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Social researchers design, manage and undertake research projects to investigate social issues such as employment, unemployment, gender, health, education and social policy.

Graduates typically enter the profession at research officer level, progressing to senior research officer level after several years' relevant experience.

What does a social researcher do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Social researchers undertake research projects to investigate a number of social issues and then report their findings. A social researcher will use a variety of methods to gather their information; this can include questionnaires, focus groups and interviews. Their survey's findings can be used to change social policies or to test the effectiveness of a current one.

Key responsibilities of the job include:

  • preparing tenders for research contracts
  • receiving instructions and project briefs from clients
  • outlining objectives
  • directing and undertaking pilot studies and fieldwork
  • collecting, analysing and interpreting qualitative and/or quantitative data
  • writing reports
  • identifying and advising about possible strategies
  • controlling budgets
  • managing staff.

Local, national and occasionally international travel may be required.

Typical employers of social researchers

  • Local authorities
  • Central government
  • Higher education establishments
  • Health authorities
  • Commercial market research organisations
  • Independent research institutes

Jobs are advertised online, in national newspapers and on the Social Research Association website. The social sciences section of Current Research in Britain provides information about higher education and independent research projects.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into social research for both university graduates and school leavers.

A good degree in any subject is acceptable for entry into the profession, although employers often require relevant qualifications in social research, business studies, mathematics or statistics. A postgraduate qualification and/or specialist knowledge may also be necessary for some positions.

Relevant practical experience, particularly research experience, is advantageous.

To find out how to get into a career in this area via a school leaver route, visit the public sector and charity section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for social researchers

  • Excellent organisational skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Communication skills
  • Numerical skills
  • IT skills
  • Analytical techniques

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