Unsurprisingly, a social researcher’s job revolves around research. Yes, you’ve guessed it, that research is usually into social areas, such as education, health care, population structure, social care, unemployment, gender, and the environment.
Social researchers design and set up programmes of investigation. They conduct research though various means, such as focus groups, surveys and interviews, and record and analyse the results using statistical techniques and packages.
They might then be required to prepare written summaries, contribute to research publications and put together oral or poster presentations.
Social researchers might work for academic institutions, independent research institutes, local authorities, the government, health authorities or market research organisations.
Salary & benefits
The starting salaries for social researchers aren’t the highest around, checking in at around £16,000 to £24,000 a year. After five years, social researchers could be earning as much as £35,000+.
Those working at a senior level might earn up to £75,000, but social researchers working in higher education (and who aren’t in a permanent academic post) probably won’t earn more than £33,000.
Obviously salary levels will vary with employers, and there is a notable difference in income between those working in the private and public sector.
Working hours are pretty regular, although social researchers might find themselves putting in some extra hours at certain parts of a project, particularly near the project deadline.
This is a graduate-level job, so pretty much all social researchers will have degrees. Quite a few employers will specify a particular social science discipline required for a post, otherwise degrees in subjects such as sociology, politics, social policy, psychology, economics, mathematics and statistics are common.
A taught Master’s degree in social research or a postgraduate research degree might be a bonus. However, employers not in the HE sector might prefer an MSc to a PhD. Work experience and practical experience using research will be advantageous.
Otherwise, if you want to become a social researcher you’ll likely need to be organised, have excellent communication skills and an eagle’s eye for detail, as well as being very numerate and comfortable using statistical techniques.
Training & progression
Most social researchers learn on the job, but they might attend short courses on specific techniques. The Social Research Association (SRA) also runs various courses for social researchers looking to hone their skills.
Career development varies depending on the type of employer and on the sector.