A Data Visualization Career Guide: 6 Steps to Enter an Exciting Field
Data is arguably the most valuable asset a business has. It can inform new product development, marketing initiatives, hiring practice and overall operating strategies. However, organizations can only leverage their data if they can make sense of it, and the rate at which data is generated and collected can make that difficult. That is why many businesses are realizing the value of data visualization professionals.
Are you passionate about data, data analysis and taking vast amounts of information and finding the critical insights that are buried within? Then a career in data visualization could be right for you: discover how to enter this exciting field with our 6 step guide.
What is Data Visualization?
To work in data visualization you must first understand what it is. Afterall, there are many different careers in data and data analysis, so the lines sometimes get blurred. According to IBM, data visualization is “the process of translating large data sets and metrics into charts, graphs, and other visuals to discover hidden patterns. The resulting visual representation of data makes it easier to identify and share real-time trends, outliers, and new insights about the information represented in the data.”
In practical terms, data visualization makes complex data sets easily understood by a wide array of audiences. This allows all stakeholders to learn more, act faster and deliver results in a timely manner.
6 Steps to Get Into the Data Visualization Field
While no two career paths are exactly the same, there are some general best practices you can follow if you wish to successfully jumpstart your career in data visualization.
1. Get Your Feet Wet: Start by conducting some initial research into the discipline and career outlook. This will give you a good foundation as you start to explore potential job opportunities. You could also consider taking an online introductory course to see if data visualization is right for you.
2. Discover Visualization Technologies: Data visualization is rooted in technologies, and visualization professionals must be well versed in the most common data technology tools such as Excel, Tableau, Python and R.
3. Practice Coding: Coding is a huge part of the data visualization world, anyone interested in this career should start practicing coding skills. An easy way to practice is with any of the free online courses and apps available — that way you can see how well you can pick up this exciting and in-demand skill.
4. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: Associates and bachelor’s degrees are a great way to establish yourself for an entry-level data visualization career. However, if you aspire to advance up the career ladder, you will need to seek additional education opportunities.
5. Earn a Certificate: Earning a data visualization certificate is a great option if you’re unsure about a master’s degree but want to demonstrate your advanced acumen and passion for data visualization. Some employers will accept certificates in place of a degree, but that will vary from organization to organization.
6. Consider an Advanced Degree: If you are certain that data visualization is the career for you, earning a master’s degree is a great option. Master’s programs will teach you advanced skills, leadership tools and set you up for success in your career, long-term.
Top Careers in Data Visualization
There are generally four areas within the field of data visualization:
1. Data Visualization Specialist
- Job Description: Data visualization specialists are tasked with building data visualizations with data analysis tools and dashboards. They also must continually research the latest tools and technologies, ultimately testing programs and algorithms to find the best match.
- Required Skills: Proficiency with data visualization tools, excellent communication skills and the ability to multitask.
- Industries to Work In: Business, Banking, Entertainment, Healthcare and more.
2. Data Visualization Engineer
- Job Description: Data visualization engineers design data reporting solutions to empower relevant stakeholders with all relevant data insights. With these visualization tools, engineers help identify trends and patterns in data and reports on these findings.
- Required Skills: Communication skills (both written and verbal), attention to detail, excellent math and statistical skills. Proficiency with Angular.js, d3.js, Python and the ability to utilize big data platforms such as (NoSQL systems), HTML & CSS knowledge etc.
- Industries to Work In: Aerospace, IT, Business, Banking and more.
3. Data Visualization Analyst
- Job Description: Data visualization analysts primarily work with visualization reports to determine relevant, actionable insights for decision-makers. They utilize data from many different departments to create accurate and easily understood reports on their findings.
- Required Skills: Excel programming knowledge, strong communication skills and analytical skills to work with data. Proficiency in MS Office suite (Excel, MS Word, PowerPoint) and SQL skills also required.
- Industries to Work In: Consulting, Healthcare, Banking, Media, Marketing and more.
4. Data Visualization Developer
- Job Description: Data visualization developers create business intelligence tools such as analytics reports, graphs, dashboards, etc. to highlight business opportunities and insights. They also develop data visualization tools that can be leveraged by a diverse audience of stakeholders and help ensure all data is clean and aligned with other relevant business functions.
- Industries to Work In: Business, Healthcare, IT, Aerospace, Research and more.
Employment websites Glassdoor.com report the average salary for data visualization professionals is $72,000+. Here is a quick sampling of data visualization jobs found during a recent LinkedIn search:
Educational Requirements for Data Visualization Careers
For nearly all data visualization careers, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement. For jobs beyond entry level, an advanced degree in data visualization or master’s in a related field is preferred. That is not to say that there aren’t other options out there.
In some cases, a certificate from an accredited institution will qualify you for an entry to a mid-level career in data visualization. Data visualization certificate programs are designed to help college-educated, aspiring visualization professionals take the next step in advancing their careers in this in-demand field. At the University of San Diego Division of Professional and Continuing Education, we offer a comprehensive Data Analytics and Visualization certificate that focuses on a broad range of analytics topics, with an emphasis on the most critical tools and technologies, such as, R, Python and Tableau, so our students are well prepared to excel in their careers.
FAQs about Data Visualization Careers
Q: What is data visualization?
A: Data visualization is “the process of translating large data sets and metrics into charts, graphs, and other visuals to discover hidden patterns.”
Q: Is data visualization a good career?
A: Yes. Not only is data visualization a well-paying career (it has an average salary of $73,000 with many earning six-figures), but it also has a promising outlook. According to Mordor Intelligence, the global data visualization market was valued at USD 2.99 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 5.17 billion by 2026, meaning jobs will be plentiful.
Q: What can you do with a data visualization degree?
A: Anyone with a data visualization degree typically works in one of four areas within the data visualization field: data visualization specialist, data visualization engineer, data visualization analyst and data visualization developer.
Q: How do I get a data visualization job?
A: Any data visualization job starts with getting the proper education. Nearly all jobs in this field require a bachelor’s degree at a minimum, and prefer a master’s degree or advanced certificate. From there, it helps to network with others in the field, practice your relevant development, coding and analytics skills, and apply to as many job openings as possible.
Q: What data visualization jobs pay the most?
A: The highest paying jobs in data visualization are typically upper-level, leadership positions. In this field that means data visualization engineers and managers, who typically earn an average salary around $145,000 for engineers and $165,000 for managers.