What Does a Survey Researcher Do?

Survey ResearcherIf you’re interested in statistics and have strong analytical skills, you may want to know more about what a survey researcher does. These data analysts use descriptive statistics to discover information about groups of people, such as income, demographic and employment data, voting habits, past purchases, opinions and religious beliefs. Most surveys collect basic information that can be easily understood using descriptive statistics, and this type of analysis is the simplest type of statistical analysis and doesn’t usually require specialized education. In contrast, predictive and prescriptive data analysis require advanced education and rely on data that is already available, which can sometimes be survey data.

The Types of Jobs Available

The difference between descriptive, predictive and prescriptive statistics is in the conclusions drawn from the data, and some survey research positions require researchers to make inferences from the information they collect. For example, researchers polling voters before an election usually make predictions of the outcome of the election, although, of course, predictive statistics can’t actually tell the future. It only predicts possible outcomes that can result from the situation described by the data. With a bachelor’s degree, you can do basic descriptive statistical analysis as a survey researcher, collecting demographic or opinion data about a group of people. However, many employers hire only researchers with postgraduate education to do this work, and it also helps to have experience in data analysis.

With a master’s degree in statistics or computer science, you can do predictive statistical analysis using advanced tools such as data mining and mathematical modeling. Researchers in this area of statistics conduct surveys or mine data from some other source in order to find patterns in the information. When there is enough data, there are always patterns to be found, and predictive statistics is a step above descriptive statistics in terms of sophistication and difficulty, according to Information Week. A more advanced level of statistical analysis is prescriptive statistics, which provides suggestions for businesses and other organizations looking for patterns in their data. To do this work, you usually need to be an expert in your field, which requires a master’s degree or Ph.D.

Salary and Job Outlook for Survey Researchers

Most survey researcher jobs deal only with simple data representations of a population, subset of a population, customer base or group of people related in some way, such as the employees of a company. The market for survey researchers is growing more quickly than average for all occupations in the economy, and the median annual salary for these workers was $45,050 in 2012. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that most of these researchers are going to need a master’s degree to find work but that there will be plenty of jobs for those with advanced education. With a master’s degree, however, you can most likely find more specialized work in predictive or prescriptive statistics, especially if you have computer science knowledge. Data mining skills and quantitative analysis skills are highly valued by employers in this industry.

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Businesses rely on data more than ever to improve their operations and deliver products and services as efficiently as possible, and resources such as the Internet and networked devices give analysts an overabundance of data. If you have the ability to sift through mounds of names, numbers and statistics, you should learn more about what a survey researcher does.