Survey researchers are part of a growing career field that's focused on developing and analyzing consumer surveys to help companies and governments make decisions reflective of public opinion. This field is growing because companies want to stay competitive and offer products and services that will meet the needs of their customers.
Survey Researcher Position
The position of a survey researcher is a very niche field within market research and analysis that is specifically focused on designing and conducting surveys and polls that will help companies and governments accurately understand their customer or constituent opinions. Clients are often large companies, local and national government organizations and political candidates.
Education and Certification
At a bare minimum, survey researchers should have a bachelor's degree in business or marketing; however, most survey researchers have a master's or doctorate within the field. Even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that survey research positions are expected to grow 30.36% by 2018, these positions are highly competitive, so the more education you have, the more likely you'll be able to land a position.
It's also important to note that aside from coursework in marketing, statistics and computer science, survey researchers should have a strong understanding of social sciences like psychology, sociology and economics. These courses will help survey researchers understand the human behavior involved in surveying and responses, which will ultimately make them better at their jobs.
If you plan to pursue survey research positions after graduation, try to find internships or part-time jobs that allow you to gain experience administering and analyzing polls, surveys and interviews. This hands-on experience is invaluable and will help you when you enter the job force.
Other Important Skills
Most surveys are now conducted online or have answers inputted into computer systems. It's important that individuals entering into the field have a strong understanding of computers and be willing to continue to learn more about computer information systems, statistical programs and graphical computer analysis. You must also be willing to spend long hours working at a computer, as that will be a primary focus of your day-to-day position.
You must also be detail-oriented, willing to delve into specific data to develop and analyze surveys that will convey effective results. While not all survey researchers will be required to present their data to clients, it's important to develop your presentation and communication skills so that you'll be prepared to provide analysis if asked to do so.
In order to promote yourself within the field, you may want to pursue certification. The Market Research Association offers the Professional Researcher Certification (PRC) that requires education and experience within the field before you can sit for the exam. You can receive a PRC as a Research Provider, Corporate Researcher or Research Adjunct, and depending on your current level of education and experience, you will are either eligible as an Expert or a Practitioner. After becoming certified, you must attend regular professional education classes and undergo periodic recertification in order to remain in good standing.
Survey researchers spend their days gathering information and developing surveys in a variety of formats. They may also be required to conduct opinion research as part of their position. Survey formats vary widely, and researchers may offer surveys by Internet, telephone or mail. If survey researchers aren't conducting surveys themselves, they may be required to supervise the interviewers who are conducting them. Researchers commonly consult with statisticians and economists to design the best possible surveys.
Survey researchers commonly work independently in a fairly isolated environment. Even if they work as part of a team, they often spend their days performing research and writing reports. Schedules are fairly structured and researchers need to feel comfortable working with tight deadlines.
You may want to start looking for positions within your local government or at a large market research company like Gallup. You can also search for positions on the following websites: