Data visualization careers focus on taking complex data and communicating it in ways nonexperts can understand. With a degree in this field, individuals can move into jobs as data visualization specialists, data analysts, and even data engineers or scientists.
Although you may come across a few data visualization programs in the United States, you'll find more options by searching for data visualization as a speciality within a major like data analytics, data science, or business administration.
In this guide, you can find more information about available associate, bachelor's, and master's programs, along with common careers for a data visualization major. The guide also details job and salary data, continuing education opportunities, and other resources to help you thrive in a data visualization career.
Why Pursue a Career in Data Visualization?
The people best suited for careers in data visualization enjoy using their critical thinking and problem-solving skills to take raw data and present it in a variety of ways. These professionals must pay close attention to detail and leverage a combination of technical and communication skills. They should also enjoy spending considerable time analyzing databases and working on computers as they complete their work.
Data visualization careers tend to come with high salaries. Often, these specialists can work from home, and they also benefit from opportunities available across many different industries. In general, employers look for data visualization professionals who regularly increase their skills and knowledge in the field.
Data Visualization Career Outlook
According to PayScale, the average data visualization professional earns an annual salary of about $76,000. The pay these specialists receive depends largely on their level of education, their experience in the field, and their skills related to processing, analyzing, and presenting data. The table below shows salary information based on a worker's experience for four data visualization careers.
|Data Visualization Engineer||$77,370||$87,560||$104,640||$118,950|
|Business Intelligence Analyst||$59,090||$66,860||$77,770||$83,260|
Skills Gained With a Data Visualization Degree
By earning a degree in data visualization, you can develop the analysis, management, and design expertise needed to translate complex datasets into easy-to-understand visual representations. This section details some of the skills you can expect to walk away with upon graduation.
- Data Management
Before you can visualize data, you need to be able to successfully manage it. By utilizing Structured Query Language (SQL), data visualization professionals can organize and store data they intend to work with. The ability to relate multiple databases and understand SQL best practices is important when working with data.
- Data Analysis
As a data visualization professional, the ability to find trends and connections in datasets is of immense value. By analyzing and locating patterns in data, you can make business-related suggestions and help create business strategies.
As with most careers, the ability to communicate in a clear and concise way is key in data visualization. Being able to verbally communicate your reasoning behind design choices and methodology to your clients and within your team helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the goals and processes.
- Graphic Design
By creating compelling visuals from complex datasets, data visualization professionals help clients and companies easily understand data that is important to their business goals. Graphic design coursework can give students an understanding of the principles of visual design, preparing them to create clear and eye-catching graphics that tell intricate stories.
- Project Management
A data visualization education not only prepares students to analyze data and create graphic representations, it also equips them with the tools needed to successfully manage multiple projects from start to finish. Students interested in pursuing managerial roles should consider taking other business administration courses in conjunction with their data visualization classes to better build upon their project management expertise.
How to Start Your Career in Data Visualization
Careers in data visualization offer opportunities to earn competitive salaries while entering an industry positioned for considerable job growth in the coming decades. While an associate degree may qualify you for some entry-level roles, you probably need a bachelor's degree to truly advance in your career. Master's and doctoral programs provide even more opportunities to take on supervisory roles, along with the increased pay and job options associated with them.
Associate Degree in Data Visualization
Securing an associate degree can help you find entry-level data visualization careers. However, few two-year colleges offer associate degrees in data visualization. Instead, look for programs focused on data analytics, database administration, and data science. These closely related disciplines focus on the skills and knowledge you need to understand and effectively analyze data.
These associate degree programs typically cover concepts like applied predictive modeling, database design, analytical methods, programming, and data structures for analytics. An associate degree usually takes full-time students two years to complete, and you can find data-focused programs within colleges and universities across the country.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Data Visualization?
- Data Analyst
Entry-level data analyst positions involve using systems and tools to find information on various subjects. These professionals may conduct surveys, analyze the results, and present their findings in charts or reports. They may also use online databases to store and present the data they collect.
