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5. Market and survey researchers

The nitty-gritty: Combining research and people skills makes these jobs appealing to those who have mastered academic life. In general, if you're a newcomer, you're often on the front lines conducting surveys of customers — either on the phone, online, through questionnaires via mail or door-to-door. You might even find yourself working a shopping mall booth to help get the "man on the street" snapshot of consumer preferences. Typically, you'll be asked to write a detailed report and provide analysis of your findings. In some instances, you're sizing up potential sales of a product or service. Other times it's pulling together statistical data on competitors, prices and more. The list of potential employers runs the gamut from consumer products firms to university research centers to financial services organizations, government agencies, health care institutions and advertising firms. You'll need to be a stickler for details since this kind of work tends to rely on precise data reviews. For information about careers and salaries in market and survey research, contact the Council of American Survey Research Organizations and the Marketing Research Association.

The hours: Flexible, project-based, full time for short assignments.

Median pay range: $17.01 to $53.80 hourly

Qualifications: A bachelor's degree is the baseline. A background in liberal arts and social science courses — including economics, psychology and sociology — is helpful. A master's or doctorate degree may be required, especially for more analytical positions. Quantitative skills are important for some survey research positions, so courses in mathematics, statistics, sampling theory and survey design, and computer science are helpful. An advanced degree in business administration, marketing, statistics and communications may give you an edge. Having some training in survey research methodology can help you get a foot in the door. Curiosity doesn't kill the cat — it gets him work.

Kerry Hannon is the author of What's Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.

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