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Market researchers gather information about what people think in order to help companies make decisions on the promotion, distribution, and design of products and services.  A majority of the surveys are conducted through the Internet and over the telephone, but market researchers also use focus groups, mail responses, or publicly placed booths to conduct surveys.  The information collected can help a company determine whether to add new lines of merchandise, open new branches, or otherwise diversify.  Market researchers may also help design advertising brochures and commercials, sales plans, and product promotions.

Survey researchers focus primarily on designing and conducting surveys.  They may work for corporations, government agencies, or political candidates.  Survey researchers use the Internet, telephone, and the mail to gather data.  They also consult with economists, statisticians, and market research analysts in order to design appropriate surveys.

A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for most market and survey research positions, and graduate degrees are required for more technical positions.  Courses in business, marketing, and consumer behavior are desirable, and social science, economics, psychology and sociology courses can be helpful as well.  Courses in mathematics, statistics, sampling theory and survey design, and computer science are also important, as quantitative skills are vital for market and survey researchers.  Graduate students may be eligible for internships in government agencies, consulting firms, financial institutions, or marketing research firms.

In addition to an appropriate degree, market research analysts must be detail-oriented and have the patience and persistence to devote long hours to independent study.  They must also work well with others and possess good communication skills in order to appropriately word surveys and present their findings orally and in writing.

Employment of market and survey researchers is expected to grow much faster than the national average, and opportunities should be best for those with strong quantitative skills in addition to a Master's or Ph.D. degree in marketing or a social science.  Visit the Marketing Research Association website for more information about careers and certification in market research, and the Council of American Survey Research Organizations website for more information about careers in survey research.

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