Careers Paths

Getting Started as a Social Researcher: A Guide

For a deeper understanding of societies and to learn ways to support individuals or groups in making better decisions, social scientists study and analyze human behavior. Social scientists create goods and services that can satisfy the many requirements of society or individuals. To comprehend people’s opinions and feedback, social scientists use both quantitative and qualitative observational methods to study human behaviors.

In this post, we go over what a social researcher is, what it takes to become one, what they do, how much they make, and what their future employment prospects are.

What exactly is a social researcher?

Professionals who plan, carry out and manage research initiatives looking into societal problems like schooling, welfare policies, employment, unemployment, healthcare, and gender are referred to as social researchers or social scientists. Several techniques are employed by social scientists to obtain data. These are a few of the techniques employed:

  • Questionnaires
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups

The results of the social researchers’ survey can be used to evaluate policy efficacy or alter social policies. To investigate, clarify, assess, and foresee societal developments and patterns concerning human behavior, social scientists build and validate hypotheses using the evidence they gather. The following are some advantages of undertaking social research:

  • Providing a source of trustworthy social facts and figures: Social research offers accurate, current, relevant, and verified information regarding a society or certain groups of individuals.
  • Fostering social cohesion: Finding a resolution to the issue is the first step in achieving cohesion in locations where there are conflicts between different groups. Social science research assists in identifying conflict causes and potential resolutions.
  • Increasing social welfare: If the root causes and those who support the wrongdoings are understood, wrongdoings in a community can be prevented. Research is the best method for acquiring and analyzing this data to find answers, remedies, and ways to deal with the individuals and institutions that enable wrongdoings.
  • Fostering social growth: Social research identifies regions where society feels that development-related concerns have not been addressed. Social scientists can then identify potential answers, which open up the possibility of developing and raising living standards.

What exactly do social researchers do?

A social researcher looks into social issues and informs the appropriate institutions of their findings. Scientists get the data they need to analyze human behavior using a variety of data collection techniques. The following are some of the duties and positions that a social researcher may have:

  • Creating contracts for research
  • Getting information about the research they’ll be doing
  • Taking direction from those who are sponsoring or directing the research, and acting in that direction.
  • Selecting and putting into practice the best methodology for planning and running the research projects
  • Creating and executing questionnaires or surveys
  • Use a variety of research methods to help collect pertinent data (Examples include document analysis, case studies, interviews, and surveys.)
  • Description of a research project’s goals
  • The management of research budgets
  • Creating and evaluating theories
  • Guiding and collaborating with interviewers on the ground to ensure they collect pertinent and trustworthy research data
  • Analyzing data, both qualitative and quantitative
  • Doing a data retrieval search using an electronic database.
  • Putting together presentations, reports, briefings, and research papers to share their findings
  • Delivering recommendations based on their results, which the scientist can do by presenting action plans
  • Organize proposals for fresh research endeavors
  • Providing policy advice to external organizations and governments
  • Comprehend the project’s requirements, i.e., the research issues it must address; develop a suitable delivery mechanism; and design and create survey questionnaires.
  • Use a variety of research methods, such as document analyses, questionnaires, case studies, and interviews, to acquire pertinent information (telephone, in-person, and online)
  • Communicating with and guiding social research field interviewers to acquire information by doing assessments of pertinent literature and evidence, analyzing and evaluating research, and interpreting data using a variety of analysis tools.
  • Prepare, deliver, and distribute findings through reports, briefings, scientific papers, and presentations.
  • Provide briefings and recommendations based on research, which may include creating action plans.
  • Develop and present bids for new research projects or reply to bids on research made by others. Provide social policy advice to external authorities.

How to start a career as a social researcher

Make sure you are aware of the prerequisites and qualifications required if you’re interested in a career as a social researcher. You will require many years of education, work experience, and skill development to develop into a great social researcher who can perform ethical and logical study and have a beneficial effect on the world. The actions you should take to become a social researcher are listed below:

1. Study social science at the bachelor’s level.

A bachelor’s degree in social science is the minimum requirement for becoming a social researcher. Programs in social sciences aid students in developing and using their research skills. Students gain these skills through their training, which teaches them how to create research questions, carry out research, examine previous studies, and assess information.

