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Social researcher

Designs, manages and undertakes research projects that aim to investigate social issues such as employment, unemployment, gender, health, education and social policy.

Job description

Social researchers work on behalf of client organisations to design, formulate, implement and manage social research projects. These involve exploring sociological theories by designing and carrying out surveys, interviews and focus groups. The results of these projects are used by companies, governments and various authorities to gather the opinions of populations and present statistical evidence for or against particular issues of political or commercial significance. The work carried out by social researchers can play a vital role in the democratic process, as well as in the management and actions of major organisations. The research helps to form opinions and shape policy and legislation

Researchers rely on a variety of methods (including qualitative and quantitative sampling), which they must be able to employ professionally, with painstaking attention and complete impartiality.

Work activities

  • Taking a brief and using appropriate and creative methodologies to design research projects using quantitative and qualitative methods.
  • Tendering for research contracts.
  • Carrying out or directing fieldwork to gather information.
  • Preparing and reporting findings.
  • Using IT skills to present data.
  • Disseminating results, both orally and in writing.

Work conditions

Travel: a regular feature of the working day.
Working hours: can involve long hours but these tend to be self imposed.
Location: mainly in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: likely.

Typical employers

  • Government departments
  • Semi-state agencies
  • Private corporations and companies
  • Private and public research institutes
  • Health authorities
  • Voluntary organisations.

Career development

Promotion brings increasing involvement in larger projects and project management, making policy decisions, tendering for new business, staff and financial management.

Salaries

Salaries vary depending on employing organisation.

Specific degree subjects required

Open to graduates of all disciplines. Although some employers consider a good honours degree in
any subject significant, a social research methods or statistics content may be preferred. Many vacancies require additional specialist knowledge.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Economic
  • Psychology
  • Social science
  • Social studies
  • Sociology
  • Statistics.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement; however, a relevant masters degree is advantageous and is increasingly expected.

Specific entry requirements

Must be familiar with research methods and statistical techniques.

Training

You can improve your chances of landing a job in social research by undertaking training in social research methods. Social Research Association, Ireland provide quality research training and workshops, seminars and other events, as well as opportunities to network.

Tips for application

Have a definite idea of which sector you are interested in, and be prepared to show an enthusiasm for your chosen area, as well as strong research methodology skills.

Skills and qualities

  • An interest in social developments, trends and attitudes.
  • An investigative and analytical mind.
  • A thorough methodical approach to work.
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills to gather information from people.
  • Ability to explain findings clearly, both verbally and in written reports.
  • Excellent IT skills to produce statistics, graphs and models.
  • Ability to work to deadlines.
  • Meticulous planning skills and self motivation.