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Working As a Pollster

  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Getting Information
  • Processing Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $95,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Pollster Do

Survey researchers design surveys and analyze data. Surveys are used to collect factual data, such as employment and salary information, or to ask questions in order to understand people’s opinions, preferences, beliefs, or desires.

Duties

Survey researchers typically do the following:

  • Conduct background research on survey topics
  • Plan and design surveys and determine appropriate survey methods
  • Test surveys to make sure that people will understand the questions being asked
  • Coordinate the work of survey interviewers and data collectors
  • Account for and solve problems caused by nonrespondents or other sampling issues
  • Analyze data using statistical software and techniques
  • Summarize survey data using tables, graphs, and fact sheets
  • Evaluate surveys, methods, and performance to improve future surveys

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys for different research purposes. Surveys for scientific research cover various fields, including government, health, social sciences, and education. For example, a survey researcher may try to capture information about the prevalence of drug use or disease.

Some survey researchers design public opinion surveys, which are intended to gather information about the attitudes and opinions of society or of a certain group. Surveys can cover a wide variety of topics, including politics, culture, the economy, or health.

Other survey researchers design marketing surveys which examine products or services that consumers want, need, or prefer. Researchers who collect and analyze market research data are known as market research analysts.

Survey researchers may conduct surveys in many different formats, such as interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups (in-person, small group sessions with a facilitator). They use different methods to collect data, including the Internet, mail, and telephone and in-person interviews.

Some researchers use surveys to solicit the opinions of an entire population, such as the decennial census, and others use them to target a smaller group, such as a specific demographic group, residents of a particular state, or members of a political party.

Researchers survey a sample of the population and use statistics to make sure the sample accurately represents the target population group. Researchers use a variety of statistical techniques and analytical software to plan surveys, adjust for errors in the data, and analyze the results. 

Survey researchers sometimes supervise interviewers who collect the survey data through in-person interviews or by telephone.

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How To Become A Pollster

Many research positions require a master’s degree or Ph.D., though a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some entry-level positions. In addition, employers generally prefer candidates who have previous experience performing research, using statistics, and analyzing data.

Education

Many research positions require a master’s degree or Ph.D. Survey researchers can have a master’s degree in a variety of fields, including marketing or survey research, statistics, and the social sciences.

A bachelor’s degree is sufficient for some entry-level positions. To prepare to enter this occupation, students should take courses in research methods, survey methodology, and statistics. Many also may benefit from taking business courses, such as marketing and consumer behavior, and social science courses, such as psychology, sociology, and economics. 

Other Experience

Prospective survey researchers can gain experience through internships or fellowships. Many businesses, research and polling firms, and marketing companies offer internships for college students or recent graduates who want to work in market and survey research.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Survey researchers are not required by law to be licensed or certified. Although not mandatory, certification can show a level of professional competence.

The Marketing Research Association offers the Professional Researcher Certification for survey researchers. To qualify, candidates must have at least 3 years of experience working in opinion and marketing research, pass an exam, and be a member of a professional organization. Researchers must complete continuing education courses and apply for renewal every 2 years to maintain their certification. 

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Survey researchers must be able to apply statistical techniques to large amounts of data and interpret the results correctly. They also should be proficient in the statistical software used to analyze data.

Communication skills. Survey researchers need strong communication skills when conducting surveys and interpreting and presenting results to clients.

Critical-thinking skills. Survey researchers must design or choose a survey and survey method that best captures the information needed. They must also be able to look at the data and draw reasonable conclusions from the results of the survey.

Detail oriented. Survey researchers must pay attention to details, because survey results depend on collecting, analyzing, and reporting the data accurately. 

Problem-solving skills. Survey researchers need problem-solving skills when identifying survey design issues, adjusting survey questions, and interpreting survey results.

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Pollster Demographics

Gender

Female

48.0%

Male

42.5%

Unknown

9.4%
Ethnicity

White

59.0%

Hispanic or Latino

22.0%

Black or African American

10.3%

Asian

5.7%

Unknown

3.0%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

54.2%

French

8.3%

Greek

8.3%

Danish

4.2%

Portuguese

4.2%

Catalan

4.2%

German

4.2%

Hebrew

4.2%

Korean

4.2%

Sinhala

4.2%
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Pollster Education

Schools

Hofstra University

21.0%

Quinnipiac University

18.5%

Marist College

18.5%

Goucher College

6.2%

Siena College

4.9%

Elon University

4.9%

Seton Hall University

3.7%

University of North Florida

3.7%

University of South Florida

2.5%

Florida State University

2.5%

Castleton State College

2.5%

Winthrop University

1.2%

State University of New York Oneonta

1.2%

University of Iowa

1.2%

Southern Connecticut State University

1.2%

University of Houston

1.2%

West Virginia State University

1.2%

University of Connecticut

1.2%

University of the Sacred Heart

1.2%

Syracuse University

1.2%
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Majors

Political Science

17.3%

Business

11.5%

Marketing

9.6%

English

6.7%

Communication

6.7%

Finance

4.8%

Management

3.8%

Sociology

3.8%

Economics

3.8%

Criminal Justice

3.8%

Psychology

2.9%

International Relations

2.9%

Public Relations

2.9%

Journalism

2.9%

Advertising

2.9%

History

2.9%

Public Administration

2.9%

Accounting

2.9%

Liberal Arts

2.9%

Music

1.9%
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Degrees

Bachelors

68.9%

Masters

14.9%

Other

8.8%

Certificate

3.4%

Doctorate

2.7%

Associate

1.4%
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