Although some survey researchers have a bachelor’s degree, many technical research positions require a graduate degree. Employers generally prefer candidates who have previous work experience using statistics, analyzing data, or conducting interviews or surveys.
Survey researchers can have a bachelor’s degree in a variety of fields, including business, psychology, and political science. 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.
Most technical or advanced research positions require a master’s degree or Ph.D. Some survey researchers take degree programs in survey research, survey methodology, or marketing research. Others complete a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or concentrate in social sciences or statistics.
Prospective survey researchers can gain valuable experience through internships. Several research and marketing firms offer internships for college students or recent graduates who want to work in market and survey research.
The Marketing Research Association offers the Professional Researcher Certification (PRC) for survey researchers. Although not mandatory, certification can show a level of professional competency. Candidates qualify based on experience and knowledge, including at least 3 years working in opinion and marketing research, passing an exam, and membership in a professional organization. To keep their certification valid, researchers must take continuing education courses and apply for renewal every 2 years.
Analytical skills. Survey researchers must be able to apply statistical techniques to large amounts of data and interpret the analysis correctly.
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 analyses and understand what can be learned from the survey.
Detail oriented. Survey researchers must pay attention to details as they work because survey results depend on collecting, analyzing, and reporting the data accurately.
People skills. Depending on their technique, survey researchers may talk with people in face-to-face or during telephone interviews or in focus group sessions. Survey researchers must be able to make people comfortable enough to give meaningful responses and reveal their opinions.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition