Survey researcher, one of the highest-paying social science jobs, is a role that allows you to make an impact on numerous fields. By designing and carrying out surveys that accurately capture data and analyzing that data, you could contribute to research in the social sciences, business marketing and so much more. If you aspire to work as a survey researcher, a master’s degree in math or statistics is one option for preparing for the career path. Other possibilities include a master’s degree in marketing, any of the social sciences, survey research specifically or a Ph.D. in any relevant subject area.
A Master’s in Mathematics or Statistics
Earning your master’s degree in a field like math or statistics can help prepare you to work as a survey researcher, but it’s not your only educational option, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If you enjoy studying math-heavy subjects, though, these programs are likely a great choice and can equip you with versatile skills in survey research.
Mathematics is the second most important area of knowledge you must be proficient in as a survey researcher, according to O*NET. Survey researchers use math routinely in their careers. You may expect survey researchers to use statistical equations to analyze the data they have collected. However, they also integrate the techniques of statistical analysis into the planning and development of the research surveys they create.
If you want to use your advanced education in math or statistics to pursue a career as a survey researcher, it would make sense to enroll in an applied, rather than theoretical, math or statistics program. A master’s in applied statistics program may include topics in statistical computing, advanced statistical methods, mathematical statistics with applications, categorical data analysis and applied multiple regression analysis. You should also try to take coursework specific to research and experimental design.
Even if you don’t choose a math or statistics degree, be prepared to study these topics. Course work in mathematics and statistics is among the most important types of classes for this occupation, alongside survey methodology and research methods, the BLS reported.
A Marketing Degree for Survey Researcher Roles
If the areas of survey research that most interests you are business and marketing, pursuing a marketing degree can also equip you with the skills to be a survey researcher. You should try to choose a marketing program with a curriculum that’s heavy on analysis, rather than the creative side of advertising and marketing campaigns.
The benefit of choosing a marketing degree, rather than a math or statistics degree, is that you have the opportunity to develop a broader business background and delve into more specialized topics in research as it pertains to business marketing. A relevant master’s of marketing program might incorporate marketing and business analytics, market demand and sales forecasting, pricing strategies and data-driven decision-making.
Aspiring survey researchers may be better off choosing a Master of Science degree, as opposed to a Master of Arts or Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, since this degree structure is more likely to highlight analytical skills and technical knowledge.
Preparing for Social Research Opportunities Through Studies in the Social Sciences
Survey research is a crucial part of studying the social sciences. If you envision yourself as a sociologist, anthropologist, psychologist, political scientist or economist first and a survey researcher second, you can continue pursuing your educational path in the social sciences. Most social science degree programs, particularly at the master’s level, include studies in research methods, quantitative methods of inquiry and the statistical methods that are most relevant to your field of social science study.
Social scientists who become survey researchers in the course of their inquiries have a deeper understanding of the context of research efforts and implications than those with only a background in statistics. They are better suited to crafting the language of a survey to clearly express the desired thought and make sure they are getting accurate responses from participants.
Many social scientists conduct survey research as part of their role as, say, a sociologist or economist. You might not hold the title of survey researcher but still perform these job duties in conjunction with your research.
Specialized Master’s Degree Programs in Survey Research
Some universities offer master’s degree programs specific to the field of survey research, awarding degrees such as a Master of Arts in Survey Research or a Master of Science in Survey Methodology. In one of these specialized degree programs, you might take classes in the fundamentals of survey methodology, design and implementation of web surveys, the theory of sampling design, randomized and nonrandomized research design, applied sampling and estimation, data collection fundamentals and questionnaire design and evaluation. Students may also study survey measurement, statistical modeling, data display fundamentals and other advanced topics specific to the practice of survey research.
These specialized programs may allow for further specialization in a track in survey statistics, data science or social and psychological science.
Doctoral Degrees for Survey Researchers
The typical education needed for survey researchers is a master’s degree or a Ph.D., according to the BLS, but don’t feel pressured to go for your doctorate. A doctoral degree isn’t among the top three educational paths reported by survey researchers, which collectively account for 88 percent of the field, according to O*NET. Although the BLS characterizes a bachelor’s degree as sufficient only for acquiring entry-level roles in the field of survey research, this degree is the most common level of education reported to O*NET, accounting for 46 percent of the field. Another 38 percent of survey researchers report having a master’s degree, and 4 percent hold a post-baccalaureate certificate.
Getting a Ph.D. isn’t easy, often requiring advanced research and an original dissertation. However, an advanced degree may help you move into a senior-level survey researcher role like survey director or study director.