- Client Service Coordinator
These professionals take the lead on client service interactions on behalf of a business or organization. They may use basic data-focused skills to provide a variety of services, while also analyzing processes and procedures to make needed improvements. Client service coordinators must possess strong analytical and communication skills.
Bachelor's Degree in Data Visualization
Data visualization bachelor's degree programs focus on taking complex data and presenting it in digestible forms for various audiences. Students explore best practices in database management, data analysis, information systems, and quantitative and qualitative analysis. Graduates develop a series of skills they can apply to many careers for a data visualization major.
Common courses within these programs include systems analysis, cloud computing, data design, visual analytics, and legal and ethical issues in data visualization.
Although some colleges and universities offer four-year data visualization programs, many do not. Instead, these schools may offer applied data analytics, data science, database management, and business intelligence analytics programs.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Data Visualization?
- Data Visualization Specialist
Careers in data visualization focus on taking data from a variety of sources and communicating it in a way that nonexperts can better understand. This involves paying close attention to details and using problem-solving skills to examine data, and then presenting it in written or visual form to colleagues, supervisors, stakeholders, or members of the public.
- Business Intelligence Analyst
BI analysts use data to determine the best ways to improve an organization's operations at all levels. They analyze and present data to executives and managers. They should also possess strong communication and collaboration abilities. BI analysts regularly lead meetings, training sessions, and retreats to share their findings and make recommendations.
Master's Degree in Data Visualization
A master's degree opens up even more opportunities for individuals looking to grow their data visualization careers. Professionals with an advanced degree often qualify for supervisory roles within organizations.
These programs, which typically take 1-2 years to complete, focus on topics like data structures, information aesthetics, advanced research methods, geographic information systems, digital product design, and digital analytics.
While students can find some master's in data visualization programs across the country, many colleges and universities offer degrees in related fields, including data analytics, data science, and database management. These programs usually incorporate data visualization into their curricula.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Data Visualization?
- Data Scientist
Data scientists collect large sets of data from various sources, determine the right data sets and variables, and solve data-related problems for organizations. They regularly apply algorithms and models to data to find trends and patterns, while interpreting data to determine how an organization can improve or refine its processes.
- Data Engineer
These professionals establish, maintain, and improve data infrastructure systems for small, medium, and large organizations. They typically create, build, and maintain data systems related to analytics, artificial intelligence, and computer networks. Data engineers also engage in data modeling, transformation, and acquisition for various purposes.
- Senior Data Analyst
Senior data analysts collect, organize, and analyze data for businesses and other organizations. They often compile this data into reports and presentations to help organizations identify problems and develop solutions. These senior-level professionals typically supervise small teams of data analysts and data visualization specialists.
Doctoral Degree in Data Visualization
Although doctoral programs in data visualization are rare, students can find opportunities to advance their knowledge and skills in the field by earning a doctorate in data analytics, data science, or business analytics. Most of these programs feature a strong focus on visualization as part of the required coursework.
Students in doctoral programs explore data mining methods, statistical applications of matrix algebra, advanced regression analysis, big data statistical asymptotic theory, and advanced computer data processing. Many of these programs focus on preparing students to conduct research and pursue careers that focus on big data, data visualization, data processing, and helping businesses and organizations grow and thrive.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Data Visualization?
- Research and Development Manager
R&D managers may use data to develop new products, concepts, and technologies. They often must analyze and present data in order to make key improvements to existing processes and make sound recommendations to senior-level personnel.
- Research Scientist
Research scientists gather information and data to gain a greater understanding of a specific subject. They may work in business, government, or academic settings. Their work often involves conducting experiments, making observations, and creating detailed reports of their findings for peer review and publication. If they serve in academia, they may rely largely on grant funding. A doctorate can help these scientists stand out on the job market.
