After starting out trying to correlate hourly wage earnings to occupational demands I found that a more interesting question might be one that a high school senior or guidance counselor might ask about occupational prospects, "What occupation is the highest paid in the United States (and territories)?"
A visualization that would provide some answers to this question might show the average hourly wage earned for one of the 23 major occupations indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and give an indication of how the wage compares with other occupations. It would also show what the high and low averages are for the "major occupation" within the U.S.
To provide some answers to this question I took the average hourly compensation provided by the 2006 occupational wage survey and filtered the results into a table that contained the following fields:
1. Occupation title
2. Lowest mean hourly wage amongst all States and territories
3. The State acronym with the lowest mean hourly wage
4. Highest mean hourly wage amongst all States and territories
5. The State acronym with the highest mean hourly wage
6. The average hourly wage for all States and territories
Fields 1 through 5 come from the May 2006 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: State Cross-Industry estimates spreadsheet. Field number 6 was matched by the OCC_CODE to the National Cross-Industry estimates for the same year.
Displaying this information proved to be a challenge. A scatter plot proved useful but required too much background knowledge.
I found a useful display by looking at Fatemeh Hajiha and Laurie Salmon's paper, "Employment Composition: Variation Across States and Metropolitan Areas" located at http://18.104.22.168/oes/2004/may/emp.pdf. Their graph, "Minimum, average, and maximum employment concentrations among States by major occupational group, May 2004" used a visualization of the minimum, average, and maximum employment concentrations by major occupation. This graph was my inspiration and a lot of credit goes to them for my final outcome.
In order to display the information found in the table above in the manner I found useful I used the GIMP imaging program, which has the identical functionality of Photoshop's image processing (but is free). The following is what I produced. The caption following the image explains what you are viewing.
This chart depicts the variation in hourly wages for the major occupations among the United States and its territories. For each occupational group, there is a band depicting the range of hourly wage for each group. The left edge is the minimum average wage for a particular State (such as, Puerto Rico), the right edge is the maximum hourly wage (as in, Washington, DC). There is a red dividing line that indicates the average amongst all States for the given occupation. The Y-axis show the occupations with the highest average hourly wage in descending order. The X-axis shows the hourly wage value.
There are a lot of things shown by the visualization. The occupation with the highest hourly wage is the Legal group, but it is not the highest paid occupation on average (which is the Management group). Farming and fishing occupations are on average the lowest paid occupation, but certain States (like Alaska) value it more than the national average indicates.
It becomes pretty apparent that the visualization could use an interactive user interface that could tell the user what the average values are by State, but time would not permit me learning a better visualization toolkit. I hope to show these types of result more clearly in the future.