No ML Degree

Apr 15, 2023

Practical advice for those entering the field of Machine Learning without prior related formal education. The path to employment differs for self-taught student as you must first establish credibility.


Learn efficiently by first ensuring that you are healthy: Sleep 8 hours a night, exercise daily and eat healthy foods. Then follow a structured course to get the basics. From that learn through active participation by creating.

Online certifications have little value to prospective employers because they can be easily faked. They are useful for becoming educated but not for showcasing education. Without a formal degree, a respected certification, you must show that you are hire-able through the application of your knowledge. This is done through the creation of a portfolio of projects.

Be selective with portfolio projects, only including those which afford credibility:

  1. A high ranking score in a competition
  2. A contribution to a popular open-sourced project
  3. A published paper

Credibility is gained through showcasing capability and reliability. Lesser projects that explore novelty can be included to stand out in interviews but can not be solely used as they form no foundation of credibility.

When applying for jobs, large companies have automated screening processes because they get numerous applicants. These will often filter out those that have no formal education or experience. It is then best to search for roles in small companies who get fewer applicants and so pay more attention to each one. However, once experience has been gained it may then be beneficial to search for roles at large companies as the positions are often of a higher salary, more specialized and provide more credibility for future prospects.

Actionable Takeaways

  1. Ensure adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise to allow for high intensity focus.
  2. Most, if not all, portfolio projects should establish credibility. Some may explore novelty.
  3. Each portfolio project should detail a metric or testimonial, a context, and third-party validation. This affords credibility by showcasing capability.
  4. A position at a small company is more attainable for those that have little to no previous experience.
  5. A resume should be simple: essential contact information, previous tech positions and a summary of your most impressive projects.