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Pollster: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a pollster. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and key skills to find out if this is the career for you.

Pollsters conduct research for politicians, think tanks or corporations by distributing surveys and interpreting the responses. Pollsters should possess statistical and written communication skills, and a bachelor's degree in a social science discipline is usually required.

Essential Information

Pollsters, also known as survey researchers, typically work for research organizations or educational institutions. They conduct opinion polls for politicians, elected and appointed government officials, advocacy groups, think tanks and corporations. Pollsters use their expert knowledge of statistical analysis, survey methods and social behavior to question representative samplings of the general population or particular demographic groups about important public issues. A bachelor's degree is required for entry level positions in this field.

Required Education At least a bachelor's degree
Required Skills Knowledge of Web-based operations, strong oral and written communication skills, and technical knowledge to design, supervise and interpret surveys
Certifications Optional certification is available through professional organizations
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 12% for survey researchers
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $53,920 for survey researchers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties of a Pollster

Before planning an opinion survey, pollsters research the issue at hand by reviewing print and online reference materials and conferring with their clients. Pollsters then craft or supervise the writing of carefully worded questions to generate clear and unambiguous responses. Next, pollsters devise strategies for how and when a survey will be conducted. Depending on the survey rationale, interviews may be conducted face-to-face, by phone, by mail or online.

Once interviews are complete, pollsters adhere to recognized standards in the analysis and interpretation of statistics and then communicate the survey results, sometimes verbally and always in writing, to their clients. Pollsters quickly analyze public responses so clients receive a prompt and accurate assessment of the findings.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that survey researchers would see a 12% growth in employment during the 2014-2024 decade. Survey researchers had a median salary of $53,920 as of May 2015, the BLS found.

Requirements for a Pollster

Education Requirements

At minimum, a bachelor's degree is required for an entry-level position as a pollster, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) reported that pollsters with a master's degree or Ph.D. were expected to have an advantage in the job market. Prospective pollsters can benefit from an undergraduate regimen that focuses on the social sciences, with courses in business administration, marketing, statistics, psychology, sociology, computer science and political science.

Other Requirements

Pollsters must have a strong knowledge of Web-based operations and possess strong oral and written communication skills. In addition to the technical knowledge needed to design, supervise and interpret surveys, pollsters must be detail-oriented so they can identify trends and analyze data.

Pollsters may demonstrate their commitment to professionalism and enhance their job opportunities in the marketplace by earning voluntary certifications, such as the Professional Researcher Certification offered through the Marketing Research Association. They also might consider joining a national organization like the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and adhering to its code of ethics.

A pollster surveys and analyzes polls about particular issues for a client. These researchers should have at least a bachelor's degree and can obtain professional certification in this field. Pollsters must have technical skills and be detail-oriented, and can expect to see a 12% rise in job opportunities through the year 2024.

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