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2021 Data Visualization Hires

USGS Water Mission Area 2021 Data Visualization Hires

Date Posted November 2, 2021 Last Updated October 19, 2023
Author Cee Nell (they/them)
Julie Padilla (she/her)
Jordan Read (he/him)
Reading Time 10 minutes Share
A banner announcing “We are hiring data visualization specialists. Applications will be open on USAjobs Nov 17th-23rd “.  A collection of images shows different chart and map data visualizations from USGS.

Last updated: Jan 18, 2023

Thanks to everyone who applied

We had a very strong pool of applicants and these positions are now filled. Thank you to everyone who expressed interest.

The U.S. Geological Survey Water Mission Area is hiring Data Visualization Specialists across multiple levels of experience (GS-09 and GS-12, more on this below). These positions will be open and accepting applications on from November 17th to 23rd. For all positions, an unofficial transcript and detailed resume summarizing job qualifications, links to or samples of prior visualizations, and relevant skills are needed. We will continue to update this page with information, including direct links to the vacancies as soon as they are available.

For additional information, please follow the USGS Data Science Twitter feed or attend the following informational sessions:

USAjobs announcements

Our Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, and Transparency

The federal hiring process can be complicated to navigate. We don’t want that to be the reason you don’t apply. We are committed to inclusive hiring practices that build a healthy workplace where diversity is our strength, and everyone has the support they need to succeed. That starts right now, with us lifting the veil on the process of applying for federal jobs. We especially encourage you to apply if you are BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, have a disability, or are of any marginalized identity. Please read below for details on how the application process works.


Data Visualization Specialist

We seek Data Visualization Specialist(s) to join our water data visualization team, the USGS Vizlab (Visualization Laboratory). The USGS Vizlab is a collaborative science communication team that uses data visualization to distill complex scientific datasets into compelling data-driven stories and graphics. These are positions at the intersection of environmental data science and science communication, with emphasis on reproducibility, accessibility, and creativity. See the Vizlab portfolio:

For the GS-09 position, specific duties may include the following:

  • Serves as a data scientist working with the large data resources of the Water Mission Area (WMA), USGS and external data providers. The vast majority of these datasets are rich in complexity, including high resolution time-series observations, text, imagery, and geospatial components.
  • Contributes to individual projects applying reproducible workflows and data visualization techniques to capture and communicate complex data-intensive concepts to non-technical audiences using a variety of media (such as print, web, research products).
  • Creates interactive or static charts or maps in support of project questions related to changes in water conditions.
  • Works with high-volume and/or complex data from models to distill outputs into concise visual information products.
  • Conducts some writing and summarization as needed to convey research-based knowledge and options for visual information presentation to project leaders and team members.
  • Implement data science visualization approaches towards building solutions to areas of need. Contributes to testing of visualization approaches and the reproducible automation of these approaches.

For the GS-12 position, specific duties may include the following:

  • Serves as a data science visualization expert, developing rigorous methods of scientific inquiry, analysis, and visual/text presentation associated with the large data resources of the Water Mission Area (WMA), USGS and external data providers. The vast majority of these datasets are rich in complexity, including high resolution time-series observations, text, imagery, and geospatial components.
  • Lead projects data visualization including the incorporation of reproducible workflows to capture and communicate complex data-intensive concepts to non-technical audiences.
  • Designs use cases and scenarios for gathering and harmonizing data from models and measurements to create interactive and informative visualizations for decision making and improving understanding in support of a variety of initiatives involving changes in policies, water conditions, and scientific methodology.
  • Conducts research as needed to support studies and prepare visual and written products to convey research-based knowledge and information to a variety of audiences and media (such as print, web, research products).
  • Strategize and design projects, prototypes, and/or concepts that bring new data science visualization approaches into the USGS water prediction/assessment projects.
  • Implement new and existing data science visualization approaches towards building solutions to areas of need. Can include architecting new visualization approaches and/or implementing reproducible automation of existing approaches.

There will be two job announcements with the final locations negotiable. Both the GS-09 and GS-12 roles will be full-time, permanent federal positions in the Data Science Branch of the Water Mission Area. These jobs will be open to candidates who can qualify for the Biologist, Physical Scientist, or Mathematical Statistician job series.

Additional Information

The Process

Calculating the value of the job

General Schedule Grades – The pay and responsibilities of these Federal jobs are defined by general schedule (GS) Grades, which are roughly equivalent to the levels concept used elsewhere. The visualization positions will be advertised at both GS-09 and GS-12. The GS-09 will have promotion potential up to GS-12. The GS-12 position allows a candidate to apply for GS13 vacancies if the job series and roles are similar.

Pay – Salary bands are started at the Nation-wide GS Base Pay Scale and then adjusted for location. To find what salary band you’d be looking at, search “GS 2021 Salary Table + {{ Your location }}" and look at Grades 09 and 12. The “steps” in each grade are intermediate performance-based pay increases between grades. Typically, new hires into the federal government typically start at “Step 1”.

Benefits – These positions include health and life insurance, 5% retirement match, 11 federal holidays, 13 sick days + 13 vacation days per year, paid parental leave, and accrual of federal service to count towards a pension (typically an additive 1% of the average of your highest 3 years of salary for each year of service). See USGS human resources pay and benefits page for more details.

Intangibles - If the mission of public service towards advancing environmental science communication and data delivery resonates with you, there will be no shortage of energy and motivation available when working with great colleagues on these challenges. Likewise, a flexible schedule and emphasis on work life balance are important components to work at the USGS.

