Do you like to solve puzzles? Do you have the ability to see the big picture by analyzing the small details? Then you may have a future as a survey researcher. These in-demand professionals work for firms around the globe, gathering and analyzing data on consumer preferences and behaviors for scientific, public opinion and marketing purposes.
Survey researchers help companies make decisions and solve complex business challenges by providing unbiased analysis of statistical data. For example, by designing and conducting surveys, they may help a business test the waters for a new product or help a political campaign gauge its candidate’s likability.
Although duties may vary according to the position and employer, survey researchers typically collect data, and develop and analyze questionnaires that help determine public attitudes. They employ a number of statistical techniques to analyze and present their findings.
Survey researchers use interviews, questionnaires and focus groups, and conduct their work in-person, by phone or mail or via the Web. They may target a particular group, such as women, or conduct a sample of the overall population.
Additional survey researcher duties can include:
- Conducting background research
- Supervising interviewers or other data collectors
- Testing surveys for accessibility and user-friendliness
- Trouble-shooting sampling issues
- Reviewing methods to improve future surveys
- Summarizing and presenting data using fact sheets, graphs and tables
Job Outlook and Salary Range for Survey Researcher Jobs
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects strong growth in survey researcher jobs in coming years, driven by increased demand for public opinion research in the public and private sectors. The projected growth rate is 24% from 2010 to 2020, compared with 14% for all occupations.
Employment prospects are expected to be stronger for candidates with advanced degrees in statistics, research or survey methodology.
The BLS reports that survey researchers earned a median annual wage of $45,050 in 2012, an increase of almost $5,000 over 2011. Salary potential and employment opportunities can vary based on local market conditions, and an individual’s experience and educational qualifications.
Education and Training for Survey Researchers
According to the BLS, a bachelor’s degree is generally a minimum requirement for employment as a survey researcher, although technical and advanced research positions may call for a master’s degree. A variety of undergraduate disciplines, including business and psychology, can provide the necessary foundation of knowledge. Coursework in marketing, economics and social sciences can be beneficial.
Some survey researcher jobs require experience in statistics, conducting surveys or interviews, or analyzing data. An attention to detail and a level of comfort dealing with people in person or over the phone are important attributes for a survey researcher.
For survey researchers who want to demonstrate their expertise, the Marketing Research Association offers Professional Researcher Certification. Other industry groups also offer education and training opportunities, including the Council of American Survey Research Organizations and the American Association for Public Opinion Research.
Military Occupational Specializations
Servicemembers in a variety of military occupational specializations may see similarities between their duties and responsibilities and those of survey researchers. That can be an important consideration for military personnel making the transition to civilian life.
For example, Air Force network intelligence analyst specialists are required to analyze communications and report on their findings. Coast Guard intelligence specialists use raw data to assemble and analyze intelligence, and Army intelligence analysts must analyze and disseminate data and information.