Industries and employment sectors across the United States and globally rely upon market research – the collection and interpretation of the voluminous data that reflects, determines and predicts consumer behavior. The duties of a market researcher are therefore as varied and multiform as the data itself.
Market researchers are often proficient in multiple subject areas; education and training in psychology, statistics, economics, math, business and the social sciences are all useful when performing market research.
A number of specialized duties and areas of expertise comprise the discipline of market research, although most fall into two categories: quantitative and qualitative research.
Statistical analysis is at the core of quantitative research. Research based on this methodology culls data from a large pool of respondents. When sufficient data has been gathered, market researchers analyze the data and derive a numerical average or percentage estimating the opinions and behavior of the surveyed population.
Rather than extracting small amounts of data from a large number of people, qualitative researchers do the inverse: they gather a large amount of data, usually via extensive interviews, from a small number of people. The outcome of this kind of research is generally more abstract than quantitative analysis, but the insight can be invaluable, particularly when predicting consumer behavior and trends.
Employment opportunities for market researchers, also known as market research analysts, are projected to grow at a pace far ahead of the national average for all occupations. From 2014 to 2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 19% growth rate.
Competition for jobs and earnings will remain stiff, however, particularly for employees with bachelor’s degrees. Market researchers with education, training or professional experience in data and statistical analytics will likely fare better in the job market.
A master’s degree in marketing, business or statistics can boost a candidate’s prospects for securing employment.
Salary Ranges and Considerations
In May 2016, according to the BLS, the median annual salary for market research analysts nationwide was $62,560. The salary range for market researchers is as broad as the range of industries in which they work: the lowest 10% earned less than $33,950 in May 2016 and the highest 10% earned more than $121,720.
As with any career, employment opportunities and salary levels will vary as the result of numerous factors, including local and regional market conditions, level of experience and educational qualifications.
Education and Training
Employers generally require that market researchers have a bachelor’s degree. According to the BLS, many researchers have degrees in disciplines such as computer science, math or statistics, while others might have business administration backgrounds.
Given the importance of critical-thinking, analytical and communication skills, a liberal arts-based course of study may be relevant for market researchers. Applicable coursework could include economics, psychology, sociology, statistics, marketing and communications.
The BLS notes the value of internships and work experience programs for prospective researchers, as well as experience in collecting and analyzing data, and writing reports.
Once candidates secure employment, the Marketing Research Association offers Professional Researcher Certification. The voluntary program requires research analysts to have at least three years of experience, pass an exam and complete continuing education courses.
Applicable Military Occupational Specializations
Market researchers have numerous duties and responsibilities in common with various military job titles. Among them:
U.S. Air Force
- Network Intelligence Analyst Specialist: Collect and analyze intelligence from multiple communications networks
- Intelligence Analyst: Performs or coordinates analysis, processing and dissemination of strategic and tactical intelligence
- Psychological Operations Specialist: Assess, create and distribute media and information to a target population
- Signals Intelligence Analyst: Analyze strategic communications in order to extract tactical intelligence
U.S. Marine Corps
- Signals Intelligence Officer: Collect and interpret signals data for intelligence reports and briefings
- Intelligence Specialist: Monitor and analyze tactical and operational intelligence and information systems