A career that’s crying out for applicants – why social research ticks all the boxes

At last, here is a career that really uses your skills as a student, that is in demand, and where your work will make a difference to millions of lives.

This maybe sounds too good to be true, but yes, it does exist. The UK has a shortage of suitably qualified qualitative and quantitative researchers – and yet the work of a Social Researcher offers exactly the kinds of features many students tell us they want to find in their career:
using problem-solving skills to investigate real-life issues, researching data and opinions, and presenting conclusions from your research. Exactly what most uni students do every day!

Social research offers career opportunities for students of any degree. Researchers work in all sectors, examining all aspects of society and human behaviour, and their work influences all the products we buy, all the services we use and all the communities where we live. (Okay, we overdid the word ‘all’ there, but this career really does tick all the boxes!)

At our recent ‘Careers in Social Research’ event students heard more about some of the opportunities available, and the attractions of the career. We heard from researchers working in the UK Civil Service and the University, plus an insight into research agencies and analysis of customer behaviour, and opportunities in opinion polling and parliament.

And what we learnt was that this thriving sector uses a wide range of the skills developed by most students. Some researchers focus on quantitative research (known as ‘Quant’). Quant researchers design surveys and experiments, and use statistical data to analyse and present results - using ‘facts and figures to tell a story’ according to the Association for Qualitative Research (AQR).

Not you? Well, Qualitative researchers use their people skills to interact directly with others, conducting their research by using conversation and observation, ‘analysing what was said, written or recorded…to understand and explain human behaviour’ as the Market Research Society describes it.

Other roles include Analysts, who as the job title implies, analyse the data generated by quantitative research, and Operations staff who enable research to actually take place, e.g. by managing researchers, training interviewers, or organising venues and the teams involved.

What skills are required?
Our Panel of speakers highlighted the ‘soft’ skills of communication, influencing and managing projects, as well as working to competing deadlines. Quants in particular, require data handling and statistical skills but some knowledge of stats concepts is useful even in a non-quant role.
Besides developing these abilities, one of the top tips for getting in is to get experience of interviewing people, running surveys and analysing the results.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Now, on a scale of 1 to 10, how interesting is a career in Social Research for you?
To find out more about social and market research, see the links from the Careers Service Information Resources www.careers.dept.shef.ac.uk/infotree/Languages.php#Social
and the websites of the AQA, Market Research Society and the Social Research Association.

Slides from some of the speakers’ presentations at our careers event can be seen at:
Careers Service

Careers Service

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