This is a postgraduate certificate. You must already have a bachelor's degree or equivalent from a university or college. Particularly likely candidates are those with a degree in the social sciences, communications, or business. You should be detail-oriented, enjoy doing research, and have good communications skills. You care about accuracy and you enjoy thinking critically and analytically and then explaining what you have learned to others.
Decision makers hire research analysts to do the research for which they don’t have the time and expertise. Accurate knowledge of a situation, a market, an issue, or a social context is often crucial to assessing a project’s parameters, precise goals, or likely chance of success. The research analyst is thus a much valued member of the team. It’s the analyst’s job to understand the context clearly and completely enough to present it to stakeholders who will shape the final project.
An RA may engage in a wide range of research activities. Although some RAs do mainly quantitative analysis (financial extrapolation, amassing and analyzing of statistical data, etc.), the qualitative methods that are the concentration of our program have a more human focus. They are geared toward work in market or social research or both, and can lead to employment in either the private or the public sector.
Market researchers may engage in original investigation in the form of interviews, polls and questionnaires; they may explore consumer behaviour or examine trends in an industry; and they will likely do competitive intelligence, determining and analysing the competitors and alternatives already present in the market.
Social research tends to be more about understanding a cultural context, the history and current status of a particular group, political or legal issues, and so forth.
Marketing researchers tend to be hired by private companies or organizations that want to change their image or figure out what that image is. Social analysts tend to be hired by government, NGOs, academic institutions, hospitals, schools, and similar non-commercial organizations.
Your job as an RA is to become an expert in a very specific sector or subject area and then to help businesses and organizations make informed decisions. You will do fairly extensive but highly-focused research into something generally quite specific, something about which you will likely have known little or nothing previously, and then digest that material and present it clearly and succinctly to others.
As an RA you may have a full-time position in a company or organization, you may work as a freelancer on short-term contracts for a variety of clients, or you may work for a firm that specializes in collecting market intelligence and selling it to their clients. An experienced research analyst has some of the most portable skills in the job market today.
One of the things that RAs find attractive about their work is that they get to do many different kinds of tasks and learn about new and different areas all the time. On any given day you might be designing a questionnaire, reading articles, poring through online discussion forums or industry web sites, crunching statistics, interviewing specialists in person or by phone, presenting your findings to colleagues or clients or doing any number of other short-term tasks that the project demands. It is challenging and creative work, and tends to be both well regarded and well rewarded.