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Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre

Social & Economic Research


The work of social and economic researchers can define, shape and impact the world around us. For graduates who have completed an economics undergraduate degree or developed qualitative and quantitative research skills through another degree (e.g. research methods module), entry level roles exist within the public and private sector. Key employers include the civil service, local government, independent research consultancies, think tanks, universities and research institutes, economic consultancies and banks. Increasingly employers are recruiting graduates with relevant postgraduate qualifications and work experience.

The Work

The following occupational profiles come from AGCAS and provide an idea of the type of work available in this area. They have been written and researched by staff working within careers services across the country. They contain a lot of useful information that will help you with your initial research. These are just a sample, you can look for more on the Prospects website. Useful introductory careers information can also be accessed via the professional organizations that represent specific aspects of economic and social research. Refer to the professional bodies section at the end of this page for further details.

Example Roles

Financial Risk Analyst
Goverment Social Research Officer
Social Researcher
Trade Union Research Officer

Work Experience

Are internships available?

Internships are available in economic and social research, although not common. Internships are structured work experience opportunities which may be paid or unpaid, usually between 2 -10 weeks. Often the work is at a level equivalent to that experienced as part of a graduate scheme or equivalent entry level position. Recruiters may use internships as part of their selection for graduate entry level roles. Deadlines for applications vary between individual employers, check websites for details. Some deadlines may be as early November.

Economic Research

If you are considering an internship in economic research a useful starting point is to identify organisations that employ economists. Not all will offer internships but some may be prepared to accommodate speculative work experience opportunities. The public sector remains a major employer of economists but opportunities also exist in the private, and to a lesser extent, not-for-profit sectors. Typical employers include professional service firms, management consultancies, banks, think tanks, universities, insurance companies, utility companies, regulatory bodies, newspapers and financial journals. There are also specialist economic consultancies that will provide analytical services to clients in different industries and sectors. The Economic Development Consultants Directory is a useful resource with which to research economic consultancies.

It is important to keep in mind the broad application of economic research (e.g. regeneration, development, energy and water, health, transport) when exploring possible work experience opportunities. Opportunities will be advertised on employer websites in addition to the main graduate job sites. It is also advisable to search for internships on economics specific job sites such as Econ-jobs and The Economist.

Examples of employers/organisations that offer internships include:

  • Bank of England – work experience opportunities for first and penultimate year students. Placement opportunities also available.
  • Government Economic Service – 6 to 12 week placement
  • Institute of Fiscal Studies - summer internship to economics students of any year who are interested in how microeconomics can be applied to public policy.
  • Institute of Economic Affairs – unpaid 5 week internship opportunities
  • Adam Smith Institute – free market think tank offering 2-6 week unpaid internships
  • Volterra – provide internship and placement opportunities
  • TBR – local consultancy that will consider speculative applications for internships
  • DTZ – property services company the offers an internship in development consulting and research
  • Deloitte – professional services firm that offers a dedicated economic consulting internship

Other options

If you are interested in economic research, employers in this area will value any financial or consulting related experience as evidence of developing transferable analytical skills. Internships are available within banking, insurance, pensions, management consultancy, professional services and accounting. The majority of deadlines will be between November and end of January in penultimate year. Some employers will open their internships to other year groups and graduates but you will need to check this on an individual basis. Opportunities are advertised via our vacancy service, which is available through the Careers Centre website, but also through the main graduate careers websites such as Prospects, Target Jobs and Milkround.

Opportunities to apply your analytical skills can be found with SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises). The ‘Step’ programme is one means of accessing such opportunities.

Social Research

Social research is concerned with the planning, design and management of research projects on a wide variety of societal topics including education, health, transport, environment, welfare and unemployment. As with economic research, the public sector is a significant employer. The National Audit Office and the Government Social Research Service both employ social researchers; opportunities also exist within local government. Outside of the public sector, opportunities exist with research agencies (typically market research companies with a social research division), think tanks, charities, public affairs consultancies, trade unions and academic research institutions.

Structured internship opportunities are limited, and not always paid. It is worth considering speculative approaches to relevant organisations in respect of shorter work experience opportunities. The Social Research Association, Association of Qualitative Research and the Market Research Society provide very useful directories of research organisations.

Examples of employers/organisations that offer internships include:

  • The Institute of Public Policy Research – no dedicated summer internship but opportunities advertised throughout the year.
  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation – 6 month paid internship for graduates
  • RSA – paid, project led internships ranging from 3-6 months.
  • NatCen – provide paid placement and internship opportunities
  • Wellcome Trust – charitable foundation supporting research in social science, humanities and science. A broad range of summer internships offered.
  • Barnardos – internships available in different areas of the charity, including policy and research
  • DJS – market research company that works with public and not-for-profit clients in addition to the private sector. Structured internship opportunities available.
  • Government Social Research Service – internship scheme did not run in 2015 but has in previous years

Other options

Specific social research experience is difficult to access so it is useful to explore other opportunities that may support your interest in this career area. Experience in organisations that reflect the areas of social research that interest you is one option to consider, particularly in respect of not-for-profit organisations. Work experience opportunities in the not-for-profit sector are diverse but the common factor is that you are engaging with social issues irrespective of the role you undertake. Online resources such as Third Sector Jobs and Charity Job are useful sources of advertised work experience opportunities but it is important to be proactive and approach organisations that actively interest you. The W4MP site is a useful source of work experience opportunities with political organisations (political parties, trade unions, public affairs consultancies).

