What Is a Market Research Analyst? Surveying This Data-Driven Career
You’ve just completed a purchase online. Suddenly, a window pops up, asking if you would like to rate your experience with a short survey. Since completing the survey will earn you a coupon for 10 percent off of your next purchase, you buzz through the simple questions and get on with your day.
But where your experience ends, the market research analyst’s has only just begun. All of those surveys go somewhere. And while a computer can pull a graph showing how many customers rated their experiences as “satisfying,” it takes a professional to ask questions that will result in meaningful answers—and to interpret those answers in a useful way.
Surveys are just a portion of the work market research analysts do.
“Market research is a lot more than simple dissection and analysis,” says Saud Ibrahim, digital marketing manager at The Jacket Maker. This career has a whole lot going for it—though many people haven’t given it a second thought. In this article, we’ll dig into what a market research analyst is, their role in the field and what you’ll need to become one.
So what is a market research analyst?
The simple answer is market research analysts help companies understand what products or services people want and what those people are willing to pay for them.
But the broader scope of the career is to examine market conditions for potential sales of a product or service, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1 That research can take on many forms—as long as it helps a company understand their industries and audiences, market their products effectively, and maximize their profits.
“The consumer marketplace is constantly growing and evolving,” says Katie Zmijewski, lead analyst at Market Strategies International. “As businesses are trying to keep up and look for new ways to engage their customers, they look to market research for insights that can inform their business decisions.”
What does a market research analyst do?
“Market researchers are tasked with making insights easily digestible, visually appealing and actionable for clients,” Zmijewski says. “Oftentimes, this requires us to be analytical and creative at the same time.”
Market research analysts monitor and predict sales trends, measure how effective campaigns are, and brainstorm new ways to gather data and find meaningful information, according to the BLS.1
Arthur Iinuma, cofounder and president of ISBX, says that market research analysts need expertise in statistics, information technology and statistical software. Iinuma adds, “They should have an interest in psychology and excellent spoken and written communication skills.”
Market research analysts must also stay on top of current news and events, says Saksham Sharda, chief information officer at Outgrow. Additionally, some market research professionals devote a lot of their time into crafting methods of information gathering. Sharda explains that interactive quizzes, forms, surveys, polls, contests and estimators are all ways marketing professionals can provide useful information to consumers in exchange for market data.
Research is only the beginning, of course. A major challenge of the job is to give clients actionable insights when the research objective can be fairly open-ended to begin with. Zmijewski says building relationships with clients, learning about their internal team dynamics, and studying objectives and needs can help ease this challenge.
Market research analyst salary and job outlook
While the day-to-day work might sound interesting to you, it’s still important to know some of the economic fundamentals of a role before making any career plans. One obvious interest area is the salary you could potentially make in this role. Market research analysts brought in a median salary of $65,810 in 2020, according to the BLS.1
The outlook for this occupation is positive. The BLS projects employment of market research analysts to grow 18 percent through 2029—an increase of roughly 130,300 jobs.1
The reason for this growth lies in the rocketing increase of data as a source for reliable business decisions and direction across all industries, according to the BLS.1 As companies learn to prize data-driven everything, they will be more and more likely to employ market research analysts who can collect, analyze and make sense of the information.
What skills do market research analysts need?
Analytical skills are certainly a huge part of the career—it’s even in the title! And as you might expect, the BLS lists analytical abilities in dealing with large amounts of information as the top skill most professionals need in this job.1 But that’s not all you’ll need to succeed. We’ve asked market research professionals to offer up a few other skills that are crucial for market research analysts—and some may surprise you!
Market research analysis is not just deciphering what consumers are seeking—you need to be able to make inferences and draw conclusions based on consumer data. The job not only is about reporting the percentage of people who respond to a certain characteristic in a product—it’s to better understand and explain why.
“We are modern-day storytellers,” Zmijewski says. “We take interviews and numbers and translate them into meaningful recommendations for our clients to act on.”
Being able to accurately assess data and weave together a coherent narrative to potentially explain the “why?” surrounding it is key. Decision-makers often rely on an analyst’s ability to interpret and synthesize information.
