Summary

survey researchers image
Survey researchers meet with clients to determine appropriate survey methods.
Quick Facts: Survey Researchers
2016 Median Pay $54,470 per year
$26.19 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 14,600
Job Outlook, 2016-26 1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2016-26 100

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., although a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some entry-level positions.

Pay

The median annual wage for survey researchers was $54,470 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of survey researchers is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026. Changing research methods, such as collecting information from social media websites, are expected to increase the productivity of survey researchers. Job prospects should be best 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 About this section

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 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.

Work Environment About this section

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

Survey researchers held about 14,600 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of survey researchers were as follows:

Other professional, scientific, and technical services 39%
Scientific research and development services 18
Self-employed workers 14
Educational services; state, local, and private 9
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 8

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 About this section

Survey researchers
Many research positions require a master's degree or Ph.D., though a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for some entry-level positions.

Many research positions require a master’s degree or Ph.D., although a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some entry-level positions.

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, 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.

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. These opportunities, which provide valuable experience, can be very helpful toward getting a job.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

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 a survey method that together best capture 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 About this section

Survey Researchers

Median annual wages, May 2016

Social scientists and related workers

$75,280

Survey researchers

$54,470

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for survey researchers was $54,470 in May 2016. 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 $25,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $100,250.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for survey researchers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Scientific research and development services $68,960
Educational services; state, local, and private 52,400
Other professional, scientific, and technical services 49,570
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 47,520

Job Outlook About this section

Survey Researchers

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Social scientists and related workers

10%

Total, all occupations

7%

Survey researchers

1%

 

Employment of survey researchers is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026.

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 that are expected 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 temper employment growth of survey researchers.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be best for those with an advanced degree in market or survey research, statistics, or the social sciences. 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, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Survey researchers

19-3022 14,600 14,700 1 100 employment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data About this section

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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 About this section

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers plan programs to generate interest in products or services. They work with art directors, sales agents, and financial staff members.

Bachelor's degree $127,560
Advertising sales agents

Advertising Sales Agents

Advertising sales agents sell advertising space to businesses and individuals. They contact potential clients, make sales presentations, and maintain client accounts.

High school diploma or equivalent $50,380
Economists

Economists

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 $101,050
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 $62,560
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 $79,200
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 $114,290
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments. They use their findings to help improve processes and behaviors.

See How to Become One $75,230
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 $79,750
Mathematicians

Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply mathematical and statistical techniques to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, healthcare, or other fields.

Master's degree $81,950
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Survey Researchers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/survey-researchers.htm (visited November 23, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.