Marketing Research Worker
Marketing Research Worker
Education and Training Bachelor's degree minimum
Salary Varies—see profile
Employment Outlook Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Marketing research workers gather and analyze information about how and why people spend money. This information helps a business make many important decisions, including whether to manufacture a new product, what to call the new product, and which advertising media to use for its promotion. In a competitive marketplace both the public and industries spend billions of dollars each year on goods and services. Businesses understand that it is in their best interest to know what consumers are most likely to buy and why.
Many marketing research workers are employed by independent research firms, advertising agencies, trade associations, and public relations companies; others work for business and industrial firms or for the government. A marketing department may be composed of a marketing research director, junior and senior analysts, survey researchers, field workers, coders, and tabulators. This team of workers carries out various stages of research, including planning, field interviewing, tabulating, and analyzing data.
The marketing research process begins when the marketing research director designs a research project that answers a company's need. For example, a soap company may want to find out why its sales are declining. The director may study the company's past sales records, review the competition, and then decide to do a survey of soap buyers to determine what soap is selling and why.
Before the survey can be conducted, a statistician is usually called in to identify a "sample" group of soap buyers, which is a group that accurately represents the soap-buying public. A senior analyst, project director, or survey researcher then works on developing a questionnaire that asks the sample buyers what soap they currently use, how long they have used it, why they like it, and other related questions. The questionnaire must be carefully worded so that the questions are clear and to the point; otherwise, the results of the survey may be misleading or totally meaningless.
Survey researchers are sent out to present the questionnaire to the sample group of people. Interviews are done in person, over the telephone, or through the mail. Once the questionnaires are completed, editors review them, and then tabulators and coders prepare them for data processing. Analysts study the results of the survey and report their findings to the company's top management. The report might find that soap buyers are choosing soaps that have a special additive. Management must then decide whether to add a special ingredient to the company's product in an effort to increase sales.
Some marketing research workers specialize in advertising. They are called advertising researchers or advertising analysts. Like other marketing research workers, advertising researchers conduct surveys to find out which ads sell which products and why. They also analyze what medium (radio, television, newspapers, magazines, or direct mail) should be used for a certain advertiser. Some advertising researchers pretest commercials before they are shown on television. In addition, they may test-market new products in select cities before making the products available nationwide.
Education and Training Requirements
A bachelor's degree is a minimum requirement for most jobs in marketing research. A strong background in English and courses in marketing, economics, statistics, psychology, sociology, and political science are very useful. Good communications skills are also important. Many graduates start out in trainee jobs as coders or tabulators, then become interviewers or research assistants before moving up to higher-level jobs.
Advanced degrees—especially for those working in the private sector—are becoming increasingly desirable to employers because of the trend toward research in specialized markets. An example of a specialized market is industrial marketing, which focuses on the goods or services that manufacturers sell to other manufacturers. Candidates with a degree in engineering and an advanced degree in marketing are in demand to fill top-level positions in industrial marketing. Those who have other combination backgrounds—for instance, a bachelor's degree in criminology and a master's degree in business administration—are often hired to fill management positions in planning and supervision.
Getting the Job
Individuals interested in becoming marketing researchers may begin with a summer or a part-time job tabulating marketing data or surveying people. This experience is very useful in landing a full-time position. College placement offices usually maintain lists of job openings in marketing research. Want ads in newspapers, Internet job sites, and trade and professional journals may also provide leads on jobs.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Advancement depends on a worker's education, experience, and proven ability. Many workers climb the ladder from research assistant to junior analyst to senior analyst or project director. Some are promoted to top management positions such as marketing research director or vice president of marketing, but these jobs are scarce and require years of experience and outstanding management skills. Sometimes experienced research workers go into business for themselves, conducting local independent marketing surveys.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 212,000 people held marketing research worker jobs in 2004. Although this field is very sensitive to the state of the economy, analysts predict that employment of marketing researchers will increase faster than the average for all occupations between 2004 and 2014. Marketing researchers will be needed to accommodate the increasingly varied and complex marketing activities of businesses and organizations such as hospitals that seek to promote their services. As businesses continue to expand globally, more market research workers will also be needed to analyze foreign markets. Openings will result as workers retire or leave the field for other reasons. Opportunities should be particularly good in marketing consulting firms.
Many independent marketing research firms are located in large cities with diverse populations. Researchers frequently work under pressure, putting in overtime when deadlines must be met. They usually work a minimum of forty hours per week. Although most researchers work in well-lit, ventilated offices, others are expected to do some traveling.
Where to Go for More Information
American Marketing Association
311 S. Wacker Dr., Ste. 5800
Chicago, IL 60606
Marketing Research Association
110 National Dr., 2nd Fl.
Glastonbury, CT 06033
Earnings and Benefits
Field survey workers, coders, and tabulators typically start at about the minimum wage. In 2004 the median annual salary for market research workers varied depending on the position, according to a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Market research analysts earned a median salary of $56,140 per year with the top-paid 10 percent making more than $105,870. Survey researchers, on the other hand, earned a median annual salary of $26,490 with the top-paid 10 percent making about $56,720. Benefits usually include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans.