Become a Focus Group Moderator: Education and Career Roadmap

Should I Become a Focus Group Moderator?

Focus group moderators work in the field of market research. Focus groups are made up of the target consumers of a company. Moderators ask the focus group how they feel about a product, the marketing tactics used by the company, and the competition. The goal of the focus group is to help companies meet the demands of consumers.

Focus group moderators may also be required to create reports and present their findings. They can work for market research companies that serve clients, as well as in-house for companies. Working as a focus group moderator requires individuals to work very well with people, including difficult focus groups. Moderators must be able to keep the group on subject and navigate any obstacles or issues that arise while research is being conducted.

Career Requirements

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree; some employers prefer a master's degree
Degree Field Market research, marketing, psychology or related field
Experience At least two years leading groups**; experience is also required for certification
Certification Voluntary professional certification is available
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills, people skills, client management skills
Salary (2012) $60,300 per year (mean for all marketing research analysts)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job listings October 2012.

Step 1 - Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Focus group moderators usually have bachelor's degrees in marketing or psychology. They may also have degrees in political science or business. Whatever major students choose, it is important for students to take courses in statistics, research methods, consumer behavior and psychology. Some undergraduate degree programs in marketing research are available, but undergraduate programs in marketing with related core or elective courses are more common.

Success Tip

Complete an internship. Employers look for applicants with years of experience. Students can begin to gain experience while earning the degree. They can find market research internships where they can gain experience gathering research data from focus groups and other forms of survey data. Students may also find work at a survey research center on campus.

Step 2 - Gain Experience

Entry-level positions in market research firms include market research analyst or product analyst. Product analysts will analyze the competition, market and characteristics of the product. Those analytical skills can benefit the focus group moderator charged with finding consumer opinions relative to the market, competition and product characteristics. Individuals can also choose an entry-level position in an in-house marketing department that conducts its own survey research.

Step 3 - Earn a Master's Degree

Graduate degree programs in market research are available. In addition, students can earn a master's degrees in survey research. Coursework for such a program includes survey management, data analysis and measurement and questionnaires. Students may also be required to complete a practicum or thesis.

Step 4 - Become Certified

Certification is not mandatory for employment, but it can serve as a benchmark for employers that candidates have a certain level of education and experience. Credentials, such as the Professional Researcher Certification from the Marketing Research Association (MRA), are available for prospective moderators. To be eligible to take the qualifying exam for the MRA certification, individuals must have at least three years of experience along with 12 hours of continuing education within the previous two years.

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