Survey researchers design and conduct surveys and analyze data.
What they do
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.
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.
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
Many research positions require a master’s degree or Ph.D., although a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some entry-level positions.
Many research positions require a master’s degree or Ph.D. Survey researchers can have a master’s degree in a variety of fields, including marketing or survey research, statistics, and the 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.
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.
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.
The median annual wage for survey researchers was $59,170 in May 2019. 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 $32,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $108,860.
Employment of survey researchers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.
Survey research is an evolving field, with companies regularly adopting new methods and data sources in an effort to increase productivity. For example, 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. These changing research methods are expected to allow more survey research work to be done with fewer survey researchers, thus reducing the number of workers needed.
Similar Job Titles
Data Analyst, Field Interviewer, Market Survey Representative, Methodologist, Public Opinion Analyst, Research Associate, Research Fellow, Research Interviewer, Survey Research Consultant, Telephone Interviewer
Market Research Analyst and Marketing Specialist, Accountant and Auditor, Operations Research Analyst, Sociologist, Library Science Teacher-Postsecondary
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Association for Public Opinion Research
- American Marketing Association
- American Political Science Association
- American Statistical Association
- Insights Association
- World Association for Public Opinion Research
Magazines and Publications
- AAPOR Newsletter
- Marketing News (AMA)
- International Journal of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR)
These days, talk of big data and internet algorithms can give you the sense that we already have all the information we need. In reality, it also takes the skills of survey researchers to gather and interpret data, so that accurate and representative information is available. Survey researchers design surveys, conduct interviews and focus groups, and analyze data. The data they collect varies— from employment and salary information to public opinion on a product or proposal. Survey researchers’ regularly use communication skills— both to gather information and to present results to clients. They must know how to choose the right method to gather accurate data on a particular topic, fine-tune surveys to solve any design problems, and be detail-oriented so they don’t miss anything in their analysis. Survey researchers are employed by research firms, polling organizations, non-profits, corporations, colleges and universities, and government agencies. They usually work alone in an office, though some work on teams, and may travel to meet clients or to reach a targeted group for their research. Usually, survey researchers work regular full-time business hours, but deadlines may sometimes call for extra time. Many positions require a graduate degree in a related field, such as marketing, survey research, statistics, or the social sciences. A related bachelor’s degree qualifies a candidate for some entry-level positions. Experience performing research, using statistics, and analyzing data, increases employment prospects.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org