Market research companies can provide a very useful insight into the qualitative and quantitative methods used to undertake research. Another option is research experience within a university or research institute. Such opportunities are typically dependent on available funding.

Relevant Employers and Vacancies

Graduate schemes

Graduate training schemes are available in respect of economic and social research, although competition is high and some employers have specific selection criteria including type and level of study. Economic research, because of the breadth of application across different sectors and industries, offers more scope in terms of structured schemes. This includes financial service providers (banks, investment management companies, insurers, pensions providers, management consultants and professional services) but also public sector organisations, regulatory bodies, thin tanks and research institutes, energy and utility companies, manufacturing and specialist economic consultancies. Graduate schemes within social research are available in the public sector but also research agencies, think tanks and charities. In addition to training schemes, graduate entry level opportunities are available to those with appropriate experience, skills and qualifications.

Graduate training schemes typically have closing dates between November and January of your final year but there is considerable variation so it is important to check with individual organisations. Refer to the main graduate job sites such as Inside Careers, Target Jobs, Milkround and Prospects for information on graduate schemes.

Examples of graduate opportunities relevant to economic and social research

Economic research:

Social research:

Research Agencies:

Other opportunities

In addition to training schemes, it is not uncommon for organizations to recruit graduates on an individual basis into trainee or entry level roles (e.g. research assistant). This is particularly so in respect of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) but also not-for-profit organisations. Another good source of vacancies is the professional bodies that represent the different aspects of economic and social research. Further information on these bodies but also relevant job sites and recruitment agencies can be found on the sector specific pages of the Prospects and National Careers Service websites.

Finding vacancies

The following websites will help you to find graduate vacancies in this career area:

Careers Centre online vacancy search
  • Use this to find graduate vacancies as well as work experience and part-time opportunities
Economist Jobs
  • Graduate vacancies in all sectors of economic research
  • Search by graduate/internship/sector role
  • Free job e-alert
  • Search by country/city
The Economist
  • jobs advertised across a broad range of sectors
  • useful supporting articles
  • Links to recruiters
MrWeb (Market Research)
  • Search by entry level research roles
  • Search by region
Marker Research Society
  • comprehensive source of market and social research vacancies
  • supporting information including careers advice and employer directory
Inside Careers
  • Comprehensive details of graduate schemes and internships
  • Sign up for free email job alerts
Guardian Jobs
  • Free registration
  • Jobs by email
  • major public sector employers of social and economic research listed
Social Research Association
  • Provides details of social research vacancies including entry positions
  • Free registration for job alerts
  • Very useful careers section providing an overview of job roles/employing sectors and how to gain entry
  • useful for research opportunities in universities and research institutes
  • funded postgraduate research opportunities advertised

Destinations of Durham Students

Opportunities exist within the private and public sectors. Some examples of employers who have recruited graduates and/or postgraduates in roles appropriate to economic and social research are provided below. If you would like to investigate the destinations of Durham students from specific disciplines please refer to the 'What do Durham Graduates do?' section of our website.

Alphametrics Research company providing economic consultancy and information systems for businesses and public bodies
Bank of England Recruit graduate economists to work on the collection, analysis and interpretation of a wide range of financial and economic data
CEBR Independent economics and business research consultancy providing analysis, forecasts and strategic advice to companies of all sizes, financial instututions, government departments and agencies, trade bodies and the European Commission
Charles River Associates Global consulting firm that offers economic, financial and business management expertise to major law firms, industries, accounting firms and governments around the world
Food Standards Agency Economists help to develop the Agency's policy and regulatory responses, for example by quantifying the costs and benefits associated with proposed policies
Foreign & Commonwealth Office Recruits economists for the Diplomatic Service to supply the economic policy element of foreign policy issues
Government Economic Service The UK's largest employer of economists, providing economic advice to policy divisions of government departments and agencies in order to formulate and execute policy
London Economics Provides strategic advice to large multinationals, small high-growth businesses, government and non-governmental organisations
Office for National Statistics Major employer of social researchers (in Newport)
Shared Intelligence Consultancy working with local authorities, private companies and other organisations to promote economic regeneration


Is postgraduate study essential?

For those who have studied social research methods/statistics (as part of any degree) or economics at undergraduate level there are opportunities to access the job market without a postgraduate qualification. Examples include research agencies (e.g. Ipsos Mori, GfK), Civil Service (Government Economic Service, Government Social Research Service) and professional services (e.g. KPMG, Deloitte).

