6 min read

A Practical Beginner’s Guide to Machine Learning

Machine learning has become one of the buzzwords of the 2020s along with AI. In this blog post we are going to explore what machine learning exactly is, how that differs from AI and how you can become a machine learning specialist. 

What is Machine Learning

Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence, where computers are equipped to learn from data without direct programming. Instead of rigid instructions, machines analyze large volumes of data, recognize patterns, and make decisions based on what they’ve learned. This adaptability enables machines to perform tasks that previously required human intervention, often achieving better efficiency and accuracy.

In our modern digital landscape, virtually every aspect of daily life generates data, from online transactions and social media interactions to healthcare records and e-commerce activities. This data serves as the bedrock for training machine learning models.

Furthermore, advancements in computer memory and computational power have enabled machines to process large datasets swiftly and efficiently. This, in turn, contributes to more precise predictions and the extraction of valuable insights.

Difference between Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Let us first of all make it clear the difference between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). They are closely related concepts but differ in scope and application.

Artificial Intelligence:

  • AI involves creating intelligent systems capable of simulating human intelligence. It encompasses a broad range of techniques aimed at mimicking human-like cognitive functions.
  • AI can be categorized into Weak AI (narrow AI), General AI, and Strong AI (also known as Artificial General Intelligence).
  • AI systems typically include components for learning, reasoning, and self-correction.
  • AI deals with structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data.

Machine Learning:

  • ML is a subfield of AI that focuses on enabling machines to learn from past data or experiences.
  • ML algorithms learn patterns and relationships from data without explicit programming.
  • ML can be classified into supervised learning, unsupervised learning, and reinforcement learning.
  • ML models include mechanisms for learning and self-correction when exposed to new data.
  • ML primarily deals with structured and semi-structured data.


AI applications include virtual assistants like Siri, customer support chatbots, expert systems, intelligent humanoid robots, and online game playing.

ML applications encompass online recommender systems, search algorithms (e.g., Google search), social media friend tagging suggestions (e.g., Facebook), and various predictive analytics tasks.

In conclusion, AI is a broader concept concerned with creating intelligent systems, while ML is a specific approach within AI focused on learning from data. Both have diverse applications across industries, with AI addressing broader cognitive tasks and ML specifically focused on data-driven learning tasks.

Types of Machine Learning 

Machine learning can be broadly categorized into three types: supervised learning, unsupervised learning, and reinforcement learning.

1. Supervised Learning

In supervised learning, the machine is trained using labeled data, where both the features and their corresponding labels are provided. Through the use of labeled training examples, supervised learning techniques direct the algorithm to establish a connection between input variables and the desired output, much like a student learning with a teacher’s guidance. For example, envision a scenario where your friend presents you with coins of three different currencies— one rupee, one euro, and one dirham— each with varying weights. By inputting this data into the machine learning model, it learns to predict the currency of a new coin based on its weight. This method is extensively utilized in various applications such as image recognition, speech recognition, and sentiment analysis, offering the model clear instructions for accurate predictions.

2. Unsupervised Learning

Unsupervised learning operates in contrast to supervised learning. Instead of relying on labeled data, it utilizes unlabeled data, requiring machines to comprehend the data, uncover hidden patterns, and generate predictions accordingly. In this method, the machine autonomously provides new insights by uncovering concealed patterns within the data, without human intervention to specify what to search for.

3. Reinforcement Learning

Reinforcement learning functions are based on the concept of feedback and rewards. The machine engages in actions within an environment to accomplish a goal and obtains feedback in the form of rewards or penalties depending on its actions. Through this process, it learns to refine its actions over time to maximize its rewards.

An instance of reinforcement learning is seen in training an AI agent to play a game. In this scenario, the agent earns rewards for winning and incurs penalties for losing. Through continuous interaction with the game environment, the agent gradually enhances its strategy to achieve more frequent victories.

4. Semi-supervised Learning

Semi-supervised learning occupies a middle ground between supervised and unsupervised learning methodologies. It combines the strengths of both approaches by utilizing a smaller labeled dataset for classification guidance while simultaneously conducting unsupervised feature extraction from a larger, unlabeled dataset.

The primary advantage of employing semi-supervised learning lies in its capability to address problems in scenarios where there is an insufficient amount of labeled data available for model training. Additionally, it proves beneficial when data cannot be labeled due to uncertainties about what specific aspects to focus on.

Applications of Machine Learning

The applications of machine learning are virtually limitless, It can involve every industry and market sector. Let’s explore some of the prominent use cases:

  1. Healthcare

Machine learning is revolutionizing the healthcare industry, facilitating accurate diagnostics, treatment recommendations, and disease predictions. From analyzing medical images for early detection of diseases to personalized treatment plans based on patient data, machine learning is saving lives and improving healthcare outcomes.

  1. E-Commerce

In the world of online shopping, machine learning drives customer satisfaction and business growth. By analyzing past purchase behavior, machine learning algorithms recommend personalized products and services to users, enhancing their shopping experience and increasing conversion rates.

  1. Finance

Machine learning plays a vital role in fraud detection and risk assessment within the financial sector. By analyzing vast amounts of transaction data, machine learning algorithms can identify suspicious activities and potentially fraudulent transactions, safeguarding the financial ecosystem.

  1. Transportation

The transportation industry benefits from machine learning through route optimization, predictive maintenance, and real-time traffic analysis. For instance, ride-sharing companies employ surge pricing models based on demand and availability, ensuring efficient service for passengers and drivers alike.

