guide:
Related Income of Professional Developers
The following statistic shows the self-reported income from 9,649 US-based professional developers (source).
💡 The average annual income of professional developers in the US is between $70,000 and $177,500 for various programming languages.
Question: What is your current total compensation (salary, bonuses, and perks, before taxes and deductions)? Please enter a whole number in the box below, without any punctuation. If you are paid hourly, please estimate an equivalent weekly, monthly, or yearly salary. (source)
The following statistic compares the self-reported income from 46,693 professional programmers as conducted by StackOverflow.
💡 The average annual income of professional developers worldwide (US and non-US) is between $33,000 and $95,000 for various programming languages.
Here’s a screenshot of a more detailed overview of each programming language considered in the report:
Here’s what different database professionals earn:
Here’s an overview of different cloud solutions experts:
Here’s what professionals in web frameworks earn:
There are many other interesting frameworks—that pay well!
Look at those tools:
Okay, but what do you need to do to get there? What are the skill requirements and qualifications to make you become a professional developer in the area you desire?
Let’s find out next!
General Qualifications of Professionals
StackOverflow performs an annual survey asking professionals, coders, developers, researchers, and engineers various questions about their background and job satisfaction on their website.
Interestingly, when aggregating the data of the developers’ educational background, a good three quarters have an academic background.
Here’s the question asked by StackOverflow (source):
Which of the following best describes the highest level of formal education that you’ve completed?
However, if you don’t have a formal degree, don’t fear! Many of the respondents with degrees don’t have a degree in their field—so it may not be of much value for their coding careers anyways.
Also, about one out of four don’t have a formal degree and still succeeds in their field! You certainly don’t need a degree if you’re committed to your own success!
Freelancing vs Employment Status
The percentage of freelance developers increases steadily. The fraction of freelance developers has already reached 11.21%!
This indicates that more and more work will be done in a more flexible work environment—and fewer and fewer companies and clients want to hire inflexible talent.
Here are the stats from the StackOverflow developer survey (source):
Do you want to become a professional freelance developer and earn some money on the side or as your primary source of income?
Resource: Check out our freelance developer course—it’s the best freelance developer course in the world with the highest student success rate in the industry!
Other Programming Languages Used by Professional Developers
The StackOverflow developer survey collected 58000 responses about the following question (source):
Which programming, scripting, and markup languages have you done extensive development work in over the past year, and which do you want to work in over the next year?
These are the languages you want to focus on when starting out as a coder:
And don’t worry—if you feel stuck or struggle with a nasty bug. We all go through it. Here’s what SO survey respondents and professional developers do when they’re stuck:
What do you do when you get stuck on a problem? Select all that apply. (source)
To get started with some of the fundamentals and industry concepts, feel free to check out these articles:
- Freelance Developer – How to Code From Home and Earn Six Figures [Industry Report]
- How to Become a Python Freelancer—and Earn $1,000 on the Side? [A Step-by-Step Tutorial]
- How Adam Earns $5000 per Month as a Python Freelancer on Upwork [Month 4]
- Machine Learning Wikipedia
- Learn Machine Learning Google
Where to Go From Here?
Enough theory. Let’s get some practice!
Coders get paid six figures and more because they can solve problems more effectively using machine intelligence and automation.
To become more successful in coding, solve more real problems for real people. That’s how you polish the skills you really need in practice. After all, what’s the use of learning theory that nobody ever needs?
You build high-value coding skills by working on practical coding projects!
Do you want to stop learning with toy projects and focus on practical code projects that earn you money and solve real problems for people?
🚀 If your answer is YES!, consider becoming a Python freelance developer! It’s the best way of approaching the task of improving your Python skills—even if you are a complete beginner.
If you just want to learn about the freelancing opportunity, feel free to watch my free webinar “How to Build Your High-Income Skill Python” and learn how I grew my coding business online and how you can, too—from the comfort of your own home.
 Code to generate this graphic:
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt data = [117457, 145297, 146085, 131001, 112266, 122817, 140000, 157676] labels = ['Indeed.com', 'Salary.com', 'Sandiego.edu', 'Glassdoor.com', 'PayScale.com', 'Salary.com', 'Talent.com', 'ZipRecruiter.com'] plt.bar(range(len(data)), data) plt.xticks(range(len(data)), labels, rotation='vertical', position = (0,0.6), color='white', weight='bold') plt.ylabel('Average Income ($)') plt.title('Machine Learning Engineer Annual Income - by Finxter') plt.legend() plt.show()
While working as a researcher in distributed systems, Dr. Christian Mayer found his love for teaching computer science students.
To help students reach higher levels of Python success, he founded the programming education website Finxter.com that has taught exponential skills to millions of coders worldwide. He’s the author of the best-selling programming books Python One-Liners (NoStarch 2020), The Art of Clean Code (NoStarch 2022), and The Book of Dash (NoStarch 2022). Chris also coauthored the Coffee Break Python series of self-published books. He’s a computer science enthusiast, freelancer, and owner of one of the top 10 largest Python blogs worldwide.
His passions are writing, reading, and coding. But his greatest passion is to serve aspiring coders through Finxter and help them to boost their skills. You can join his free email academy here.