I got an email from Harald asking, “How does the job market for DV developers work?” I find this question, or some variation of it, in my inbox every now and then, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I am after all a graduate student who will graduate eventually, so let’s take a look at some of the options. I’d like to expand on the question though, and not just focus on developers. What’s the job market like for anyone who wants to do data visualization for a living?
In the News
Infographics in the news have been commonplace for a while now. Maps, charts, graphs, plots, etc. are in the newspaper every day, and as news on the Web continues to expand, so do the types of interactive visualizations. In fact The New York Times has its own graphics department as well as a group dedicated to online interactives. It’s only a matter of time before the other big news organizations follow suit (unless they go bankrupt first).
There are a lot of data visualization specialists who masquerade as graphic designers. As a result, there are lots of design studios that do data visualization (although they don’t focus on just that alone) that do work for the Web or a slew of other things like company branding, physical installations, or simply art pieces. I can only think of a handful of design groups that are specifically known for data visualization. Either way though, most stuff that the studios push out are more on the artistic end of things, naturally.
Analytics is on the opposite site of the spectrum. It’s all about decision-making. Businesses are starting to rack up terabytes of data per day, but aren’t sure what to do with it. Basic Microsoft Excel skills will only take you so far. You’ll also hear about dashboards pretty often. Think lots of graphs and lots of charts and lots of data which takes a certain statistical expertise to manage effectively.
While the analytics groups tend to be more about application of existing visualization techniques, there are research labs that primarily think of ways to improve the existing or new representations of data. They design, experiment, analyze, and then write papers. It’s like getting paid to be a graduate student, I imagine. Visualization software companies not dissimilar to FlowingData sponsors might also be bundled into this group.
I visited AT&T research labs a few months ago, and there was a small group focused on the best way to show network graphs. The IBM Visual Communications Lab does a lot with social data analysis.
This one is sort of obvious I guess. Academics is similar to working in a research lab, and really, a lot of academic groups call themselves a research lab anyways. Often you’ll see collaboration between the two. The only difference is, uh, professors have to put up with graduate students like me. Tough nookies.
A lot of businesses aren’t looking for a full-time visualization person. They just need some help with things here and there. There are also a lot of online developments that can benefit from having some visualization. Some have already got developers, but want some aesthetics, while others might have a specific data set that they want realized – might be just for show or actually something quantitative. There’s certainly a wide variety out there.
What About You?
That covers a good bit, but I’m almost certain that I’ve missed something. If your expertise is data visualization, what do you do for money? I, among many others, would be interested to know in the comments.