A social science bachelor’s degree can be obtained in three to four years. This kind of study focuses on the philosophy of science, scientific research methodologies, social statistics, and both quantitative and qualitative social science research, and those areas.

2. Get experience

It takes a great deal of experience to perform social research effectively. For instance, you may volunteer in a research center or operate as an assistant social researcher for 3 years. An ambitious social researcher can identify their skills and shortcomings with the use of real-world experience. Additionally, if you have a social science degree, you can enhance and broaden your expertise by obtaining a degree in data science.

3. Work toward certificates

Although licensure certifications are not required for social researchers, having one can give you an edge over other social researchers. Consider earning an ACRP Accredited Professional or Certified Principal Investigator credential from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP).

4. Build crucial skills

You need to have a few talents if you want to succeed in the field of social research. Some examples are as follows:

  • Analytical and problem-solving abilities: During the data collecting and evaluation processes, social researchers face a variety of difficulties that they must quickly assess and resolve.
  • A strong ability to communicate both orally and in writing: The ability to communicate clearly both orally and in writing is essential for social scientists that interview subjects and collaborate with others. Good communication is required to gather and transmit correct data with success.
  • Interpersonal skills: For a study endeavor to be successful, the scientists must get along well with the society they are collecting data from. Interviewees will be more likely to provide accurate information when the relationship is positive.
  • Writing reports: Social researchers must prepare and present reports to their supervisors after collecting and analyzing the material. Thus, social researchers need to be proficient report writers.
  • Teamwork: To collect, assess, and analyze data, social researchers collaborate with other experts. Teamwork is essential for getting the correct data, finishing the job in the allotted time, and coming up with the correct answer.
  • Tech skills: With technological tools, analysis, report writing, and other tasks can be completed. For accuracy and speedy results, social researchers need to be able to employ a variety of software and technology applications.
  • Managerial abilities: Social scientists are in charge of the project’s research group. A few of the managerial abilities needed to complete the project successfully include delegating tasks and providing instructions.
  • Pay close attention to the small print: Accuracy is essential when working with statistics and data. Paying close attention to every detail is one approach to guarantee correctness. Every small detail is important when examining statistics and data.
  • Flexibility: Not all research projects will benefit from the techniques used in earlier studies. Great social researchers must adapt their methods to the demands of society and their working environment.
  • Organizational abilities: Successful social researchers have a well-defined timetable and strategy. The scientists may do well even under deadline strain if they have well-thought-out ideas.
  • Research abilities: Social scientists frequently devote a significant amount of time to conducting research and searching for conclusions inside the data they gather. Your capacity to carry out good research and come to insightful findings may be crucial to your success in your position.

5. Choose a career choice in social science.

You may have a variety of career prospects after graduation that involves social science, depending on the educational degree you pursued. While determining what to pursue with your education and expertise, take into account your beliefs and professional ambitions. As a social scientist, you have a variety of alternatives that let you put your knowledge and training to use.

These are some specific examples of professional development areas you can select from:

  • Academic settings: Social scientists frequently work as professors or independent social researchers in academic settings.
  • Consulting: Social scientists might occasionally work as social dilemma or strategy advisors for companies and groups.
  • Advocacy: A few social scientists decide to pursue careers in social advocacy. To support particular groups or causes, they could collaborate with charitable groups or other organizations.

6. Refresh your resume.

Your resume should be revised to incorporate your education, skills, and experience based on the sort of career you wish to pursue. When creating your CV, it can be useful to refer to specific position descriptions as guidance. You can modify your resume and keep it as pertinent as you can by using the terms and phrases from the job posting. Try breaking out your abilities, experience, and education into different areas. Employers may find it simpler to review your resume and comprehend your qualifications for a position if you do this.

