• Products
  • Solutions
  • Company
  • Resources
  • Docs
  • Pricing

Supervised Machine Learning: What Is It?

An introduction to supervised machine learning, its features, applications, advantages and disadvantages.

Supervised Machine Learning: What Is It?

Quality machine learning has never been more important in today's data-driven world. There are several types of machine learning, including unsupervised, semi-supervised, reinforced and supervised machine learning. In this text, we'll start by answering a fundamental question: What is supervised machine learning?

In supervised machine learning, labeled datasets are used to train computer models. The input data is correctly labeled with the expected output data. The aim of this process is to discover a mapping function that will map an input variable onto an output variable.

Supervised learning has a range of applications. For example, it can be used for image classification, risk-assessment processes and spam filtering. Any process requiring the analysis and categorization of large amounts of data can be assisted using supervised machine learning. This makes it very useful for numerous real-world applications, especially those involving large quantities of data.

How Does Supervised Machine Learning Work?

In machine learning, a computer model learns from input datasets. With supervised learning, a training dataset is generally pre-labeled by a human annotator. The label input data is supplied to the model training procedure, which then produces a model able to output predicted labels. Following the completion of the training process, the model is tested. It is supplied with labeled data, the testing dataset, to see if the output of the model matches the expected labels and is correct. A loss function and metrics, like the accuracy, are used to determine the level of error in the model’s output. This process is repeated until errors are removed or reduced to acceptable levels.

Supervised Learning Steps

The process of supervised machine learning consists of a series of steps. The first step is to determine the type of data to be used in the training dataset. Next, the training data must be collected and labeled. It is then divided into sets: a training dataset and a test dataset. There may also be validation datasets, which are used to optimize the model hyperparameters and to prevent over-optimization (a.k.a. overfitting). In addition, the training dataset needs to contain sufficient information for effective training, which the test and validation datasets will confirm results.

A suitable algorithm must be selected to train the machine learning model. Next, the training procedure is applied to the training dataset. It may also be applied to validation datasets. Using the test dataset, the accuracy of the model is then checked and evaluated. If the output data from the test dataset is correct, then the mod

Algorithm types

There are two general types of problems that supervised machine learning can be used to address: regression and classification. If the output variables are continuous, regression algorithms can be used. Use-case examples include weather forecasting, predicting market trends and projecting sales revenue. Regression algorithms used in supervised learning contexts include:

  • Linear regression

  • Non-linear regression

  • Bayesian

  • Polynomial regression

  • Regression trees

  • Neural networks

Classification algorithms are used in cases where the output variables can be defined as categories. Categories can be true-false or yes-no. Applications can include object identification, fraud detection, spam filtering, etc. Classification algorithms include:

  • Logistic regression

  • Support vector machines (SVMs)

  • K-nearest neighbor

  • Decision trees

  • Random forest

  • Neural networks

Supervised vs. Unsupervised Learning

Before continuing, let's focus on an essential point: what is the difference between supervised and unsupervised machine learning?Unlike supervised machine learning, unlabelled data is used for unsupervised learning. This can be advantageous when information about the data set is limited and common properties are not known. The strengths of unsupervised learning models is that they can find patterns within data that allow the solution of problems by identifying common properties. Clustering algorithms, such as Gaussian mixture models and K-means, are used to solve association or clustering problems.

Another subset of machine learning is semi-supervised learning, where part of the input data has been labeled. With the right parameters, this can help the model determine common properties and patterns in a similar way to unsupervised learning, using the labeled data to assist in classification.

Get started

Learn more!

Discover how training data can make or break your AI projects, and how to implement the Data Centric AI philosophy in your ML projects.

Supervised Machine Learning Examples

There are many examples of applications of supervised machine learning, such as:

  • Fraud detection: Supervised learning can help to identify fraudulent transactions and communications.

  • Spam filtering: Using certain features such as sender information, content and relevance, supervised learning can detect spam before it reaches a user's inbox.

  • Predictive analytics: Supervised machine learning models are widely used to provide important insights into key business data points with the right algorithm.

  • Image recognition: Supervised learning is ideal for finding and categorizing images and objects in a variety of contexts, including safety monitoring and quality control.

Advantages and disadvantages of Supervised Learning

Supervised learning offers a number of benefits. Using supervised learning, models can use past experiences as a basis for predicting an output. Supervised learning allows for the exact classification of the objects involved. Supervised learning is relevant to real-world applications such as item identification, spam filtering and other applications requiring the categorization of input data. It provides valuable data insights and improves the automation of many tasks.

Supervised learning is not appropriate in all contexts. For very complex tasks, supervised learning models are not suitable as they cannot cluster data independently. They are best suited for tasks that require simple data categorization. Supervised learning models aren't able to produce correct outputs if the test data deviates from the training data that they've learned. For a supervised learning model to be effective, it's necessary to know a lot about the types of objects that make up the data. This will require support from experts in the data that's being used, which can be expensive and time-consuming. 


Supervised learning is a powerful method with many applications across a range of use cases. Used correctly, the technique offers significant advantages and can produce very accurate models. Supervised learning models help organizations by removing the need for manual classification and by generating accurate predictions.

Properly built datasets are essential to supervised machine learning. The accuracy of the output data depends not just on the effectiveness of the model used but on using correct labeling at the input stage. To get the most benefit from supervised machine learning, quality data labeling is vital. It's therefore important to seek the best available expertise in order to maximize accuracy and efficiency. Quality data labeling minimizes the introduction of human error, accelerates the learning process and limits unexpected behaviors.


Get started

Get Started

Get started! Build better data, now.