  1. Social Media and Sentiment Analysis

Tech giants leverage machine learning to perform sentiment analysis on social media platforms, gauging public opinions, and sentiments about products, services, or events. This information is invaluable for businesses to make data-driven decisions and improve their offerings.

5 real-world machine learning applications

To gain a more precise understanding of how exactly machine learning works in diverse sectors, let us look closer at 5 real-world applications. 

Self-driving Cars 

Self-driving vehicles encounter diverse situations on the road. To outperform humans, they must continuously learn and adapt to evolving road conditions and other vehicles’ behaviors. Autonomous cars gather data from sensors and cameras to interpret their surroundings. They employ supervised learning to identify surrounding objects, unsupervised learning to recognize patterns in other vehicles’ behavior, and reinforcement learning algorithms to take appropriate actions.

Image Analysis and Object Detection

Image analysis extracts various information from images, used in defect inspection in manufacturing, traffic analysis in smart cities, and visual search engines like Google Lens. Deep learning techniques are applied to extract features from images for object detection.

Medical Imaging and Diagnostics

Analyzing medical imaging data manually is time-consuming. Deep learning techniques, including neural networks, are employed to extract features from medical images, aiding in disease diagnosis and prediction.

Fraud Detection

With the rise of e-commerce, online transactions have increased, leading to a surge in cyber threats. Fraud detection systems analyze data patterns to identify fraudulent activities, such as fake login attempts or phishing attacks, by considering factors like past purchase locations and online activity.

Recommendation Algorithms

Recommender systems, like those used by Netflix and Amazon, analyze historical data to provide personalized recommendations based on user preferences and interests, enhancing user experience and engagement.

Learn Machine Learning in 9 Easy Steps

Now that we know what machine learning is and how it is used in our everyday lives, let us explore the steps to learn ML. 

Master the Prerequisites

Before diving into machine learning theory and applications, ensure you have a solid understanding of essential concepts. This includes proficiency in programming languages like Python, R, Bash, or Java, along with fundamental knowledge of statistics, probability, mathematics (especially linear algebra and calculus), and data handling techniques.

Deep Dive Into ML Theory

Familiarize yourself with the comprehensive theory of machine learning, covering planning, data collection, data assumptions, preprocessing, model interpretation, and techniques for improving model accuracy. Understand the business value of ML models and their implications for decision-making.

Explore Essential Topics

Delve into the core topics of machine learning, gaining an end-to-end understanding of the data science pipeline. Practice the ML workflow, work on real datasets, and learn comprehensively about various tools and packages specific to ML and data science.

Work on Projects

Undertake practical projects to apply your theoretical knowledge and gain real-world experience. Choose projects based on your interests, starting with basic ones and gradually progressing to more advanced topics. Focus on projects that add value to the ML ecosystem and demonstrate your skills effectively.

Learn and Experiment with ML Tools

Explore a variety of ML tools and packages to familiarize yourself with their capabilities and functionalities. Experiment with popular tools like TensorFlow, Scikit-learn, and Azure Machine Learning Studio to gain hands-on experience.

Study ML Algorithms

Study machine learning algorithms in-depth, understanding their workings and implementations. Cover a wide range of algorithms, including linear regression, logistic regression, KNN, decision trees, and ensemble methods.

Enroll in ML Courses

Consider enrolling in structured ML courses to gain systematic learning and hands-on experience. Choose courses with up-to-date curriculum, community support, and opportunities for practical projects.

Pursue Internships

Seek internships in ML-related roles to gain industry experience and build connections. Tailor your resume and portfolio to showcase your skills and qualifications effectively.

Secure a Job

Apply for ML jobs, ensuring your skills and qualifications align with the job requirements. Showcase your expertise through community involvement, projects on platforms like Kaggle and GitHub, and networking with ML recruiters and professionals.

By following these steps diligently, you can effectively learn machine learning and pave the way for a successful career in this exciting field.

Career paths in machine learning

Machine learning offers diverse career paths with opportunities for growth and specialization:

A) Data Scientist

Role: Analyze complex datasets using statistical methods and ML algorithms for actionable insights.

Advancements: Senior Data Scientist, Chief Data Officer, Specializations in domains like healthcare analytics or financial modeling.

B) Machine Learning Engineer

Role: Design, develop, and deploy scalable ML solutions.

Advancements: Lead ML Engineer, Research Scientist, and Solution Architect.

C) Deep Learning Specialist

Role: Focus on neural networks for tasks like image and speech recognition.

Advancements: Deep Learning Researcher, Head of AI, Specializations in specific neural network types.

D) Neural Network Engineer

Role: Build and optimize neural network models.

Advancements: Neural Network Architect, Director of ML, Hardware-AI Integration Specialist.

E) AI Product Manager

Role: Ensure AI solutions meet business objectives and user needs.

Advancements: AI Project Director, Chief Technology Officer, Strategy Consultant.

F) Data Engineer

Role: Design and maintain data processing systems for clean, usable data.

Advancements: Senior Data Engineer, Data Architect, Chief Information Officer.

Specializations: Real-time data processing, big data technologies, data governance, and compliance.

As we learned in this blog post, ML is nowadays everywhere in our lives. Breakthroughs in AI and ML seem to happen daily, rendering accepted practices obsolete almost as soon as they’re accepted. That’s why ML is a great career opportunity to pursue if you are passionate about programming and data. 

One thing you need to know is that a career in ML is a long-term path. You need to study hard and dive into diverse disciplines to succeed. You can start with a programming language like Python at BDG’s Python Fundamentals course, or from exploring data in our Data Analytics Full Course

Subscribe to see more articles

You may like

Leave a Comment