I'm aware that this topic has been discussed before, and didn't have much support, but I think it's worth at least a revisit, even only if to confirm the current status.

  • Is career advice be off-topic if related to academic pursuits re: professional opportunities?

Here specifically questions such as "What classes to take to get this job?"

If the above question is on-topic, is it worth considering allowing professional advice in general?

Questions might involve sub-fields that are hot at any given time, industry trends, interview process (what to expect), etc. Types of roles that exist in organizations, and potentially even pay-scales.

  1. This community is made up of people studying and working in the AI field, in the private sector and academia. Others may have recently gone through the interview process. This constitutes a cluster with field specific knowledge, as opposed to the stacks that deal with this in general.

  2. Broadening the scope could be helpful in attracting new users, who might subsequently contribute. (My own participation on Stack in general is a product of having gotten some info I needed several years ago.)

  3. All questions and answers are dated so visitors can see how current the information is.

We are a general AI community, so I think this subject is potentially in scope, and could expand our utility.


2 Answers 2


I would not be opposed to making this kind of advise on topic. I think @nbro makes some good points too though. My suggestion is that we experiment with allowing this kind of question, subject to the following provisos:

  1. Questions must be of the form "What is the ideal academic background for someone who wants to work in AI Specialty X.
  2. Questions must not be duplicates or near duplicates.
  3. Questions must be about general job titles, not positions at specific companies (that would be speculative).
  4. Questions must be accompanied by examples of job postings from at least two specific companies (so that we don't get made-up titles, which we otherwise will).
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The description of the job titles changes from company to company or over time. In general, asking for advice is OFF-TOPIC, because it leads to primarily opinion-based answers (advice ~ opinion). Furthermore, in 5-10 years, answers to these questions may be misleading or even wrong. $\endgroup$
    – nbro
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ @nbro Some job titles are very stable (e.g. "How do I become a professor in AI?"). Other titles change, but usually not so swiftly that this should be a major concern. For example, programming languages also change over the 5-10 year time frame, and answers to questions about them will become wrong (consider something like "How do I print Hello World in Python?"). Advice like "What should I do, personally?" is clearly off topic, but asking for advice like "Should I use a CNN for image classification?" is on-topic. I think this topic is in between those. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ Questions like "Should I use a CNN for image classification?" are on-topic because they can be answered with facts rather than opinions. You can e.g. answer this specific question by referencing a specific research paper that used CNN for image classification and obtained good results. In general, we should really avoid questions that ask for advice rather than facts. See my new proposal for a new on-topic page ai.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1616/2444, where I emphasize this point in the notes sub-section. $\endgroup$
    – nbro
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ I've updated my answer: ai.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1593/2444. In general, "career ADVICE or RECOMMENDATION" should be off-topic, because these questions lead to primarily opinion-based answers. However, if a question, in the academic context, is phrased in such a way that can be answered objectively, then I think the question is fine. But I am not sure which type of questions, in the context of "career advice", can be answered with facts. $\endgroup$
    – nbro
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ @nbro I don't think that a question like "What skills or qualifications are most essential for someone to become a machine learning engineer?" are purely opinion-based. I do agree that they tend to elicit many opinion-based answers, which are low quality, but there are answers to these questions, and they can be supported by evidence (e.g. the job postings under this title at the FANGs all ask for an undergraduate degree in computer science, a project involving ML, and prefer a masters degree, then there is an objective answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ "I do agree that they tend to elicit many opinion-based answers, which are low quality", but this is the main reason why we should not accept them or close them as primarily opinion-based because they lead to an overall degradation of the quality of the site. SE sites are different than other sites. "but there are answers to these questions, and they can be supported by evidence", this will rarely be widely applicable. Your evidence will probably be based on your opinion and experience, which is another reason why they should not be accepted. $\endgroup$
    – nbro
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ Also, I am not sure what an ML engineer would be. Every company requires slightly different skills for each job. $\endgroup$
    – nbro
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 21:57

Career advice may currently be off-topic, but, more importantly, it leads to primarily opinion-based answers and related questions can be too broad. For example, to answer the question "What classes to take to get this job?" satisfactorily, we need to know the background of the user, his (or her) location (because certain job titles may differ from place to place), etc., and the answers to such a question can become obsolete very rapidly.

Personally and generally, I am not against this type of questions, but they usually lead to poor answers. I think we should NOT broaden our scope only to increase the activity of our website, at the expense of a possible degradation of the quality of the questions and answers, which, in my opinion, and qualitatively, isn't already very high. We do NOT necessarily have to be big. We just need to find our place among all other SE websites and try to focus on doing our job well.

To conclude, in my opinion, career advice should be OFF-TOPIC. However, questions that ask for facts (rather than opinions) can be on-topic.


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