“Data and analytics are driving a big piece of how businesses are spending their time and money. If you are in the marketing research field … you’ve got a job for a long time to come.”
Thanks to the proliferation of data across so many aspects of the business world, careers in insights, analytics, and marketing research are having a moment.
“Data and analytics, generically speaking, are driving a big piece of how businesses are spending their time and money,” said Gregg Archibald, Managing Partner at Gen2 Advisors, on a recent GreenBook podcast. “If you are in the marketing research field, data and analytics, project management, whatever, you’ve got a job for a long time to come.”
So let’s take a look at how you can get into the heat and curate a position in market research.
What careers are in market research?
A common position for newcomers to insights and analytics is market research analyst. Market research analysts typically curate and synthesize existing or secondary data, gather data from primary sources, and examine the results of data collection. Often they are tasked with communicating results to client stakeholders – externally or internally within their own organization.
At the entry level, you’ll find fieldwork and research directors on the supplier side. You might find specialists like UX and qualitative researchers working independently after they’ve paid their dues. And on the client side, key roles include managers of insights and analytics, or general corporate researchers. Market research analyst jobs might have different titles, but the basic premise is the same: collect and interpret qualitative or quantitative data.
What’s the current outlook for insights careers?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the job outlook for market research analysts is growing faster than average, at a rate of 22%. Ironically, survey researchers are growing at a much slower rate (4%). Why? Well, I might speculate that it’s one thing to be able to develop and implement a survey instrument. It’s totally another to be able to analyze the results and make actionable recommendations.
According to the latest wave of the GRIT Report, after the lows of the pandemic, staff size increases are at an all-time high. This might be surprising, knowing that we are presently experiencing economic uncertainty.
“While many venture-capital-backed companies are shedding people in anticipation of the upcoming recession,” explains Lenny Murphy, “other non-VC backed companies are actively hiring.” So consider targeting private, private equity-backed, or public companies in your search.
GRIT data from this report is also telling us that among supplier segments, technology and data and analytics providers have the most staff size increases. While targeting vendors is a strategy many put on the back burner in pursuit of corporate, client-side researcher roles, it represents a clear path to entry in our industry.
How do I start a career in market research?
The career journeys of market researchers are as vast as they are many. I was hired as a Data Analyst at a full-service research firm while still in school. Within months, I lost my job to layoffs. I quickly was re-hired at a qualitative research consultancy as an Assistant Field Director. From there, I took deliberate steps to grow my experience, moving first from supportive roles to that of a researcher, then from consulting and into management positions. Other people might share with you that their careers were more happenstance – they fell into certain things or stayed in one role for the long haul.
There are, however, a few things I’d recommend as you look to get started in a market research career.
1. Consider your education:
Though there are outliers in every industry, most people break into insights with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Some career paths, like mine, started with a major in marketing. Other insights professionals studied communications, social science, psychology, economics, and more increasingly, statistics, data and analytics specifically.
Some companies, and higher-level positions, will require a master’s degree. Many key players in our industry have earned their MBAs; others have achieved their Master’s in Marketing Research. Some data and analytics experts come from advanced fields such as statistics and/or behavioral economics.
Aside from the areas of concentration your studies will allow, there are the soft skills you develop in school that serve most people well. Some of what we learned are in demand according to the latest GRIT Report are people skills, technical/computer expertise, and innovation, problem-solving and critical thinking abilities.
2. Seek entry-level experience:
Depending upon the position, insights jobs require expertise/experience in either qualitative or quantitative research methods. Analytical expertise is in demand, but so is basic business acumen and industry knowledge.
Sales and/or business development skills are always in demand at research vendors. Taking one of those positions might give you the baseline knowledge of the marketplace that other candidates don’t have at an insights industry entry level. This insider knowledge of the data and analytics space you gain attending conferences and conversing with suppliers and buyers could set you apart.
Finally, many research companies – from smaller platforms to larger insights consultancies – have growing content departments and a need for marketing expertise.
3. Switch from an adjacent field:
If you peruse my LinkedIn feed, you might see qualitative researchers who started out as anthropologists or psychologists. You might learn about a UX researcher who has a PhD and started out in sensory science. You might discover a marketing intern turned research business CEO and founder.
My point is, don’t look for the perfect start. Just start somewhere. There’s this great video online at Harvard Business Review by KeyAnna Schmiedl that talks to my favorite analogy for career development: There isn’t one particular linear path all market researchers travel. Instead, there’s a variety of routes up the equivalent of a rock climbing wall. Your journey might include a trip to the side or even back down a little as you make your way to the summit.
Where can I find a job in market research?
Start at GreenBook Jobs of course! Many of the positions available are currently remote which offers great flexibility and work/life balance. On our site you can search by category, location, featured employer companies, and more. You can sign up for Job Alerts as well so you remain in the know throughout the duration of your job search. And, while you’re there, check out our career center.
In addition, you can visit the resources offered by, and become a member of, the Insights Career Network (ICN). Full disclosure: I’m currently on the ICN board representing GreenBook. But the ICN is a community of job seekers and volunteer allies leveraging their experience and networks to help others develop and grow their careers. They meet up twice a month with guest speakers, an active job list with referrals, and other, vetted, search resources.
I wish you all the best in your journey and hope good things come your way as you look to start, or grow, your market research career.