Data Visualization vs. Data Analytics: What’s the Difference?

The modern world has created petabytes of data stored in servers, devices, and networks all over the globe. Each day, we generate another 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, according to research published in Forbes. Much of this data has applications in diverse industries, from healthcare networks and retailers to sports franchises and everywhere in between. Yet all that information is useless without skilled professionals who understand how to interpret the data to produce meaningful insights.

Two types of data professionals whose work is valuable in the current job market are data visualization experts and data analytics experts. Both types of professionals have the tools and abilities to navigate large data sets in any number of industries and turn their findings into something actionable for their clients. Continue reading to find more about these careers, what they entail, what makes them similar, and what sets them apart.

Data visualization professionals review graphs

Data Visualization Overview

Data visualization experts use large data sets to craft visual representations that display facts, patterns, and other relevant information. They’re able to identify trends in large data sets and separate them from extraneous information. They then streamline their valuable insights into charts, graphs, infographics, or other visual representations that make the information easier to understand.

Data Visualization Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have a specific job category for data visualization experts. However, PayScale notes the median annual salary for data visualization specialists is around $76,000, as of October 2019, with the top 10% earning around $115,000 annually. These numbers can vary in accordance with experience, education, and geographic location.

Data Analytics Overview

While data visualization and data analytics are different fields, individuals who work in these disciplines often work together. Data analytics experts focus on technology. These computer and programming professionals know how to manage and interpret large data sets for a number of different purposes. Data analysis experts might work in descriptive analytics, where they examine data over a specific period of time. For example, they could analyze sales for a company during a given quarter. They may also work in diagnostic analytics, which emphasizes finding causes for certain events, such as a drop in sales. Predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics are other possibilities. These two complex modes of analysis attempt to predict the future based on detailed data from the past.

Data Analytics Job Outlook

The BLS does not keep salary and market outlook information on data analysts; however, it does keep information on the overlapping field of market research analysis. The BLS reports there were 681,900 market research analysts in the United States in May 2018. They earned a median annual salary of $63,120, though the top 10% earned as much as $121,080 per year. The BLS expects the employment of market research analysts to increase by 20% between 2018 and 2028, a significantly higher rate compared with the projected national job market growth of 5% during the same time.

Similarities Between Data Visualization and Data Analytics

Data visualization and data analytics professionals are experts in parsing big data sets with computer programs. They share the most important information they’ve gleaned from the numbers with others. Both must have strong computer skills and understand the programming languages and data software that companies leverage to manage their data sets. They must also know how to use, or even write, programs that automate the creation of detailed reports. Both careers are important in many different industries, including finance, government, retail, and healthcare.

Differences Between Data Visualization and Data Analytics

While data visualization and data analytics experts both work with large data sets, there are many differences between the two careers. The way they use data and their methods of communicating their conclusions set these two disciplines apart.

Data Use

The role of the data analyst is to study data sets for a certain purpose, which helps organizational decision-makers set a course for the future. Data analytics professionals draw conclusions from raw data, which they can use to predict sales or offer suggestions to executives about an investment, for example. They’re often tasked with a specific question to answer.

Data visualization experts, on the other hand, aren’t responsible for reaching a conclusion based on the data. Instead, their job is to portray the data in a visual form to make it easier for others to understand. They don’t necessarily make recommendations or predictions, though they might draw on the recommendations made by data analysts and incorporate them into their visuals.

Communication Methods

Data analytics professionals primarily use written and oral reports, which involve in-depth analysis of their queries. Those reports include the question they set out the answer, the methodology of their analysis, and their findings.

Data visualization experts present their reports in the form of graphs, charts, and other visual aids, including 3-D displays, which simplify the data’s results and make them easy to understand. Their presentations often consist of a series of visual aids and charts that display data but do not necessarily provide a conclusion or recommendation.

Data Visualization vs. Data Analytics: Which Is Right for You?

Companies around the globe need qualified, educated data experts to help them understand and visualize all of the data they collect and prepare their businesses for the future. If you’re interested in working with complex data sets and computers, one of these jobs might be a good fit for you. For those who find inspiration in designing graphics and enjoy distilling information into an easily digestible format, data visualization might prove to be a worthwhile career path. On the other hand, those who find analysis and interpretation exciting may be better suited to data analysis.

Those aspiring to either career can benefit from an education that emphasizes working with data, such as Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Business Data Analytics. Discover how this degree can give you the tools to succeed in either of these in-demand careers.

Recommended Readings
Business Data Analytics: The Information Revolution

Genome Analytics: The Battle Between Science and Privacy

The Future of Big Data in Business: Using Data Analytics to Provide Insight

Computer World, “Tech Hotshots: The Rise of the Dataviz Expert”

Forbes, “How Much Data Do We Create Everyday?”

Forbes, “What Is the Difference Between Data Analysis and Data Visualization?”

Investopedia, Data Analytics

Maryville University, Master of Science in Business Data Analytics Online

Medium, “From Data Visualization to Interactive Data Analysis”

PayScale, Data Visualization Specialist

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Market Research Analysts

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