Survey Researchers

Summary

survey researchers image
Survey researchers meet with clients to determine appropriate survey methods.
Quick Facts: Survey Researchers
2015 Median Pay $53,920 per year
$25.92 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 16,700
Job Outlook, 2014-24 12% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 1,900

What Survey Researchers Do

Survey researchers design and conduct 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.

Work Environment

Most survey researchers work in research firms, polling organizations, nonprofits, corporations, colleges and universities, and government agencies. The majority work full time during regular business hours.

How to Become a Survey Researcher

Many research positions require a master’s degree or Ph.D., though a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some entry-level positions. In addition, employers generally prefer candidates who have previous experience performing research, using statistics, and analyzing data.

Pay

The median annual wage for survey researchers was $53,920 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of survey researchers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment is expected to grow as organizations increasingly rely on data and information acquired through research. Job prospects should be good for those with an advanced degree.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for survey researchers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of survey researchers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about survey researchers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Survey Researchers Do

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 nonrespondents or other sampling issues
  • Analyze data using statistical software and techniques
  • Summarize survey data using tables, graphs, and fact sheets
  • Evaluate surveys, methods, and performance to improve future surveys

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys for different research purposes. Surveys for scientific research cover various fields, 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 with 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, such as the decennial census, and others use them 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 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 the survey data through in-person interviews or by telephone.

Work Environment

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

Survey researchers held about 16,700 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most survey researchers were as follows:

Other professional, scientific, and technical services 49%
Scientific research and development services 15
Educational services; state, local, and private 9
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 7
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 6

They work in research firms, polling organizations, nonprofits, corporations, colleges and universities, and government agencies. 

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, though some work on teams with other researchers.

Work Schedules

Most survey researchers work full time during regular business hours. They may sometimes work for extended periods to meet project deadlines.

How to Become a Survey Researcher

Survey researchers
Survey researchers may conduct focus groups to learn people’s opinions.

Many research positions require a master’s degree or Ph.D., though a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some entry-level positions. In addition, employers generally prefer candidates who have previous experience performing research, using statistics, and analyzing data.

Education

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, 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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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

The Marketing Research 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 survey method that best captures 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

Survey Researchers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Social scientists and related workers

$72,570

Survey researchers

$53,920

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for survey researchers was $53,920 in May 2015. 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 $22,300, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $99,500.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for survey researchers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Scientific research and development services $69,370
Educational services; state, local, and private 54,130
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 53,710
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 52,550
Other professional, scientific, and technical services 48,140

Most survey researchers work full time during regular business hours. They may sometimes work for extended periods to meet project deadlines.

Job Outlook

Survey Researchers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Social scientists and related workers

12%

Survey researchers

12%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of survey researchers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

Organizations in all industries rely on data and information acquired through research, and survey researchers play an important role in the research process. Governments, the media, nonprofits, and other organizations will continue to use public opinion research to learn about citizens’ thoughts and perspectives. They use this information to understand groups of people; measure a program’s effectiveness; or gauge support for people, policies, and actions. For example, public opinion research may help governments make decisions on transit systems, social programs, and numerous other issues.

Survey researchers are also expected to be needed to design surveys for businesses. In an increasingly competitive economy, firms will continue to use market and consumer research surveys to help make business decisions, improve their products or services, and compete in the market. Many of these researcher jobs will be in consulting firms.

Research is an evolving field. Companies regularly adopt new research methods and new data sources which may increase productivity. For example, collecting information from social media sites and data mining—finding trends in large sets of existing data—are expected to reduce the need for some traditional survey methods, such as telephone and in-person interviews. Employment growth may be tempered by these changing research methods.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be best for those with an advanced degree in market or survey research, statistics, or the social sciences. Jobseekers with strong statistical and analytical skills and research experience should have good job prospects. Because of the relatively small number of survey researcher positions, bachelor’s degree holders will likely face strong competition from more qualified candidates.

Employment projections data for survey researchers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Survey researchers

19-3022 16,700 18,700 12 1,900 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of survey researchers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2015 MEDIAN PAY
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Advertising sales agents

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Economists

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Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.

Master's degree $99,180
Market research analysts

Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts study market conditions to examine potential sales of a product or service. They help companies understand what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price.

Bachelor's degree $62,150
Operations research analysts

Operations Research Analysts

Operations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical methods to help organizations investigate complex issues, identify and solve problems, and make better decisions.

Bachelor's degree $78,630
Political scientists

Political Scientists

Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems. They research political ideas and analyze governments, policies, political trends, and related issues.

Master's degree $99,730
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

See How to Become One $72,580
Sociologists

Sociologists

Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes that develop when people interact and work together.

Master's degree $73,760
Statisticians

Statisticians

Statisticians use statistical methods to collect and analyze data and to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, healthcare, or other fields.

Master's degree $80,110
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Survey Researchers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/survey-researchers.htm (visited May 01, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015