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Market and Survey Researchers

Significant Points

  • Market and survey researchers need at least a bachelorís degree, but a masterís degree may be required for employment; continuing education also is important.
  • Employment is expected to grow faster than average.
  • Job opportunities should be best for those with a masterís or Ph.D. degree in marketing or a related field and strong quantitative skills.
Nature of the Work

Market, or marketing, research analysts are concerned with the potential sales of a product or service. Gathering statistical data on competitors and examining prices, sales, and methods of marketing and distribution, they analyze data on past sales to predict future sales. Market research analysts devise methods and procedures for obtaining the data they need. Often, they design telephone, mail, or Internet surveys to assess consumer preferences. They conduct some surveys as personal interviews, going door-to-door, leading focus group discussions, or setting up booths in public places such as shopping malls. Trained interviewers usually conduct the surveys under the market research analystís direction.

After compiling and evaluating the data, market research analysts make recommendations to their client or employer on the basis of their findings. They provide a companyís management with information needed to make decisions on the promotion, distribution, design, and pricing of products or services. The information also may be used to determine the advisability of adding new lines of merchandise, opening new branches, or otherwise diversifying the companyís operations. Market research analysts also might develop advertising brochures and commercials, sales plans, and product promotions such as rebates and giveaways.

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys for a variety of clients, such as corporations, government agencies, political candidates, and providers of various services. The surveys collect information that is used for performing research, making fiscal or policy decisions, measuring the effectiveness of those decisions, or improving customer satisfaction. Analysts may conduct opinion research to determine public attitudes on various issues; the research results may help political or business leaders and others assess public support for their electoral prospects or social policies. Like market research analysts, survey researchers may use a variety of mediums to conduct surveys, such as the Internet, personal or telephone interviews, or questionnaires sent through the mail. They also may supervise interviewers who conduct surveys in person or over the telephone.

Survey researchers design surveys in many different formats, depending upon the scope of their research and the method of collection. Interview surveys, for example, are common because they can increase participation rates. Survey researchers may consult with economists, statisticians, market research analysts, or other data users in order to design surveys. They also may present survey results to clients.

Working Conditions

Market and survey researchers generally have structured work schedules. Some often work alone, writing reports, preparing statistical charts, and using computers, but they also may be an integral part of a research team. Market researchers who conduct personal interviews have frequent contact with the public. Most work under pressure of deadlines and tight schedules, which may require overtime. Their routine may be interrupted by special requests for data, as well as by the need to attend meetings or conferences. Travel may be necessary.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

A bachelorís degree is the minimum educational requirement for many market and survey research jobs. However, a masterís degree may be required, especially for technical positions, and increases opportunities for advancement to more responsible positions. Also, continuing education is important in order to keep current with the latest methods of developing, conducting, and analyzing surveys and other data. Market and survey researchers may earn advanced degrees in business administration, marketing, statistics, communications, or some closely related discipline. Some schools help graduate students find internships or part-time employment in government agencies, consulting firms, financial institutions, or marketing research firms prior to graduation.

In addition to completing courses in business, marketing, and consumer behavior, prospective market and survey researchers should take other liberal arts and social science courses, including economics, psychology, English, and sociology. Because of the importance of quantitative skills to market and survey researchers, courses in mathematics, statistics, sampling theory and survey design, and computer science are extremely helpful. Many corporation and government executives have a strong background in marketing.

A masterís degree is usually the minimum educational requirement for a job as a marketing or survey research instructor in junior and community colleges. In most colleges and universities, however, a Ph.D. is necessary for appointment as an instructor. A Ph.D. and extensive publications in academic journals are required for a professorship, tenure, and promotion.

While in college, aspiring market and survey researchers should gain experience gathering and analyzing data, conducting interviews or surveys, and writing reports on their findings. This experience can prove invaluable later in obtaining a full-time position in the field, because much of the initial work may center on these duties. With experience, market and survey researchers eventually are assigned their own research projects.

Much of the market and survey researcherís time is spent on precise data analysis, so those considering careers in the occupation should be able to pay attention to detail. Patience and persistence are necessary qualities because these workers must spend long hours on independent study and problem solving. At the same time, they must work well with others: often, market and survey researchers oversee interviews of a wide variety of individuals. Communication skills are important, too, because researchers must be able to present their findings both orally and in writing, in a clear, concise manner.