Advice for making a strong social research job application

Your next step after graduating should be to look for employment. The job search process can be challenging and requires perseverance and effort. The following advice can help you locate a position as a social researcher:

  • While attempting to find organizations that employ social researchers, consult trustworthy sources. For instance, your instructor might be familiar with some of the top businesses that provide the research work. Search engines and social networking sites are other ways to find information online.
  • Before submitting your application for the position of social researcher, thoroughly investigate the prospective company. Learn about the company’s activities, whether you’re given a chance to achieve your career aspirations there, the benefits of working there, and how the business differs from others.
  • When applying, be sure to include any supporting documentation and customize it for the social researcher position. Write unique cover letters to each organization you are applying to for a position in social research. Describe your qualifications and how you will improve the social research position.
  • Be truthful while describing your knowledge and lack of knowledge during interviews. For instance, if you do not understand how to operate a particular piece of software, tell the person you’re working with that you do not understand how it operates but that you’re prepared to learn.

Pay and employment prospects for social researchers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that from 2019 to 2029, the employment of social researchers will increase by 4%. This growth rate is comparable to that of other US industries. One reason for the anticipated increase in career prospects is the growing need for social scientists to study chronic illnesses such as cancer.

Social scientists are paid differently depending on their level of experience, company, and geographic region. Nonetheless, the annual average pay for social scientists in the United States is $112,859. However, bear in mind that wages will differ from one state to the next. Typical business hours are Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.

What you may expect

  • In the UK, there are plenty of jobs, especially in urban areas. In London and the South East, there is a greater concentration of employment in some fields.
  • Short-term contracts are typical in several industries, so you might need to be adaptable to get work consistently.
  • If you’ve gained a significant amount of experience, you may be able to find freelance or consulting employment, which will complement you if you’re extroverted and enjoy applying for jobs, networking, and creating connections.
  • Regular project deadlines might be difficult to meet, especially if you’re handling multiple projects or working on policy concerns in a dynamic setting that requires immediate responses.
  • While some travel may be necessary for meetings and research, the majority of the work is done in an office setting.


To enter the field of social research, you almost always require a degree. Any subject is eligible, however, employers frequently favor those that have a significant analytical or research focus. The following topics could be especially helpful:

  • Economics
  • Anthropology
  • Business studies
  • Mathematics
  • Geography
  • Politics
  • Psychology
  • Social policy
  • Sociology
  • Statistics.

Both college grads and high school dropouts have options for entering social research.

It is permissible to enter the industry with a good degree in any discipline, although employers frequently need relevant training in social research, business, economics, mathematics, or statistics. Certain positions may also require a postgraduate degree and/or specialized skills.

Experience in the field that is relevant is desirable, especially research expertise.

If your degree program covered social research techniques and statistics, you may be able to start working in the field right away.

A research degree (MPhil, Ph.D.), albeit not necessary, or a tutored Master’s program in social research methodology may be helpful. Find postgraduate social science research courses.

You may require a 2:1 or higher to be eligible for a spot in one of the graduate trainee programs offered by a few of the bigger research organizations.

Required skills

You will need the following skills:

  • Fundamental knowledge of quantitative and/or qualitative methodologies
  • The capacity to think clearly and creatively; excellent analytical and problem-solving capabilities (both are important)
  • Solid interpersonal abilities for building and maintaining connections, including writing and verbal communication
  • Abilities in report preparation and drafting
  • Ability to operate well in a group as well as on your own
  • The ability to use Microsoft Office applications with confidence
  • Possessing the necessary project management abilities to supervise every part of a research project from the earliest planning to the final report
  • Precision and meticulousness in the management of data and the reporting of study findings
  • A flexible work style that allows for simultaneous engagement on multiple research topics
  • Organization abilities, effective time management, and the capacity to perform under strict time constraints.

Professional experience

It’s necessary to have research methodology experience, for instance from modules taken while pursuing your degree or master’s.

You might also gain some hands-on experience conducting interviews for research or market analysis. If you’re a student or recent graduate seeking job placement in social or market research, you can find information on organizations that welcome your application at Market Research Society (MRS) – Work Placement & Intern Opportunities.

There are additional openings with ScotCen and NatCen (National Centre for Social Research) for contract and freelance survey interviewers. As an alternative, you can gain expertise in a management or administrative position where research is utilized to assess the quality of service.

Even though larger research organizations are more likely to offer graduate traineeships, smaller companies that specialize in social research could not have official programs but still be able to give students a solid foundation in social research techniques. To learn about potential openings, use your networking abilities at social science research or training activities.