How to Advance Your Career in Data Visualization
Professionals can continue to grow and advance within their careers in data visualization through a variety of means. They may seek certifications to demonstrate elevated skills and knowledge of the field or engage in other continuing education opportunities. They can also join a professional organization and network with their fellow professionals to learn about new concepts and tools.
Certifications and/or Licensure
While most careers with a data visualization degree do not require professionals to secure a certification, there are many opportunities to enhance your knowledge and demonstrate to potential employers that you have a commitment to continually growing your skillset in the field.
For example, the KPI Institute offers a certified data visualization professional credential. Professionals who take this three-day course cover topics like data visualization parameters, content standardization, channel selection, and creating structures, formatting, fonts, and reports. To become certified, professionals must pass a final certification exam.
Additionally, the certified analytics professional credential signifies that a worker holds advanced knowledge in the field. This certification can open up opportunities across a variety of data science, data analytics, and data visualization careers. Obtaining this certificate requires passing a rigorous exam that covers problem framing in the contexts of business and analytics, along with selecting the right methodology, model building, and deployment for analyzing data.
Furthermore, the SAS certified data scientist credential uses SAS 9 to illustrate a candidate's competency at manipulating big data to garner insights. Eligible candidates must pass a series of five exams.
In addition to going back to school and earning a more advanced degree, data visualization professionals can engage in continuing education to learn new skills, gain a familiarity with new software, and signal to employers that they possess the education and training necessary to fill key roles.
Staying up to date with the latest tools in data visualization is one way to continue your education. For example, you can take free or inexpensive courses to learn about software like Python, Domo, Zoho Analytics, Tableau, and Google Charts.
You can also explore fellowship opportunities, such as the Tableau Foundation Data Fellows program. This program leverages the skills of data visualization professionals to help nonprofit organizations increase their data capabilities.
As with many careers in information and technology, tools and techniques for data visualization constantly evolve. To continue to grow their skills and maintain a competitive advantage within this field, professionals should take advantage of continuing education opportunities offered by colleges, universities, and professional organizations. Certain jobs may also require certification in the latest database and statistics programs.
In addition, students and professionals should network professionally and build relationships within the field. With a strong network, you can learn about potential job opportunities and collaborate with peers on a variety of projects.
Where Can You Work as a Data Visualization Professional?
- Federal Executive Branch
Since federal agencies often utilize data-driven tools and visuals in important projects, data visualization professionals can find roles in a variety of departments. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration may employ a data visualization professional to create graphics that visually convey climate change data in an easy-to-understand way.
- Computer Systems Design and Related Services
A popular area of employment for data visualization professionals and other data scientists, computer system design industries need these professionals on their teams to ensure data is understood and represented correctly. Data professionals can often find work with large tech companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and beyond.
- Scientific Research and Development Services
Joining a research or development team may appeal to data visualization professionals who enjoy being deep in the data trenches. Working side-by-side with other data scientists, professionals in this industry can use their ability to convert datasets into visual representations to help disseminate information to broad audiences.
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools
Data visualization professionals who feel a calling to the classroom can build their career around teaching aspiring data scientists the tricks of the trade. Professors give lectures, grade assignments, and help students create their own graphics to share complex data and ideas.
- Software Publishers
Software publishers need data visualization professionals on staff to aid in designing operating systems and other software. Data professionals working in this industry can put their expertise to use by organizing user data, analyzing user satisfaction, and suggesting improvements to existing operating systems and software.
Resources for Data Visualization Majors
Key resources like open courseware, industry publications, and professional associations offer students and established professionals opportunities to advance in their data visualization careers. Below, you can find more information on these resources and learn about the value they provide entry-level, midcareer, and experienced professionals.
- Professional Organizations
The Data Visualization Society: The first organization to create a community for professional development in the field, DVS established guidelines to support individuals who want to pursue careers in data visualization. The society's aim is to foster community engagement and provide data visualization professionals a place to network and grow as the field expands. Membership is currently free, and students interested in data visualization careers should consider joining.
