Machine Learning Or Software Development: Which is Better?

Many of you get often confused between Machine Learning Or Software Development, which is a better career for you. When I started with my career in coding I also had the same confusion. So here in this article, I will take you through which is a better career option between Machine Learning or Software Development.  

I’ve been in the industry for a little bit now, so hopefully, I can bring some useful insights to compare which is better as a career option between Machine Learning or Software Development. In this article, I will draw some comparison between machine learning and software development so that you can easily choose a better career. 

Also, Read – Machine Learning Full Course For free.

Machine Learning Vs. Software Development: Salary

Money is important and many people are drawn into coding precisely because of money, and there’s probably nothing wrong in that. So let’s just have a look at the salary breakdown of machine learning experts versus software developers in the US and the UK. So first, let’s have a look at the American market.

On average, software developers earn $ 92000 per year. That can be contrasted with $ 114000 for machine learning experts, again, on average in the UK, the situation looks quite similar. This data was taken from Glassdoor. It doesn’t take into account the geographic breakdown within each country. 

So, for example, if you work as a software developer or machine learning expert in a region like Silicon Valley, obviously you are going to earn much more than what I just mentioned above. This is just an average and the same for London in case of the UK. 

The point is that as you can see in both countries, machine learning experts earn marginally more than software developers. But what about the demand for machine learning experts as compared to software developers? To analyse that, let’s have a look at the number of job openings as quoted by, 

So according to the website, between 2015 and 2018, the number of job openings for machine learning experts rose by 344 %. And the number of software developers positions rose by 207 % in the same period. You can see remarkable growth in both areas. But again, the number of job openings for machine learning grew a bit more as compared to software developers. 

So when it comes to the financial aspect, it appears that machine learning experts will win. 

Machine Learning Vs. Software Development: Predisposition

The second aspect we are going to consider there are your predispositions. Now, I believe that this is the most important factor in the whole decision process. And what I mean by that is that machine learning and software development are completely different fields. They call for completely different skills. And you need to have completely different mindsets to solve machine learning problems versus software development problems. 

Now, you might be naturally more suited to do machine learning or maybe you’re more naturally suited to do software development. So let’s compare and see what is machine learning. Well, machine learning is statistics, period. Statistics mean maths. If you are not good at maths, forget about machine learning. And I’m not saying that you cannot learn it because you probably can if you put enough effort into it. 

What I’m saying is that you will find it extremely difficult. And what’s the point? So machine learning is for someone who loves complex mathematical riddles, thinking in an abstract, theoretical way. So what is software development? Well, software development is a type of engineering and that means putting things together so that they work. It is a much more practical area. 

What is important is your creation. Hippity practicality, it is not important that you know, maths, because usually that’s not involved in the process. So that’s one distinction between machine learning and software development. Another distinction is that in software development, you get this instantaneous feedback from the system, so you do something, you called up your solution and it either works or it doesn’t work. 

You get this feedback and you know that you did something right if you did something right. And that makes you happy. Whereas in machine learning, there are so many arbitrary things that happen in machine learning. If you are getting very shady results, it might be that you didn’t clean your data right. Or it might be that the data is inherently messy and you can’t do much about it. Or it might be that you’ve initialized your hyperparameters to wrong values, or it might be that this algorithm is not the best fit for the data and it can be, you know, a series of things and you just don’t know. 

And you will never know for sure which one of these it is. And because you don’t know whether you’re doing something right or wrong, it doesn’t give you that instantaneous satisfaction, instantaneous feedback. The number of technologies that you have to know to do machine learning is quite limited, which is good or bad, depending on how you look at it. But basically, all you have to know pretty much is Pythonesque. 

Well, your job is to come up with algorithms, so all the maths is more important. And then the idea is that you just have to put it into a code. Python is sufficient to do that. One downside of software development is that you have to know a lot of programming languages, especially if you are a Full Stack Developer, which means that you have to know the backend and front end. 

So you have to know as well some object-oriented language like Java or C#, maybe Python. And if you do Web technologies as well, then you also have to know JavaScript and its gazillion of frameworks. So, you know, being a software developer is a never-ending learning curve. It’s just that it is it’s a long curve. 

So whether you’re better suited to machine learning or software development is all dependent on whether you are a lot of complex maths, then machine learning to read or B, you love creating stuff, building stuff, then software engineering is for you overall a draw. 

Machine Learning Vs. Software Development: Barriers to Entry

The third consideration is barriers to entry for machine learning. The barriers to entry are quite high. Very often in job openings, you’ll see that what is required is an advanced degree in mathematics, statistics, computer science or other quantitative degrees. Sometimes they even explicitly ask for a PhD in those areas. Now, that’s not always the case. 

 However, it is often the case that this degree is at least helpful. That can be contrasted with software development. Sometimes the job openings ask for a degree, but rarely it is an advanced degree like masters or PhD. And even if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, often it is enough to have a portfolio of projects that you’ve coded so that you can have evidence that you can code. 

So in this category, I believe software development takes over machine learning. 

What’s Better for Future?

So let’s talk about the predictions for the next 10 years what is a good option between software development or machine learning. Surprisingly, machine learning is still on the rise given the crazy amount of data that we produce every day. 500 million tweets are sent, 4 Petabytes of data is created on Facebook. 294 billion emails are sent. 4 Terabytes of data is created on every connected car. Over one billion messages are sent on WhatsApp, five billion searches are made. 

So we generate a lot of data and someone will have to be drawing insights from the data for governments, for businesses. And I also think that many machine learning experts at smaller companies, in particular, will have to learn the data engineering skills because data engineering skills will be extremely important. Software development isn’t going anywhere for the next 10 years as well. 

However, that trend is that we will be coding less and less. It is happening now and it will be certainly even more prominent in the future. So basically what software development is going to be about is glueing things together, understanding the ecosystem, how various applications talk to each other. 


So we have a tie between the two carriers now to pick the right one for you, ask yourself these questions. Do you prefer mathematical riddles or building things? Do you have a specialized degree or can you afford to get one or do you not? Because a degree might be a prerequisite for many machine learning jobs. It doesn’t have to be, but it might be. Answering these questions should help you to decide between the two career options.

I hope you liked this article on how to choose a better career for yourself between Machine Learning or software development. Feel free to ask your valuable questions in the comments section below.

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