The general public is polled on a regular basis – by small local companies to large corporations – and they’re asked about any number of things: their shopping habits, vacation preferences, and even about the effects of advertising that they may or may not have seen. These surveys are created by market and survey researchers, whose job it is to gather information about what people think.
Market and survey researchers are employed by companies; they may use the telephone or Internet to conduct their research, or they may call upon volunteers for a focus group. The sole goal of this information gathering is to gain statistical data on the types of products that people want, what they will buy and at what price point, and what a market competitor might be doing. In turn, the companies use this information to set pricing and determine the best methods for marketing and distribution of their products; they may also analyze data about past sales to determine what has worked and what has not.
These market opinions drive the products that line the shelves of major stores; as cumbersome as the work may seem, gathering and analyzing information about the products and features consumers want and believe they need ultimately contributes to a greater standard of living.
While market research analysts help develop the advertising the general public sees through commercials, brochures, sales plans and product promotions, survey researchers gather the information about people and their opinions – this allows the market research analysts to create effective ad campaigns.
For entry-level positions in this field, a bachelor’s degree is sufficient; for individuals looking to advance, a master’s degree is recommended. Individuals seeking a career in this field should expect to study business, marketing, consumer behavior, social science, economics, psychology and sociology. Quantitative skills are vitally important in this field, so mathematics, statistics, sampling theory and survey design, and computer science play a large part in the education of market and survey researchers as well. Because there is no specific degree for this career, most professionals entering the field earn their degrees in business administration, marketing, statistics, communications and other closely related disciplines.
Patience, persistence, communication skills and a keen eye for the small details are crucial. Market and survey researchers often work long hours and are expected to present their findings orally or in written form. Starting out in this field usually means assisting others who are more established in the field. After time and with proven experience, researchers may advance to positions that involve more independent research. Advancement in this profession may also be helped by obtaining certification from the Marketing Research Association; the Professional Researcher Certification is awarded for two levels of knowledge – practitioner and expert.
Market research analysts are employed across many industries; therefore, employment is available throughout the economy. Most positions are found in insurance and professional, scientific, and technical services and consulting – as these areas include market research and public polling – and scientific research and development services.
For as long as consumers demand new and improved products, there will be employment opportunities in this field. In general, the field is expected to grow much faster than average, and opportunities will be best for those holding a master’s or Ph.D. degree in marketing or a social science. Market research analysts will experience this growth thanks to fierce competition between companies seeking to expand their market share. Survey researchers will also see this increase, but in a different way; public policy groups and governments will use their services to poll the public to make changes in local, state and federal sectors.
Depending on the type of degree held and the base of classes taken, market research analysts make between $33,000 and $112,000, while salaries for the smaller field of survey researchers fall between $17,000 and $75,000.