What Does a Research Analyst Do?

15615All businesses rely on data about their market and customers to remain competitive, and providing this type of information is what a research analyst does. Before entrepreneurs launch their next big ideas, they conduct research on their industries, sectors and prospective customers. However, most of them have neither the adequate skills, time nor resources to dive deep into the mounds of industry data that will eventually support their strategic decisions. The work of research analysts provide them with a reasonable alternative for gaining the much needed insight into their proposed markets. While nearly every industry has research analysts who are experts in correctly assessing the market environment, key market players and emerging trends, there are some industries that get more coverage by analysts than others. Here are some of the common sectors that are examined by research analysts, the education and training needed for the profession, the required set of skills for success and some of the professional associations that help analysts further their careers.

Common Sectors Studied by Research Analysts

A research analyst who is sometimes called an industry analyst seeks to gain expertise in a specific industry or niche sector. Ideally each assignment that he or she receives becomes an opportunity to view their chosen area from a different perspective and acquire an even greater depth of subject matter expertise. Companies that operate in the financial services, technology and consumable goods industries rely heavily on the work of skilled research analysts. For example, analysts who support financial services companies assess market trends to determine risks and opportunities within the sector. Their information is used by portfolio managers as well as members of the investment banking community so that they can give their individual and business clients accurate advice about their financial affairs. Research analysts in the field of technology face great challenges mainly because of the field’s volatility; there is always something new to learn. Technology research analysts may further narrow their focus to areas like media, Internet or computer networking technologies. Research analysts who work in the consumer goods industry can also concentrate in a variety of areas like health products, food and beverage consumables or beauty items.

Education and Training for Research Analysts

Research analysts come from a number of academic backgrounds, and many of their university majors become the basis for their chosen industry expertise. For example, research analysts with engineering or computer science backgrounds may gravitate toward the technology sector. Business school graduates may choose to work in the financial services industry, or they may support marketing departments that work in the consumer goods industry. Other academic disciplines that are known to adequately prepare research analysts for the challenges of their profession are communications and philosophy majors. These academic majors require students to think critically, use logic and present their findings convincingly and succinctly. While most schools in the United States do not offer a specific academic degree program for research analysts, some universities have certificate programs that provide specialized training for research analysts. These programs can focus on quantitative research methods, qualitative research elements or both.

Professional Associations for Research Analysts

Professional organizations do a great deal to promote excellence in the professions that they represent, and some associations for the research analyst field is the Association of Independent Information Professionals and the Market Research Association. These organizations provide research analysts with professional development resources, networking opportunities and publications that disseminate professional best practices.

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Experienced research analysts have access to data and other resources that the average organization does not have. However, asking the right questions and applying the answers quantitatively is what a research analyst does best.