A relevant postgraduate qualification is, however, something that is actively sought by employers that conduct economic and social research. Research led organisations are interested in candidates with a strong academic profile allied to training in research methodology.

How do I decide whether to pursue postgraduate study and how do I decide on which course?

  • Consider carefully the areas of social and/or economic research you are interested in. Research relevant employers and investigate the requirements for graduate training schemes and other appropriate entry level opportunities. Where possible speak directly with employers: show your interest and find out more about what they do and what they are looking for in terms of qualifications, skills and experience.
  • Some employers will support staff with postgraduate study. The Bank of England and Government Economic Service fund graduate trainees to study part-time for a relevant postgraduate course.
  • Some courses may require relevant work experience: check with admissions staff, contact details will be available on individual institution departmental websites.
  • Consider the nature of the course. Do you want to undertake a broad based postgraduate programme in research methods or something that is subject specific with research methodology embedded?
  • How is the course taught and does this fit with your preferred learning style? Will the programme equip you with the necessary research training? Are their links with relevant employers e.g. teaching, placements, projects.
  • Find out the research /employment backgrounds of staff. Many institution departments now list biographies of individual academics. The Research Excellent Frameworkcan provide an indication of the research strengths of individual departments but this does not necessarily correlate with the appropriateness and quality of postgraduate courses.
  • Is the course accredited or recognised by a reputable professional body? For example, the Market Research Society lists accredited postgraduate courses in the UK.
  • Does the course have any funding options available?

How do I fund postgraduate study?

Funding opportunities will be limited but you may be eligible for departmental bursaries/scholarships or employer sponsorship. Individual departments will be able to provide advice on fees and funding; for a general overview refer to the postgraduate section of the Prospects website.

The Research Councils are the main sources of funding for research in the UK but this is more applicable to PhD level study. Economic and Social Research Council funding may be available for 1 year courses (MA/MSc/MRes) leading onto PhD study; typically known as 1+3 studentships. The funding is awarded via 21 regional Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP). Each DTP is a consortium of institutions; for further information contact individual universities or the relevant DTP. Funding is very competitive and a strong academic profile is required.

Occasionally funding opportunities will arise through grant making trusts and learned societies. Self- funding is potentially an option via Career Development Loans.

Further information

Further information on postgraduate courses can be found on the Prospects and FindaMasters websites. is a useful source of funded postgraduate programmes.

Professional Bodies

Professional bodies (also known as associations, organizations or societies) are non-profit organizations concerned with developing, and supporting, a particular profession. They represent a valuable resource for anyone considering entering a particular profession as they will provide information on employment and training opportunities. Professional bodies will often accredit relevant professional and postgraduate courses; they can also provide a range of other services linked to job and training vacancies, network events, conferences and careers information.

The Economic and Social Research Council

UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. Support independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. Total budget for 2014/15 is £213 million and at any one time support over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

The Royal Economic Society

One of the oldest and most prestigious economic associations in the world. The five main aims include:

  • The advancement and dissemination of economic knowledge
  • The exchange of ideas in the profession
  • The training and support of younger members
  • The provision of financial support where it is needed most
  • Cooperation with international associations of economists

Durham economics students may find the following most relevant:

  • Free access to download pdf of quarterly newsletter which includes up-dates on current economic research world-wide.
  • Economics undergraduate and postgraduates can obtain membership for £34 for 3 years. This provides free access to a worldwide members directory which could provide useful in sourcing contacts within different areas of research for speculative applications for work experience/advice on entering a specific area of economic research.
  • Annual careers event for PhD economists, usually in January which provides access to meeting academic recruiters seeking academic staff in European institutions.

The Social Research Association

Open to social research practitioners and trainees from all sectors, as well as others with an interest in social research.

The SRA provides a forum for people working in a diverse range of settings and in different subject specialities, to form wider contacts, exchange views and information, and pursue issues of common concern. The SRA run a number of short introductory and advanced training courses and other events each year.

Durham students/ graduates may find the following most useful:

  • Comprehensive careers information and advice section on website.
  • Job vacancies listing (includes entry level positions , mainly for those doing social research methods as part of academic qualification)
  • Free SRA e-bulletin download provides current news within the sector

The Market Research Society

The world's largest international membership organisation for professional researchers and others engaged in market, social and opinion research. Non-members can access useful information including:

  • Details of U.K accredited postgraduate courses
  • Details of organisations offering student work placements

Association of Qualitative Research

The Association for Qualitative Research is a non-profit organisation concerned with:

  • Defining and building understanding of the commercial value of qualitative research
  • Providing training courses to independents and client and agency-based qualitative researchers
  • Creating forums that facilitate debate and advance qualitative research methodology, analysis and consultancy
  • Promoting qualitative research as a career including links to graduate recruiters and a downloadable career guide. Useful directory of employers available.
  • Providing networking opportunities and social events for members
  • Promoting the highest professional industry standards within the industry, to the broader business community and to the media.