While certification currently is not required for market and survey researchers, the Marketing Research Association (MRA) offers a certification program for professional researchers. Certification is based on education and experience requirements, as well as on continuing education.


Market and survey researchers held about 212,000 jobs in 2004, most of whichó190,000ówere held by market research analysts. Because of the applicability of market research to many industries, market research analysts are employed throughout the economy. The industries that employ the largest number of market research analysts were management of companies and enterprises; management, scientific, and technical consulting services; insurance carriers; credit intermediation and related activities; computer systems design and related services; marketing research and public opinion polling; software publishers; professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers; securities and commodity contracts intermediation and brokerage; and advertising and related services.

Survey researchers held about 22,000 jobs in 2004. Survey researchers were employed mainly by professional, scientific, and technical services firms, especially in market research and public opinion polling; scientific research and development services; and management, scientific, and technical consulting services. State government also provided many jobs for survey researchers.

A number of market and survey researchers combine a full-time job in government, academia, or business with part-time or consulting work in another setting. About nine percent of market and survey researchers are self-employed.

Besides holding the previously mentioned jobs, many market and survey researchers held faculty positions in colleges and universities. Marketing faculties have flexible work schedules and may divide their time among teaching, research, consulting, and administration. (See the statement on teachersópostsecondary in the Careers database.

Job Outlook

Employment of market and survey researchers is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through 2014. Many job openings are likely to result from the need to replace experienced workers who transfer to other occupations or who retire or leave the labor force for other reasons.

Job opportunities should be best for those with a masterís or Ph.D. degree in marketing or a related field and strong quantitative skills. Bachelorís degree holders may face competition, as many positions, especially the more technical ones, require a masterís or higher degree. Among bachelorís degree holders, those with good quantitative skills, including a strong background in mathematics, statistics, survey design, and computer science, will have the best opportunities. Ph.D. degree holders in marketing and related fields should have a range of opportunities in industry and consulting firms. Like those in many other disciplines, however, Ph.D. holders probably will face keen competition for tenured teaching positions in colleges and universities.

Demand for market research analysts should be strong because of an increasingly competitive economy. Marketing research provides organizations valuable feedback from purchasers, allowing companies to evaluate consumer satisfaction and plan more effectively for the future. As companies seek to expand their market and as consumers become better informed, the need for marketing professionals will increase. In addition, as globalization of the marketplace continues, market researchers will increasingly be utilized to analyze foreign markets and competition for goods and services.

Market research analysts should have the best opportunities in consulting firms and marketing research firms as companies find it more profitable to contract for market research services rather than support their own marketing department. Increasingly, market research analysts not only are collecting and analyzing information, but also are helping clients implement the analystsí ideas and recommendations. Other organizations, including computer systems design companies, software publishers, financial services organizations, health care institutions, advertising firms, and insurance companies, may offer job opportunities for market research analysts. Survey researchers will be needed to meet the growing demand for market and opinion research as an increasingly competitive economy requires businesses to allocate advertising funds more effectively and efficiently.


Median annual earnings of market research analysts in May 2004 were $56,140. The middle 50 percent earned between $40,510 and $79,990. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,890, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $105,870. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of market research analysts in May 2004 were:

Management of companies and enterprises $58,440
Computer systems design and related services 58,100
Insurance carriers 51,030
Other professional, scientific, and technical services 50,950
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 49,080

Median annual earnings of survey researchers in May 2004 were $26,490. The middle 50 percent earned between $17,920 and $41,390. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $15,330, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $56,740. Median annual earnings of survey researchers in other professional, scientific, and technical services were $22,880.

Related Occupations

Market and survey researchers perform research to find out how well the market receives products or services. Such research may include planning, implementing, and analyzing surveys to determine the needs and preferences of people. Other jobs using these skills include economists, psychologists, sociologists, statisticians, and urban and regional planners.

Sources of Additional Information


Links to non-BLS Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

For information about careers and certification in market research, contact:

For information about careers in survey research, contact:

  • Council of American Survey Research Organizations, 170 North Country Rd., Suite 4, Port Jefferson, NY 11777. Internet: http://www.casro.org/

  • Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition,

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