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Market and Survey Researchers - What They Do


Market and survey researchers gather information about what people think. Market research analysts help companies understand what types of products people want, determine who will buy them and at what price. 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 by designing surveys to assess consumer preferences. While a majority of surveys are conducted through the Internet and telephone, other methods may include focus group discussions, mail responses, or setting up booths in public places, such as shopping malls, for example. Trained interviewers usually conduct the surveys under a market research analyst's direction.

Market opinion research has contributed greatly to a higher standard of living as most products and services consumers purchase are available with the aid of market research. By making recommendations to their client or employer, market research analysts provide companies with vital information to help them make decisions on the promotion, distribution, and design of products or services. For example, child proof closures on medicine bottles exist because research helped define the most workable design; and the growing variety of ready to cook meals, such as microwaveable soups and prepackaged meat products, exist because of increasing public demand for fast and convenient meals. The information also may be used to determine whether the company should add new lines of merchandise, open new branches, or otherwise diversify the company's operations. Market research analysts also help develop advertising brochures and commercials, sales plans, and product promotions such as rebates and giveaways based on their knowledge of the consumer being targeted.

Survey researchers also gather information about people and their opinions, but these workers focus exclusively on designing and conducting surveys. They work for a variety of clients—such as corporations, government agencies, political candidates—gathering information to help make fiscal or policy decisions, measure the effectiveness of those decisions, and improve customer satisfaction. Survey researchers may conduct opinion research to determine public attitudes on various issues; the research results may help political or business leaders measure 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, 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.

Work Environment
Market and survey researchers generally have structured work schedules. They often work alone, writing reports and preparing statistical charts on computers, but they sometimes may be 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. Travel may be necessary.

Education & Training Required
A bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for many market and survey research jobs. However, a master's degree is usually required for more technical positions.

In addition to completing courses in business, marketing, and consumer behavior, prospective market and survey researchers should take social science courses, including economics, psychology 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. Market and survey researchers often earn advanced degrees in business administration, marketing, statistics, communications, or other closely related disciplines.

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 toward obtaining a full-time position in the field, because much of the work may center on these duties. 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.

Other Skills Required (Other qualifications)
Market and survey researchers spend a lot of time performing precise data analysis, so being detail-oriented is critical. Patience and persistence are also necessary qualities because these workers devote long hours to independent study and problem solving. At the same time, they must work well with others as market and survey researchers sometimes oversee the interviewing of individuals. Communication skills are important, too, because the wording of surveys is critical, and researchers must be able to present their findings both orally and in writing.

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