Digital Analytics Association: As data and software communities continue to grow and evolve, DAA works to support and advocate for the needs of working analytics professionals, as well as those interested in joining the profession. For students pursuing data visualization careers, becoming a member of DAA can provide opportunities to meet future employers and connect with other data and analytics professionals.
The Data Science Association: The DSA's mission is centered around the idea that data science should shape a better future for all people — not just the powerful. In addition to setting ethical standards and promoting diversity, the DSA provides free professional advancement services for its members. Students interested in careers in data visualization can benefit from the nonprofit's networking and professional events and services.
- Open Courseware
Data Visualization for All - Trinity College: Through this introductory course, students explore the basics of developing and designing interactive maps, charts, and other graphics for websites and other platforms. They start with simple tools and then gradually move toward using source code templates available through GitHub. The course does not require any previous data visualization experience.
The Analytics Edge - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: In this course, students explore real-world examples of how analytics can improve businesses, organizations, and even entire industries. Coursework covers key concepts like data clustering, data optimization, linear and logical regressions, data trees, and text analytics. Students use the statistical software R to create models and analyze data.
Data Analysis in Social Sciences — Assessing Your Knowledge - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Students in this course gain familiarity with the foundational concepts of statistics and probability, including randomized control trials, estimation, prediction, machine learning, regression, econometrics, and experimental design. The class combines research with practical examples of these concepts in action. Throughout the course, students work with the statistical package R.
Python for Everybody - University of Michigan: Leveraging the Python programming language, this course introduces students to core programming concepts like databases, data structures, and networked application program interfaces. Students work on a capstone project to demonstrate their understanding of the technologies and techniques they learned in the course. They develop their own applications for data processing, analyzation, and visualization.
Visual Informatics: This peer-reviewed online journal focuses on the algorithms, theories, and technologies that drive innovation and practice in the fields of data analysis, acquisition, enhancement, application, and visualization. Articles typically cover topics related to data acquisition and modeling, expressing rendering, visual analysis, and augmented reality.
Information Visualization: This peer-reviewed international academic journal publishes articles on applications and research related to information and data visualization. It also serves as a forum for the evaluation techniques, methodologies, and theories behind information visualization and its applications.
IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics: This scholarly journal is published monthly. Its editorial board emphasizes the publication of papers that offer important research discoveries related to computer graphics, virtual reality, and data visualization. Specific subjects regularly featured include virtual and augmented reality, information and scientific visualization, human-computer interactions, and visual analytics.
"The Functional Art" by Alberto Cairo: This popular book in the data visualization field serves as a useful introductory text for students and entry-level professionals. It details the various ways that data and facts can be communicated through diagrams, charts, maps, and graphs. The book also comes with a DVD featuring more than an hour of informative video lectures.
"Knowledge is Beautiful" by David McCandless: In this book, the author leverages attractive and attention-grabbing visuals to reveal insights into how people can gain a better understanding of the world around them. McCandless also writes for the popular blog "Information is Beautiful," and the book incorporates some of his thoughts on politics and history, literature, and science. He approaches all these issues from a data visualization perspective.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is data visualization a good career?
Careers in data visualization may appeal to people who are meticulous and have strong communication skills. These positions come with solid pay for entry-level positions and the potential to earn higher salaries with experience.
- What can you do with a data visualization degree?
Common options for careers with a data visualization degree include serving as a data visualization specialist, data scientist, business intelligence analyst, or data engineer. The more you learn about data and how to best present it, the more opportunities you will have to expand your career options and move into managerial roles.
- How do I become a data visualization expert?
Although you may qualify for some entry-level roles with an associate degree, a bachelor's unlocks many more career opportunities. You can also seek a master's or doctoral degree to qualify for managerial positions. Regularly learning about new tools and software can also give you a leg up while pursuing an advanced career in data visualization.
- What data visualization jobs pay the most?
While most data visualization careers pay well, positions like data scientist, data engineer, and senior data analyst tend to bring in the highest salaries.