What Is Deep Learning? Definition, Examples, and Careers

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Deep learning falls under the umbrella of machine learning and AI, eliminating some of machine learning's data preprocessing with algorithms. Learn more with this overview of deep learning.

[Featured Image] Two female technology students using deep learning to control a robotic arm.

Deep learning is related to machine learning based on algorithms inspired by the brain's neural networks. Though it sounds almost like science fiction, it is an integral part of the rise in artificial intelligence (AI). Machine learning uses data reprocessing driven by algorithms, but deep learning strives to mimic the human brain by clustering data to produce startlingly accurate predictions.

Examples of deep learning

Deep learning is generating a lot of conversation about the future of machine learning. Technology is rapidly evolving, generating both fear and excitement. While most people understand machine learning and AI, deep learning is the "new kid on the block" in tech circles and generates both anxiety and excitement.

Deep learning, also known as neural organized learning, occurs when artificial neural networks learn from large volumes of data. Deep learning algorithms perform tasks repeatedly, tweaking them each time to improve the outcome. The algorithms depend on vast amounts of data to drive "learning."

Current estimates predict that 328.77 million terabytes of data are produced daily, and this staggering amount of data production makes deep learning possible [1]. The vast increase in data creation is the driving force behind the rise in deep learning capabilities. Though deep learning can sound mysterious, the truth is that most of us are already using deep learning processes in our everyday lives.

Below are a few of the tasks supported by deep learning:

Virtual assistants

Do you use Alexa, Cortana, or Siri? When interacting with popular virtual assistants use deep learning to understand human language and terminology. As a result, they become more adept at providing the information requested.

Driverless vehicles

Autonomous vehicles are a type of robotics that are already on our roadways. Deep learning algorithms help determine whether the object on the road is a paper sack, another vehicle, or a child and react accordingly.


Chatbots have gained popularity and appear on many websites used daily. Chatbots powered by deep learning can increasingly respond intelligently to an ever-increasing number of questions. The deeper the data pool from which deep learning occurs, the more rapidly deep learning can produce the desired results.

Facial recognition

Facial recognition is essential in everything from tagging people on social media to crucial security measures. Deep learning allows algorithms to function accurately despite cosmetic changes such as hairstyles, beards, or poor lighting.

Medical science

The human genome consists of approximately three billion DNA base pairs of chromosomes. Machine learning is helping scientists and medical professionals create personalized medicines and diagnose tumors and is undergoing research and utilization for other pharmaceutical and medical purposes.

Careers in deep learning

As in all manner of machine learning and artificial intelligence, careers in deep learning are growing exponentially. Deep learning offers organizations and enterprises systems to create rapid developments in complex explanatory issues.

Data Engineers specialize in deep learning and develop the computational strategies researchers require to expand the boundaries of deep learning. Data Engineers often work in specific specialties with a blend of aptitudes across various research ventures.

Typical jobs in deep learning

A wide variety of career opportunities utilize deep learning knowledge and skills. In addition to Data, Machine, and Deep Learning Engineers, these include:

Software engineers

• Data analysts

Data scientists

• Software engineers


• Software developers

• Research scientists

• Full-stack web developers

• Natural language process engineers


Salary outlook

According to Glassdoor, a machine learning engineer in Canada has an average base salary of $113,116 [2]. Deep learning is considered a subset of machine learning, but it is more sophisticated. Salaries for deep learning engineers reflect the value of specialized knowledge.

The deep learning skills you need

Data science is the foundational building block for career aspirations in deep learning. Many subjects are intricately intertwined in developing the needed skills for deep learning. Zeal and patience, combined with the proper training and education, can open doors to an exciting career in innovative technology. Some of the most fundamental skills needed include:

  • TensorFlow

  • Artificial intelligence

  • Apache Kafka

  • Other programming languages for machine learning

  • Physics

  • Calculus

  • Dynamic programming

  • Applied mathematics

  • Natural language processing

  • Neural network architecture

Becoming proficient in deep learning involves both technical and non-technical expertise. Since its inception, artificial intelligence and machine learning have seen explosive growth. The advent of deep learning has sped up the evolution of artificial intelligence. Those exploring a career in deep learning will find themselves poised to explore the latest frontier in machine learning.

Necessary education

Deep learning is a subset of machine learning, so understanding the basics of machine learning is a good foundation on which to build. Though many deep learning engineers have PhDs, entering the field with a bachelor's degree and relevant experience is possible. Proficiency in coding and problem-solving are the base skills necessary to explore deep learning.

From an educational perspective, several notable programs exist in the deep learning space. Coursera makes exploring options for both degree plans and additional certifications easy.

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What kind of experience is required?

Experience can include time in the workforce, time invested in courses, certifications, and autodidactism, which can help prepare you for a place in the realm of deep learning. Three primary factors are making deep learning readily accessible. Powerful computing hardware is less expensive, cloud computing offers access to a wealth of data,  and numerous open-source deep learning platforms like Caffe, Theano, and TensorFlow exist.

If you have experience in the development side of computer science, you may be well-positioned to enter the field of deep learning. Experience in the intricacies of common languages such as Python is essential for a career in deep learning.

Mastering as many languages as possible will help build the flexibility and knowledge needed to excel in the field.

Honing software engineering skills such as data structures, Github, sorting, searching, optimizing algorithms, and a deep understanding of the software development life cycle is crucial to developing the sophisticated skills needed for deep learning.

Interested? Take the next steps.

Forge ahead with your machine learning plans with a self-paced course from an industry leader, like Machine Learning Rock Star from SAS or Machine Learning from Stanford on Coursera. After you complete each course or Specialization, you’ll have a certificate to add to your resume or LinkedIn profile.

Article sources


Exploding Topics. "Amount of Data Created Daily (2024), https://explodingtopics.com/blog/data-generated-per-day" Accessed April 29, 2024.

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