How (And Why) to Become a Data Visualization Engineer
March 10, 2021
Netflix and Spotify are two of the most popular companies that depend on data visualization, but fret not! They are hardly your only options.
Data is an invaluable tool for identifying trends, forecasting predictions, and making better business decisions. But useful insights do not show up automatically; it takes skill and expertise to distill meaning from raw data. For executives to translate the data they’ve collected into actionable next steps, data and design experts are needed. These professionals are known as data visualization engineers.
If you have an interest in data and want to help companies apply data-based insights effectively, a career as a data visualisation engineer might suit you well. Keep reading to learn about the responsibilities, requirements, and benefits of this professional path.
What Does a Data Visualization Engineer Do?
The key responsibility of a data visualization engineer is to represent data in a manner that non-technical people can understand. One way a data visualization engineer does this is through graphics, like charts.
Graphical formats often depend on the trends shown in the engineer’s data. A bar graph could be best for profiling population growth over time, while a pie chart might better-illustrate a percentage breakdown of age groups, or generations that responded favorably to a marketing campaign.
The visual style used to display statistical trends will also vary depending on the data’s intended audience, and the information that this audience wants to see and understand. For example, when it comes to displaying data, subject matter experts usually require different visual approaches than do investors.
Beyond converting data into the clearest format possible for the intended audience, a data visualization engineer might also develop new tools for visualization—particularly if the tools that exist in the market aren’t well-suited to their needs. Data visualization engineers must remain current on trends in data visualization, on top of understanding which tools are worthwhile for their needs.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Data Visualization Engineer?
To enter the (relatively new) field of data visualization, you must be passionate about data and enjoy creatively translating that data with easy-to-understand visuals. But to really stand out in this industry, additional skills and expertise are needed.
From a technical standpoint, data warehousing skills are essential; these entail aggregating data from various sources in preparation for later analysis. For the purpose of retrieving data, it’s helpful to know SQL. Python-based visualizations are also useful in designing statistical graphics, and experience in statistics will be solidly to your benefit.
_(Check this out: Is a Master's Degree in Computer Science Worth It?)_
Branded tools such as Tableau, Yellowfin, and Qlik Sense cater to customers with business intelligence needs. Since these tools will evolve over time—Netflix uses numerous software titles—it's helpful to be a quick learner. Acquainting yourself with new software by reading technical guides and engaging in experimentation will make you an asset to any company.
As mentioned, a data visualization includes a significant element of design, because you must understand the best ways to represent your data, often building charts instead of using templates. Beyond statistical visualizations, you may be called upon to provide dynamic data visualizations, allowing users to retrieve data pulled from multiple databases, possibly dating back several years.
But by far the most useful skill to have as a data visualization engineer is the ability to stay calm under through change. Client needs, directives from superiors, and software will evolve continuously. If you’re able to adapt, you will find success in this career.
What Education Do Data Visualization Engineers Need?
If you want to become a data visualization engineer you need to know what degrees are required. A bachelor's degree is a great start for this (and any) career, and many undergraduate programs offer data visualization degrees, which teach foundational principles. As you make your way through this type of program, you might also consider an internship to gain real-world experience.
Although you can work in data visualization without a master's degree, advanced schooling will likely increase your salary, and long-term earning potential, and present leadership opportunities down the line.
If you're interested in a short-term course to learn the foundational principles of data engineering, Edward Tufte teaches excellent one-day options. Tutfe is a professor at Yale, and considered a pioneer of data visualization.
There are many options for data visualization certifications, as well. A certification will help you develop your skills, and stand out in exceptionally competitive data visualization engineer roles.
Where Do Data Visualization Engineers Work?
Netflix and Spotify are two of the most popular companies that depend on data visualization, as these powerhouses have built social media campaigns with data.
Of course, as a data visualization engineer, Netflix and Spotify are hardly your only options. You will be eligible for jobs at a variety of establishments, ranging from hospitals to banks.
New York and San Francisco are both rich with opportunity for data visualization engineers. As such, your future job may require relocating.
What Is the Typical Data Visualization Engineer Salary?
Working as a data visualization engineer gives you the chance to make substantial earnings. PayScale indicates that the average salary for a person in this role is $98,264.
As with any job, your starting salary might be low—but this number will increase in direct relation to the experience you gain, and the value you prove to employers. If you already have some data visualization certifications on your resume, it may be possible to negotiate for a higher salary, even as a beginner.
Is Data Visualization Right for You?
Successful data visualization engineers know that the job isn't just about making nice charts. Eve more important than creating visual appeal is the ability to ensure your data presentation actually helps people interpret the information.
If you're interested in combining data and design, a career as a data visualization engineer could be a rewarding way to use your skills across various industries.