Opportunities exist in a variety of organizations, including:

  • Social researchers are employed by the federal government, the Scottish and Welsh governments, and the major government ministries.
  • Social services, housing, education, and chief executive departments in particular, local government
  • Unbiased research organizations like NatCen Social Science Research (based in London and Edinburgh)
  • Research organizations of all sizes
  • Institutions of higher learning (academia)
  • Charity organizations
  • Offices for national statistics (ONS)
  • Labor unions
  • Lobby and pressure groups.

There are specialized social research sections at many of the bigger research firms, like Ipsos UK and Kantar Public, and some of them even provide graduate work placements. Also, there are a lot of little companies that specialize in market and sociological research.

Higher education (academic) centers for social researchers include:

  • Big research institutions
  • Affiliations with academic departments that teach.

Government and charitable organizations are among the clients of research centers, which may also conduct their research in addition to serving as consultants. Both permanent positions and short-term contracts are available (usually 2 to 3 years). For the duration of the project, you will often be hired on a fixed-term contract if your job is associated with a university teaching department.

For clients including governmental organizations, companies that manufacture and sell consumer products, and media organizations, certain market research consulting firms in the private industry also carry out social research.

Search for open positions at:

For speculative purposes, the Research Buyers Guide offers details on businesses and consultants providing market study services.

Professional growth

Some of the major government agencies and research institutions provide graduate training programs. Initial introduction, on-the-job training, a variety of short courses, and mentor support are all included in these programs, which typically run for two years.

With many smaller businesses, you’ll receive on-the-job training while picking up tips from coworkers. Also, you’ll enroll in brief training sessions on focused topics like:

  • Evaluation strategies
  • Statistical procedures
  • Qualitative procedures
  • Sampling and survey design
  • Presentation abilities
  • The application of software programs.

The SRA offers both basic and advanced instruction in a variety of subjects, including classes from NatCen Learning, including:

  • Drafting a report
  • Carrying out focus groups
  • Conducting in-depth interviews
  • Designing and evaluating questionnaires
  • Qualitative methods
  • Evaluation
  • Inventive approaches
  • Statistics
  • Consulting skills.

Membership in the SRA is beneficial for networking and chances to advance your career.

Also, while working, you could pursue a part-time MSc in social research.

Prospects for employment

There is a recognizable career structure in federal and municipal government, postsecondary learning, and the majority of autonomous research organizations, with various grades representing experience levels, duty, and seniority.

If you joined the Civil Service as a conventional new hire, you may anticipate spending the first 2 years as a research officer before being promoted to senior research officer. Depending on your qualifications and experience, promotion to primary research officer usually takes four years. Your career and pay are typically correlated with those of lecture staff if you work for a university research center.

If you work for a large research organization, you will likely begin as a researcher before advancing to the position of a senior social researcher. At the director level, you can be in charge of a team of policy-focused social researchers, so you’ll need to be an effective manager and leader.

Advancement from entry-level positions typically results in participation in bigger projects, project management, submitting bids for new business, and personnel and personal finance. Senior researchers should also gain new clients.


A job as a social researcher may be something you want to consider if you often have concerns about humanity or are fascinated by societal movements and changes. In addition to offering an intriguing window into our world, this field also enables you to make a significant contribution to society.

Frequently Asked Questions about social researchers

  • How can I pursue a career in sociological research?

For entry into the field of sociology, candidates normally need a master’s or doctoral degree. Conventional courses and applied, therapeutic, and professional courses are the two categories of sociology master’s degree programs.

  • What are the subjects of social research?

The study of social dynamics, trends, and principles that affect both individuals and societies is known as social research. Professionals do social research to examine how and why people interact with one another as well as to better comprehend the psychological elements that drive and influence people.

  • What is the time commitment for becoming a social researcher?

Some of the major government agencies and research agencies provide graduate training programs. Initial introduction, on-the-job training, a variety of short courses, and mentor support are all included in these programs, which typically run for two years.

  • What do you need to study to be a researcher?

Finish your bachelor’s degree

A degree in biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, or pre-medicine can be useful if the student intends to investigate biology, medicine, or chemistry. A BSc in Social Service degree is excellent if the student wants to conduct studies in the area of social sciences.

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