Applying for the job

Creating a USA Jobs account - Both federal positions will be posted and filled using public vacancy announcements on If you are remotely interested in applying to any of the positions mentioned here or elsewhere, get ahead by creating an account as soon as you can. Having an active account will allow you to set up job filters and get a jump start on getting your application materials together.

Qualifying for GS grades - We recognize that individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and different experiences will be able to excel at these jobs. That said, federal pay grades have requirements that applicants must meet for the system to pass you on to the pool that we can then review. We CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH: see USGS tips for combining graduate education and experience and spell out how you meet the grade and job series qualifications. I’ve seen people attach an additional document to the hiring package that makes this math clear to HR. We will be advertising a combination of Biologist, Physical Scientist, and Mathematical Statistician job series.

  • GS-09 – This grade requires a Master’s degree or 2+ years of graduate coursework or 1+ year of professional experience equivalent to a GS-07 or multiple years of experience with a Bachelor’s degree.
  • GS-12 – This grade is a high bar, requiring a PhD or 3+ years of graduate coursework or a masters degree and work experience or multiple years of experience with a Bachelor’s degree.

Specialized experience - The hiring process for the GS-09 and the GS-12 positions are slightly different due some technicalities within the federal hiring process, but both require specialized experience. The GS-09 position will be posted publicly and all applicants will undergo a two-step review process: first, a structured resume review by a subject matter expert, and then a structured interview to assess skills and qualifications for the position based on the specialized experience that we’ve defined for the role. Individuals that pass through both components of the review process will then be passed on to the hiring manager. For the GS-12 role, we’re using USGS’s direct hire authority (DHA) to post a public position and see a wide candidate pool. By using DHA, any candidate who meets the minimum educational and work experience for the job series (see above) and the specialized experience that we’ve defined for the role will be passed on to the hiring manager. For both roles, we expect a lot of applications and are planning on interviewing lots of people.

Specialized Experience includes the demonstration of specific skills for a minimum of one year, so make sure to be explicit about how you’ve met these requirements on your resume.

  • Required specialized experience for GS-09 Data Visualization Specialist: One year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-07 that demonstrates knowledge of appropriate data visualization techniques within project assignments, such as development of interactive or static charts or maps. Such experience must include: demonstrated experience analyzing data and creating charts, maps, or graphics using a programming language (e.g. R, Python, or javascript).
  • Required specialized experience for GS-12 Data Visualization Specialist: Experience will include intermediate-to-advanced skills with one or more data science programming languages (e.g., python and R) or experience building interactive visualizations (e.g., javascript libraries such as D3, Vue, etc). In addition to programming skills, experience should include strong communication skills and project/task management skills. Communication skills should demonstrate experience in communicating complex scientific concepts to non-technical audiences. Project management skills should include developing data visualization concepts from raw data and moving them to final products.

Materials – You’ll need a resume and educational transcripts (unofficial are OK). Again, to make sure HR can see that you’re qualified, make sure your resume explicitly ties your experience to each of the qualifications listed for the grades you are applying for and also the Specialized Experience section.

Application Window – The application window will be open on USA Jobs for ONLY 5 BUSINESS DAYS, from Wednesday November 17th at 12:00am ET to Tuesday November 23rd at 11:59pm ET. That window is very short and unfortunately out of our control. We hope that by giving you this information now, it will allow you time to ask us any questions you may have and to prepare your application materials before this window closes.

Timeline – After the application window closes, HR combs through applications and filters for candidates who meet the GS Grade qualifications and specialized experience. There are a few key differences between the review process for the GS-09 and the GS-12. Applications to the GS-09 position will undergo a structured resume review by a subject matter expert, followed by a structured interview to assess skills and qualifications for the position. Individuals that pass through this review will be passed on to the hiring manager – in this case, Jordan Read (he/him). For the GS-12, the entire list of qualified candidates will be passed on to the hiring manager.

For both positions, the hiring manager will contact all the qualified candidates for additional information and will set up interviews. After the listing closes, we estimate that the turn around time between the closing and the scheduling of the first round of interviews will be around 5-6 weeks.

From there, they will refer a selected candidate to HR, and HR will extend an offer. After HR makes an offer, that is your chance to negotiate the offer and ultimately accept or reject it. Once negotiations are done and you accept the offer, HR will perform a background check. Then you agree to a start date and at that time your employment at the USGS begins!


Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions you have, we are here to help! You can reach us on twitter @USGS_DataSci or through email by contacting the hiring manager Jordan Read (he/him) at or the Vizlab team lead Cee Nell (they/them) at

Common Questions

Q: Is this open to non-U.S. citizens?

A: You must be a U.S. citizen or national (residents of American Samoa and Swains Island) to work for the Federal Government, but there are some exceptions. More information here:

Q: Should I use my CV/resume or the USAjobs template?

A: Either is fine. Whichever format you choose, we recommend taking time to explicitly spell out how your experience meets the qualification requirements for the job series, GS level, and specialized experience. In addition, we strongly encourage you to provide a link to your github page and examples of visualizations that demonstrate your skills relevant to these positions.

USGS tips on combining education and experience

Job series qualifications for Biologist (job series 0401), Physical Scientist (job series 1301), and Mathematical Statistician (job series 1529)

Q: When does this position start?

A: For all positions, the earliest start date will be after Jan 1st 2022.

Q: What is the salary?

A: Salary is based on GS grade and locality. For example, a GS-12 based out of San Diego, CA starts at $86,724 for step 1. This is based on a base annual salary of $66,829 with a 29.77% pay adjustment for a San Diego-Carlsbad locality.

See GS locality pay tables for the U.S. here:


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