Survey researchers work for corporations, government agencies, political candidates, and service providers designing and conducting surveys to collect information used for research, fiscal policy decisions, and improvements to customer satisfaction. They may conduct surveys for political and business leaders to determine public support for their decisions. They use a variety of methods, including the Internet, personal or telephone interviews, or mail questionnaires. They design surveys in different formats to suit different objectives, and they may consult with economists, statisticians, market research analysts on the design of those surveys. They may also prepare and present their findings to management.
Those aspiring to be survey researchers should have excellent verbal and written communication skills because they are constantly required to communicate their findings clearly and concisely. They should be detail-oriented people, able to spend long amounts of time studying precise data analysis. They must be able to work well with a wide variety of people, and they need to be patient and persistent because they spend much time independently solving problems.
In 2002, survey researchers earned a median annual salary of $22,200. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $15,140, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $57,080. The middle 50 % earned between $17,250 and $38,530. The median annual salary of survey researchers in professional, scientific, and technical services was $19,610.
Training and Education
Most entry-level jobs in the private sector require a master’s degree in business administration, marketing, statistics, or communications. A master’s degree is also essential for advancement to more responsible positions. Some colleges assist students in finding and obtaining internships in government agencies, consulting firms, financial institutions, or marketing research firms prior to graduation. Standard coursework includes courses in business, marketing, and consumer behavior, but courses in economics, psychology, English, and sociology are highly recommended. Courses in mathematics, statistics, sampling theory and survey design, and computer science can also be very advantageous. Applicants with bachelor’s degrees may be able to qualify for entry-level positions such as research assistant, administrative or management trainee, marketing interviewer, and salesperson. A Ph.D. is usually required for appointment as an instructor at a college or university, while master’s degrees may suffice for junior and community colleges. Visit this page about surveying schools for more information on related careers.
In 2002, survey researchers held about 20,000 jobs. Most were employed by professional, scientific, and technical services firms, including management, scientific, and technical consulting firms, and scientific research and development firms; employment services, State government, and Internet service providers and Web search portals.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of market research analysts is expected to increase faster than the average. This is due to an increasingly competitive economy, in which quality marketing research can provide a vital edge. Companies will continue to expand and, as a result, will hire more researchers to help them evaluate customer satisfaction and plan for the future. Globalization will also increase demand for market research analysts who can analyze foreign markets and foreign competition. Opportunities will be best for those with master’s degrees. Those with bachelor’s degrees will face keen job competition, and those with Ph.Ds will face strong competition for tenured teaching positions in colleges and universities.