getting started in qualitative
Return to Jobs, Careers and RFPs
The qualitative industry is remarkable, because with many potential paths and the power of a varied skills set, people with many different backgrounds and experience can excel.
What industries offer a fluid transition to qualitative? While there are some obvious ones like journalism, marketing, and advertising, do not let these limit you. The joy of this industry is that every qualitative research consultant (QRC) is different in how they interact with the consumers and clients and in what they bring to the table. There is no set list of what you need to be.
If you feel like qualitative might be the right place for you, here are some ways that you can learn more to see if it might be a fit:
- Reach out and speak to several qualitative research consultants. Pick their brains on why they love the industry and the challenges they face – really try to get a holistic view. It can’t be all roses, so make sure you are really listening and putting it into the context of your lifestyle and your career needs and wants.
- Pros: Not a 9-to-5 job, no routine, you get to travel, every project is different.
- Cons: Not a 9-to-5 job, no routine, you get to travel, every project is different.
Interested to see if there are any QRCs in your area? Or to talk to those with specialize in a certain type of research? Use our "Find a Researcher” tool to help start you off.
- See if you can observe a focus group, if you haven’t already. This will help give you a better perspective on all of the moving parts live and in person.
If you realize that the qualitative industry is a place where you want to be, there are a variety of resources and ways that you can bulk up your experience and jump in:
- Follow your passion. Trust your gut and work to get into the part of qualitative that fits your passion and/or your background. If you find yourself excited by new packaging in the grocery store, then consider pursuing that type of research. This does not mean that you should ignore other possibilities that are a little different than you had envisioned… but be honest with yourself and be sure to consider both your short-term and long-term goals.
- Take some training courses. There are a variety of schools that will help you learn the basics of moderating and how to approach various aspects of the qualitative process. While these are not essential, they can help you tighten up some skills and help build your confidence. QRCA Members get a discount on some of the most prominent.
- Offer your services pro bono. Starting out, it can be hard to have the tangible qualitative experience that end clients are looking for. A possible solution is reaching out to companies or charities and offering your professional services for free (note: other project-related costs must be considered such as facility rental, incentives, participant recruiting, etc.).
- Shadow more established QRCs. Everyone learns differently, but being able to work with a moderator on a project from start to finish is a great way to learn about how they approach each project and will help you sculpt your own style for inside the focus group room, the backroom, and when dealing with the facility.
- Join relevant professional associations and discussion groups. So much in this industry is about networking and learning from those around you. There are many professional associations and online discussion groups (e.g., LinkedIn) you can join where you can keep up to date on the industry trends, learn new tips and tricks, and build relationships that will make you a stronger QRC.
One thing to keep in mind is that like any industry, the learning process can be very intense and takes time. As well, there are many parts to the qualitative project process and you do not need to master them all. Sure you can, but know there are lots of resources available that can help guide you.
- Project Managers: These folks can manage the recruit and can even create the screener for you based on the client’s recruiting specs.
- Report Writers: After your research has been conducted, and with your direction, they can write your report.
Qualitative is a spectacular industry and one built for a variety of backgrounds and personality types. Is it right for you? Now is the time to find out.