Communication and interpersonal skills
Catherine Alexis, vice president and director of research at Triad Strategic Services, explains that successful market research professionals are often “outgoing people who like to chat on the phone, or in some cases, in person.” Comfort in communicating in a variety of ways is key.
“You have to be able to make someone want to talk to you,” Alexis says. “Scripts are okay, but the real information comes when you can get the respondent to want to tell you more.”
Communication goes beyond data collection efforts too. Similar to the storytelling skill set, being able to effectively relay information to stakeholders is key.
It’s not like finding a needle in a haystack—at least in that metaphor, you know what you are supposed to be looking for. Often, market research analysts must start sifting data without knowing exactly what the company wants them to find. This means they need to think critically about how to make available information useful.
“Market research analysts should be well-versed in multiple research methodologies,” says Ethan Keyserling, senior research manager at Hinge Marketing. “These are often people that like to take time to think before they speak.”
Making reasonable connections between points of data and supporting those conclusions is also important. Being good at poking holes and finding potential faults or unexplored areas in your own conclusions also comes in handy in this work as these recommendations may be driving absolutely critical business decisions. Businesses will in turn scrutinize a market research analyst’s conclusions, so the ability critically analyze assumptions is essential.
Attention to detail
Market research analysts have to look for subtleties—any hint of detail that could be worth something.
When working with surveys or other questionnaires, seemingly little things like the wording of a question can potentially sway results—an eye for detail can help catch these before they sway the conclusions of your research.
“They should be detail oriented, numbers driven, objective in nature,” Keyserling says, with “a hunger for understanding the root cause of things.”
Being motivated to find the root of a problem or solve a mystery is key. Zmijewski knows market research analysts from many different educational backgrounds—statistics, psychology, business, biology, communications and marketing. “The common theme is the desire to ‘figure it out’ and use data to come to useful conclusions,” she says. “That curiosity and excitement to take on new projects will take you far in market research.”
Zofia Plota, market research analyst at Zety, believes that in the importance of persistence. “Inquisitive and precise people are a great fit for this position,” Plota says. “Sometimes, it takes a lot of time and effort to track down the particular information, so patience will also be helpful.”
What do market research analysts love about their work?
Sharda believes daily work with trend knowledge can be life-changing for market research analysts. “The fact that you are going to be at the forefront of trends and new ways of seeing the world can have a deep impact on your professional and personal life,” Sharda explains.
Iinuma adds that successful market research analysts have a deep love for data. “They typically enjoy soaking in information and analyzing it for patterns,” Iinuma explains, having “a fascination with why people make decisions and their underlying motivations.”
Alexis believes that an intrinsic love of learning is why market research analysts enjoy their work. “People usually love learning something completely new to them and seeing how some aspect of a business operates,” Alexis says.
Keyserling takes satisfaction in transforming raw material into useable strategies. “It feels great to take the research and form actionable insights that are then delivered to your clients,” Keyserling says. “It’s also enjoyable to prove or disprove a hypothesis with research.”
How do you become a market research analyst?
The educational requirements for this position are in line with most marketing-related careers. The BLS states that market research analysts typically need a Bachelor’s degree.1 This is a role where several disciplines converge, so it’s fairly common to see market research analysts from a mix of academic backgrounds—though most focus their studies on marketing, business, statistics or psychology.
Additionally, some market research analyst jobs may require a Master’s degree—so a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree may be worth further consideration.
Follow the data
If you watch the rising number of job opportunities in this career, you’ll see exactly how data can equip people to make smart decisions.1 The digital age has dawned, and that means certain careers are shrinking in their opportunities while others are growing in prominence. If you are digging into this kind of research for yourself, then you probably already have some of the skills you’d need to do it for a company.
“What is a market research analyst?” could just be the question that starts your new career path. Businesses of all stripes need to know what their customers want, which means there should be plenty of options for analysts to find their focus.
The path for aspiring market research analysts is straightforward and begins with earning a degree. Check out the Rasmussen University Marketing degree page to learn more about how to take the first step toward this career.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed April, 2021] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries, and employment conditions in your area may vary.