What are the Different Social Research Jobs?

Desi C.

Social research jobs can be found in the social sciences, which include sociology, social psychology, human geography, political science, social anthropology, and education. Social researchers are responsible for creating and conducting research projects. They have to be creative enough to come up with ways to collect information about their subjects or topic, and also be able to formulate ways to measure their results accurately.

Social researchers may examine how poverty affects children.
Social researchers may examine how poverty affects children.

Social research jobs in political science often involve learning how certain public policies affect citizens, and who specifically is affected. Jobs in anthropology involve learning how humans live and behave in society and in different social groups. In education, a social researcher would be expected to study different educational policies, or the different process of education. Human geography is another area where social research jobs are found, and an example of a job in this field is census work and interpretation of data.

Quantitative research involves number crunching and data analysis.
Quantitative research involves number crunching and data analysis.

Clearly, there are many different areas that are studied by social researchers. Social research jobs can also involve gender studies, unemployment, and public health. In basic terms, anything that deals with how humans interact, or how they are affected by certain aspects of life, such as policies, falls under the spectrum of social research.

Social researchers may focus on how people interact with each other.
Social researchers may focus on how people interact with each other.

A social researcher should expect to work with numbers, or data, which is usually derived from such tools as surveys. Questionnaires are another way of gathering data, as well as focus groups, interviews, and field observations. Researchers use different methods of research, such as qualitative or quantitative research. Quantitative research involves number crunching and data analysis, while qualitative research involves experiences and definitions.

Social researchers can often find employment at social research centers and organizations, which can be found around the world. Some of the larger centers are the Center for the Advanced Study of Communities and Information, in the U.S.; Institute for Social Research, located in Germany; the Matrix Knowledge Group, in the UK; The Arab Center for Applied Social Research in Israel; as well as the Economic and Social Research Council in the U.K.

Colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, as well as privately funded groups often hire social researchers. Most large universities employ social science researchers and research assistants. There are also opportunities to work for the U.S. federal government as a social science research analyst

Because policies, demographics, and the overall population of the world is constantly changing, the need for social researchers remains strong. Social research jobs usually require at least a high school education, and the higher paying positions commonly require the completion of college.

Social researchers might examine common characteristics people seek out in relationships.
Social researchers might examine common characteristics people seek out in relationships.

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Discussion Comments


@cloudel-- I think it depends on where you are.

In Washington DC for example, where a majority of the workforce has master's degrees or higher, competition for all jobs, including social policy research jobs, is stiff.


@alisha-- Social research assistant jobs are great but they don't pay much.

I worked for several years at a think tank and a university doing psychology research and didn't get paid much at all. Most universities, think tanks and NGOs, who are the primary organizations doing research, don't have much funding for research assistants. It's also not a reliable job because they might get a grant giving them funding for research one year but not the next year.

That's how I lost my research job and now I'm working as a writer. I enjoyed the work but it was not satisfactory in terms of pay and reliability.


@healthy4life – I'm interested in psychology and social research, and I think that I would lean more toward the qualitative kind, too. People intrigue me, but numbers don't.

I realized that statistics are important, but I would much rather study how people react to certain situations and what drives them to behave the way they do. I'm definitely a people person, and I'm also bad at math!


I remember taking an introduction to anthropology class from a professor who had done social research her entire career. It was interesting to learn about the study of other cultures and how to interpret the findings.

I believe that her position had been qualitative more than quantitative. She seemed more concerned about behaviors and emotions than numbers and statistics.

I'm too shy to actually go out and live with another culture and study them. I admire people who have this ability and desire, though.


I wonder if jobs in social research are plentiful. It seems that since there are probably not too many people who have the degrees and are qualified to do the work, the competition would be stiff.


I want to study political science because I want to do research and demographics related work in the future. I think jobs in social research are really interesting.

I love checking out websites that do annual research projects and give ratings to different countries based on different values. For example, they give ratings on democracy, freedom of speech, equality and so forth. It's so interesting to see where each country stands and whether they're improving or getting worse over the years.

I don't think I would ever get bored if I did research work like this.


I didn't know that being a census worker meant having a social research career. I always thought that census workers were seasonal and that there weren't really any qualifications to be one.

I suppose that there are probably varying degrees of census work, though. Maybe the person that goes door to door just collects the answers, and the social researcher analyzes the data.

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