Survey Researchers Overview

A bachelor’s degree is enough for many survey researchers to find work, but a masters degree or Ph.D. in marketing or a social science will typically lead to the best opportunities. Strong quantitative skills and the ability to conduct web-based surveys are key for survey researchers. Exerts project employment to grow much faster than average in the field.

Nature of the Work for Survey Researchers

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers job is to find out what people think. They help companies get a better picture of the products and services consumers are seeking as well as their target customers and reasonable prices.

In gathering information about people and their opinions, survey researchers design and conduct surveys. They may do this for government agencies, corporations, political candidates or other types of clients, compiling information that will help improve customer satisfaction, make policy or fiscal decisions and determine the effectiveness of those decisions. Their opinion research often helps determine public attitudes on current issues. For example, they may work with business or political leaders to gage public support for their social policies or chance of election. A variety of methods is used to conduct this research including the web, telephone and mailed questionnaires. They may also supervise the interviews who conduct the surveys whether on the phone or in person.

Depending on their scope of research and the method used to collection answers, survey researchers may use many formats to design surveys. Often interview surveys help to increase participation rates for example. In order to design the best and most effective surveys, these workers often consult with market research analysts, statisticians, economists or other data users. They may also be responsible for presenting their data and results to clients.

Survey researchers usually have structured work schedules and work in an office, though some travel may be necessary. Typically the work is done solo—working on reports and creating statistical charts on computers. Sometimes they do work as a part of a research team however. Survey researchers who conduct personal interviews are frequently working with the public. Tight schedule and deadlines are common, so overtime hours are sometimes necessary.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Survey Researchers

Entry-level survey researchers often have just a bachelor’s degree, but a higher degree is required for more technical positions and recommended for advancement opportunities. In this field, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest methods of developing, conducting and analyzing data and surveys. Strong quantitative skills are a must.

While a bachelor’s degree is the minimum education requirement a masters degree can open doors to more technical positions.

Business, marketing and consumer behavior courses are typically required for survey researchers, but social science courses in sociology, psychology and economics will also prove useful. Quantitative skills are incredibly important so courses in sampling theory, survey design, computer science, statistics and mathematics can help students hone those skills. Many survey researchers earn masters degrees in business administration, statistics, communications, marketing and other related fields.

Aspiring survey researchers can gain experience in college by gathering and analyzing data, interviewing subjects and writing reports on their research. Full-time work in the field requires these exact skills. In addition, many colleges and universities help graduate students find part time jobs and internships while they’re in school to gain hands-on experience in consulting firms, marketing research firms, government agencies and financial institutions.

Because survey researchers spend a significant amount of time working with data, it helps to be detail-oriented. And since long hours are often dedicated to problem solving and independent study, these workers should be both persistent and patient. Survey researchers should also have good communication and interpersonal skills to work on research teams, oversee the interview process, word surveys correctly and present their findings.

Some expert survey researchers choose to teach. In community colleges a masters degree is sufficient, but for colleges and universities a Ph.D. is required—and those seeking professorship, tenure and promotion must also publish extensively in academic journals. Other survey researchers advance to managerial or supervisory positions.

Certification can help advancement opportunities. The Marketing Research Association (MRA) has a certification program to prove the expertise of professional researchers—the Professional Researcher Certification (PRC). It is awarded at both the expert and practitioner levels for which education criteria, experience and membership to a professional marketing research organization is required. A PRC designation also requires continuing education in their discipline as well as renewal every 2 years.

Top 10 Most Popular Marketing Research Schools

1. Fairleigh Dickinson University - College at Florham (Madison, New Jersey)
2. Long Island University, Brooklyn (Brooklyn, New York)
3. The University of Texas at Arlington (Arlington, Texas)
4. Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, New York)
5. University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
6. Carthage College (Kenosha, Wisconsin)
7. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (Edwardsville, Illinois)
8. Fairleigh Dickinson University, Metropolitan Campus, Teaneck (Teaneck, New Jersey)
9. University of Nebraska, Lincoln (Lincoln, Nebraska)
10. DePaul University (Chicago, Illinois)

See All Marketing Research Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Survey Researchers

Number of People in Profession

20,300

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow much faster than average (increase 20% or more).

In 2008 survey researchers held about 23,400 jobs, working mostly by firms in other technical, scientific and professional services including market research and public opinion polling, management, scientific and technical consulting services and scientific research and development services. Educational services including colleges, universities and professional schools provided work for 9 percent of survey researchers.

Many survey researchers complete part time consulting work in addition to a full time job in business, academia or government. Only 7 percent of all market and survey researchers are self-employed.

In addition, survey researchers may hold faculty positions at colleges and universities. However, in counting employees, they’re considered postsecondary teachers not survey researchers.

Much faster than average job growth is expected for survey researchers. The best opportunities will go to candidates with strong quantitative skills and an advanced degree in a social science or marketing.

The employment of survey researchers will grow much faster than average in part, because public policy groups and governments are looking to public opinion research more and more to help make decisions. For example, special services for senior citizens and school children, mass transit systems and social programs may all be determined with the help of this research. The increasingly competitive economy also forces organizations and businesses to allocate their advertising funds more efficiently and effectively. In turn, survey researchers will be called up to conduct market and opinion research to help them pinpoint goals and strategy.

A bachelor’s degree may put survey researchers at a disadvantage in the marketplace as many market research jobs require a more advanced degree. Good quantitative skills along with a background in computer science, mathematics, survey design or statistics will help bachelor’s degree graduates find good opportunities. A background in consumer behavior or a bachelor’s degree in a social science usually leads to less technical positions including public opinion researcher jobs. The Professional Researcher Certification can help boost the professionalism and competency of job candidates. Job applicants with a masters degree or Ph.D. in marketing or a social science who have strong quantitative skills will find the best jobs, hands down. Compared to other jobs in the field of market research, survey researchers will find few opportunities as it’s a relatively small occupation with a surplus of qualifying applicants. Growth of public opinion polling and market research will spur employment growth as those industries employ many survey researchers.

Earnings and Salary for Survey Researchers

In May 2008, the median annual salary of all survey researchers are $36,220. The highest 10 percent earned above $75,940, the lowest 10 percent earned under $17,650 and the middle 50 percent earned between $22,290 and $54,480. However, survey researchers working in other professional, technical and scientific services earned median annual wages of $26,440.

Annual Salary for Survey Researchers

On average, Survey Researchers earn $35,380 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $17,860/yr $22,220/yr $54,480/yr $76,710/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook