What does a Survey Researcher do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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A survey researcher conducts research intended to determine how members of the public feel about a particular topic. This work is closely tied in with marketing and advertising, as survey research informs campaigns for everything from selling new technology to developing an effective public health outreach program. To become a survey researcher, it is necessary to have a bachelor's degree at a minimum, with more employment opportunities open to people who hold graduate degrees. Excellent analysis and communication skills are also needed.

Survey researchers identify a topic of interest and design a study to collect information on it. They decide how the survey should be conducted, choosing between methods like phone polls, online surveys, or mailed surveys. They also create the content of the survey, adding questions to collect demographic and control data, as well as queries about the specific topic at hand. This work requires skill with communication, as people need to be able to phrase questions in a way designed to get the most accurate answers.


The survey researcher also decides how to select a survey sample, and then launches the survey. As data comes in, it is added to a database and analyzed. At the end of the survey, all of the data can be used to pull together information based on the results. This can include important data about demographics, such as which age groups and races are responding to an advertising campaign, and can help target campaigns and publicity more effectively.

Survey researchers may work for advertising firms, political campaigns, government offices, nonprofits, and educational institutions. Some are involved in developing surveys for psychological research, and degrees in psychology can be very helpful for survey researchers, even if they aren't interested in pursuing psychology in the long term, as designing surveys requires a thorough knowledge of psychology. Math experience is also needed for a survey researcher because it is necessary to describe the results in a meaningful way and to be able to discuss margins of error and related topics.

Salaries for survey researchers vary. People working in private industry usually have access to larger salaries, especially if they are involved in major advertising and research campaigns. Public employees have lower salaries, usually with government benefits. A public survey researcher may have access to a larger data pool; for example, the reach of the United States Census, a form of survey research, is legendary, with Census employees working to count every single person in the United States with a survey.


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