By David Washburn
UC San Diego Extension's Center for Research identified the top 10 occupations that combined the highest projected growth rates and the most online job postings using information from labor-market data. Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists have the sixth-highest projected growth rate in our Emerging Careers report.
If there is one conclusion Sashi Whitman has reached in her 15 years in market research, it’s this: We in San Diego need to take our blinders off and branch out a bit more.
Whitman believes “we live in silos” and are not taking advantage of the myriad ways we can become more connected. She added anyone willing to dig deep into social media and website analytics can join her in the field of market research and make a career out of tearing down these silos revealing new possibilities.
How is your field changing?
It has changed a lot, mainly because of the explosion in predictive analytics and big data. Collecting big pieces of data and making long-term predictions is where market research is going.
Also, social media has created many new opportunities, specifically in data analytics. These days you need a deep understanding of your customer demographics and even psychographics. This means not just collecting data on who your customer is, but also what makes them tick. What are their hobbies? What keeps them up at night? That is another huge area of market research.
What positions are in high demand is this field and why?
It goes back to predictive data analytics–you are collecting mass amounts of data. For example, a university collects data on what classes students are taking and how long it is taking students to graduate. The university can use that information to make informed decisions on what classes to offer and how to graduate students in an appropriate amount of time.
Another is social media analytics. There are so many different aspects of social media but most students focus on the advertising and marketing. The missing piece is now that you’ve implemented those advertising methods, how is it being tracked?
You can be a data analyst, a forecaster, a trend analyst. It’s about studying markets and predicting trends. You have to be very comfortable doing behind-the-scenes research and being a pro at Google analytics. It would be wonderful if someone had a business background and is tech savvy as well–that is the ideal candidate.
What advice do you have for someone starting out in this field?
Take certificate courses in market research. Take courses in data analytics and statistics. You need to know how to read the reports and understand how to present them. It would really behoove you to understand the statistical principals behind the data–standard deviation, mean, mode, etc. You can take a survey design course and learn interviewing techniques. There are so many poorly constructed surveys that don’t collect valid data. Learn to design surveys that make the most sense to the business and are understood by the consumer.
Going forward, what are the challenges facing those who work in your field?
I think the major challenge, especially in social media analytics, is keeping up with the rapid changes. For example, you have to be up on the latest trends on Snap Chat before your consumers are. The other major challenge is collecting valid data. Are the people you are analyzing your true demographic? You have to really validate who your fans are, who is really engaged with you. Is it true that you have a thousand fans who live in Georgia–or are you getting made up aliases? You have to determine whether the people giving you feedback are who they say they are.
What do you like most about teaching for Extension?
A couple of different things. The caliber of students–they are intelligent and come ready to learn. They ask great questions and we have great dialogue. It’s also great to have a classroom with a diversified group. The other aspect is the great flexibility I have in designing my classes.
Sashi Whitman teaches Advanced Digital Marketing, Directed Studies in Marketing and Market Research and Analytics for UC San Diego Extension. Learn more about the Marketing courses and programs on our website, or contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 858-534-8139.