Public Opinion Researchers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Because the ability to communicate in both spoken and written form is crucial for this job, you should take courses in English, speech, and social studies while in high school. In addition, take mathematics (especially statistics) and any courses in journalism or psychology that are available. Knowledge of a foreign language is also helpful.

Postsecondary Training

A college degree in marketing or survey research, statistics, economics, or business administration provides a good background for public opinion researchers. A degree in sociology or psychology will be helpful for those interested in studying consumer demand research or opinion research, while work in statistics or engineering might be more useful for those interested in certain types of industrial or analytical research. 

Because of the increasingly sophisticated techniques used in public opinion research, most employers expect researchers to be familiar with computer applications, and many require a master's degree in business administration, sociology, educational psychology, or political science. While a doctorate is not necessary for most researchers, it is highly desirable for those who plan to become involved with complex research studies or work in an academic environment.

Other Education or Training

Keeping up with industry developments is key to success as a public opinion researcher. Professional associations often provide continuing education (CE) opportunities. For example, the American Association for Public Opinion Research offers webinars such as "AI for Social Good: Examples, Challenges, and Opportunities," "Design Considerations for Mobile Web Surveys," and "Web Survey Design and Usability Best Practices." The Insights Association offers webinars such as "Research and Data Science to Solve Ambiguous Problems" and "Reporting Research Learning Effectively." The Advertising Research Foundation and American Marketing Association also provide CE opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Insights Association offers the professional researcher certification to those who meet professional experience and educational requirements and pass an exam. While voluntary, becoming certified is an excellent way to demonstrate to potential employers that you're highly skilled and have met the highest standards that have been established by your industry. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Those wishing to enter the field of public opinion research should obtain as much experience as possible in high school and college by participating in internships, volunteering, or working at a part-time job at a public opinion or market research firm. 

Public opinion researchers who conduct interviews must be outgoing and enjoy interacting with a wide variety of people. Because much of the work involves getting people to reveal their personal opinions and beliefs, you must be a good listener and as nonjudgmental as possible. You must be patient and be able to handle rejection, as some people may be uncooperative during the interviewing process.

If you choose to work in data analysis, you should be able to pay close attention to detail and spend long hours analyzing complex data. You may experience some pressure when required to collect data or solve a problem within a specified period of time. If you intend to plan questionnaires, you will need good analytical skills and a strong command of the English language.