Survey researcher, one of the highest-paying social science jobs, has the potential to influence a diverse array of fields of study, professional practice and business. Whether directly, through the data they uncover or indirectly, through the way that data is put to use in evidence-based practices and decisions, a survey researcher is sure to make a difference. Some of the professions that most rely on the work of survey researchers include social science roles like sociologist, anthropologist, psychologist, economist and political scientist. Policy analysts of all kinds look to survey researchers for help, as do professionals in the field of public health, and private-sector businesses use the data gleaned by survey researchers to make marketing decisions.
Sociologists, the social scientists who study human interactions and social organizations and behavior, need survey data to explore their field. Through survey responses, they can learn more about a population’s feelings and behaviors. For example, survey data may help sociologists understand how people of different groups – races, ethnicities, gender and sexual identities, socioeconomic classes and others – view situations and what they do.
Sociologists use both quantitative and qualitative data in their studies, and survey research can provide both types of information. For example, sociologists can see what percentage of participants report thinking or feeling a certain way.
Anthropology is the broad study of humanity that encompasses everything from the organization of ancient civilizations to modern cultures and the evolution of language. In addition to observation and direct interviews, survey research provides valuable data for anthropologists studying modern human cultures.
Anthropological research surveys are often developed based on qualitative information acquired through interviews, with their results yielding quantitative data that can be examined through statistical analysis and modeling techniques.
Psychology, the study of the mind and behavior, engages in survey research as well as experiments conducted according to the scientific method. Psychological survey research is useful because it is one way to gain insight into what a participant is actually thinking or feeling. Psychologists can observe what a person does in response to stimuli – their behavior – but they may not be able to reliably identify the thought processes and emotions that lead to that behavior through pure observation. In a survey, whether presented as a written self-assessment or in the format of an interview, a psychologist can understand why a person behaves the way they do, which speaks to the heart of this discipline.
One common use of survey research in the field of psychology is to understand the prevalence of a variety of mental health conditions.
Information about the economy is often obtained through survey research. Conducting surveys pertaining to the study of how resources – financial and otherwise – are used and distributed helps economists and policymakers understand trends in the economy. This data is often looked at through the lens of the economic implications of a change in policies, programs and the many factors that can influence economic markets.
The ability to analyze and interpret quantitative data is crucial in the field of economics, and this includes learning to design surveys, use appropriate sampling methods for administering surveys to participants and analyze response data.
Polls that illustrate who citizens plan to vote for and what a political candidate’s approval rating is are a common fixture in the field of political science. These polls are often conducted as a form of survey research. Survey research techniques are often used to gauge public opinion – something that, to politicians aiming to capture votes and the campaign personnel whose job it is to help them, is crucial.
In the field of political science, as in other fields, surveys aren’t always administered as a printed document a person fills out in writing and on their own. Instead, they may be done by phone, in an online format or in any number of other means.
You don’t have to be a social scientist to benefit from the use of survey research. Policy analysts in any field rely on the data that comes from surveys to better understand important issues and the public perception of them. Policy analysts are called on by government leaders to explain complex matters and the likely – and less likely – implications of embracing different policies.
Policy analysts are needed in a range of different fields, from education to health and even urban planning.
Public Health Researchers
Public opinion is important in the field of public health. When it comes to a public health issue, whether an infectious disease or patterns of unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, how people view the severity of the condition and their likelihood of developing it may affect their behavior. In turn, this behavior can raise or lower the chance of catching that illness or developing that lifestyle-related chronic condition.
In the field of public health, surveys can address everything from perceptions of pandemics to drug and alcohol use.
Marketers and Business Leaders
In the field of business, leaders are always wondering what’s going on in consumers’ minds. Survey data can answer this question and allow companies to use that information to sell their products or services. Survey researchers may conduct surveys to identify how familiar consumers are with a brand or product, determine what marketing messages would be most effective and even help companies plan the development and pricing of new products and services.
If you want to conduct surveys specifically for business marketing purposes, you might more accurately be termed a market research analyst rather than a survey researcher.