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What Survey Researchers Do About this section

Survey researchers
Survey researchers often present their findings.

Survey researchers design surveys and analyze data. Surveys are used to collect factual data, such as employment and salary information, or to ask questions in order to understand people’s opinions, preferences, beliefs, or desires.

Duties

Survey researchers typically do the following:

  • Conduct background research on survey topics
  • Plan and design surveys, and determine appropriate survey methods
  • Test surveys to make sure that people will understand the questions being asked
  • Coordinate the work of survey interviewers and data collectors
  • Account for and solve problems caused by nonresponse or other sampling issues
  • Analyze data, using statistical software and techniques
  • Summarize survey data, using tables, graphs, and fact sheets
  • Evaluate surveys, the methods underlying them, and their performance to improve future surveys

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys for different research purposes. Surveys for scientific research cover various topics, including government, health, social sciences, and education. For example, a survey researcher may try to capture information about the prevalence of drug use or disease.

Some survey researchers design public opinion surveys, which are intended to gather information about the attitudes and opinions of society or of a certain group. Surveys can cover a wide variety of topics, including politics, culture, the economy, or health.

Other survey researchers design marketing surveys which examine products or services that consumers want, need, or prefer. Researchers who collect and analyze market research data are known as market research analysts.

Survey researchers may conduct surveys in many different formats, such as interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups (in-person, small group sessions led by a facilitator). They use different methods to collect data, including the Internet, mail, and telephone and in-person interviews.

Some researchers use surveys to solicit the opinions of an entire population. The decennial census is an example of such a survey. Others use surveys to target a smaller group, such as a specific demographic group, residents of a particular state, or members of a political party.

Researchers survey a sample of the population and use statistics to make sure that the sample accurately represents the target population group. Researchers use a variety of statistical techniques and analytical software to plan surveys, adjust for errors in the data, and analyze the results.

Survey researchers sometimes supervise interviewers who collect survey data through in-person interviews or by telephone.

Work Environment About this section

Survey researchers
Survey researchers often work alone, compiling results and analyzing data.

Survey researchers held about 10,400 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of survey researchers were as follows:

Other professional, scientific, and technical services 37%
Educational services; state, local, and private 17
Scientific research and development services 16
Self-employed workers 7
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 5

Survey researchers work in research firms, polling organizations, nonprofits, and corporations.

Survey researchers who conduct interviews have frequent contact with the public. Some may work outside the office, traveling to meet with clients or conducting in-person interviews and focus group sessions. When designing surveys and analyzing data, they usually work alone in an office setting, although some work on teams with other researchers.

How to Become a Survey Researcher About this section

Survey researchers
Many research positions require a master's degree or Ph.D., though a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for some entry-level positions.

Survey researchers typically need at least a master’s degree to enter the occupation. However, a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some entry-level positions.

Education

Survey researchers typically need a master’s degree or Ph.D. The master’s degree may be in a variety of fields, including marketing or survey research, statistics, or social sciences. A bachelor’s degree is sufficient for some entry-level positions.

To prepare to enter this occupation, students should take courses in research methods, survey methodology, computer science, mathematics, and statistics. Many also may benefit from taking business courses, such as marketing and consumer behavior, and social science courses, such as psychology, sociology, and economics.

Other Experience

Prospective survey researchers can gain experience through internships or fellowships. Many businesses, research and polling firms, and marketing companies offer internships for college students or recent graduates who want to work in market and survey research. These opportunities, which provide valuable experience, can be very helpful toward getting a job.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although survey researchers are not required by law to be licensed or certified, certification can show a level of professional competence.

The Insights Association offers the Professional Researcher Certification for survey researchers. To qualify, candidates must have at least 3 years of experience working in opinion and marketing research, pass an exam, and be a member of a professional organization. Researchers must complete continuing education courses and apply for renewal every 2 years to maintain their certification.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Survey researchers must be able to apply statistical techniques to large amounts of data and interpret the results correctly. They also should be proficient in the statistical software used to analyze data.

Communication skills. Survey researchers need strong communication skills when conducting surveys and interpreting and presenting results to clients.

Critical-thinking skills. Survey researchers must design or choose a survey and a survey method that together best capture the information needed. They must also be able to look at the data and draw reasonable conclusions from the results of the survey.

Detail oriented. Survey researchers must pay attention to details, because survey results depend on collecting, analyzing, and reporting the data accurately.

Problem-solving skills. Survey researchers need problem-solving skills when identifying survey design issues, adjusting survey questions, and interpreting survey results.

Pay About this section

Survey Researchers

Median annual wages, May 2021

Social scientists and related workers

$80,890

Survey researchers

$59,740

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for survey researchers was $59,740 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,360, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $101,180.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for survey researchers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Scientific research and development services $62,410
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 60,930
Other professional, scientific, and technical services 59,130
Educational services; state, local, and private 48,210

Job Outlook About this section

Survey Researchers

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Survey researchers

6%

Social scientists and related workers

5%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of survey researchers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,000 openings for survey researchers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Survey researchers will be in demand in marketing, research, and polling establishments to plan and design surveys and to analyze data. Continued adoption of data mining—finding trends in large sets of existing data—and collecting information from social media sites are expected to reduce the need for some traditional survey methods, such as telephone and in-person interviews. The use of big data in market research will reduce the demand for survey researchers to gather survey information, although these researchers will continue to be needed to analyze data.

Employment projections data for survey researchers, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Survey researchers

19-3022 10,400 11,000 6 700 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about careers in survey research, visit

American Association for Public Opinion Research

Insights Association

O*NET

Survey Researchers

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