We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre

Social & Economic Research


The work of social and economic researchers can define, shape and impact upon the world around us. For graduates who have completed a research methods module or economics undergraduate degree, entry level roles exist within the public and private sector. Key employers being local government, civil service, independent research consultancies, think tanks, academic specialist research centres, economic consultancies and banks. Increasingly, employers are recruiting graduates with relevant postgraduate qualifications. Relevant work experience is vital for undergraduates committed to entering this sector.

How to get a job


Internships are available in economic and social research, although they are not common. Internships are structured work experience opportunities which may be paid or unpaid, usually between 2-10 weeks in length. Often, the work is at a level equivalent to that experienced as part of a graduate scheme or equivalent entry level position. Deadlines for applications vary between individual employers and you should check their websites for details. Some deadlines may be as early as late November. The majority will be by January 31st of the year you wish to participate.

Examples of employers/organisations offering internships

Economic Research

Bank of England Summer internships for penultimate year students of any subject
Institute of Fiscal Studies Summer internships for economics students of any year who are interested in microeconomics and how it can be applied to public policy
Oxera An economic consultancy specialising in quantitative and industrial research. Oxera offers summer internships

Social Research

Institute of Public Policy Research Offers 3 month-long internships for students in any year
New Policy Institute Offers internships of between 4-6 weeks for final year undergraduates or graduates. You could improve your chances of success by doing a placement outside of vacations if your academic department will allow this. Competition is far less at these times. Applications are taken all year and are made by sending a CV and covering letter

What other types of internship could you do?

If you are interested in economic research, employers in this area will value any financial or consulting-related internship as evidence of developing relevant and transferable analytical skills. You could look to banking, insurance, pensions, management consulting, tax and accounting employers as well as to professional services. The majority of deadlines will be between November and the end of January in your penultimate year. In many cases, you will find that the opportunities are only available to students in their penultimate year of study.

What other work experience could you do?

The following offer either relevant placements or information on how to find them.

Government Social Research Service Provides summer placements and these are open to students in any year group studying any degree subject
Civil Service Provides summer work placements for students who are registered as disabled, those who are from an ethnic minority background, or females who are in receipt of a full maintenance award
Market Research Society (MRS) Produces a useful listing of organisations offering work experience placements to students

Experience at University

From the first year of your studies at Durham you should get involved in student societies that will demonstrate to employers your interest in research. One example of this is the Economics Society.Check with the head of your academic department to see if it is possible to obtain some experience helping out with research being done within the department. In recent years a small number of opportunities have been available in the Applied Social Sciences department. This will be dependent on funding obtained for future years.

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
MrWeb (Market Research)
  • Search by entry level research roles
  • Search by region
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

Relevant Employers

Opportunities exist within the private and public sector. Some examples of employers who have recruited graduates and/or postgraduates in recent years are:

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


For those who have studied social research methods/statistics (as part of any degree) or economics at undergraduate level there are limited opportunities to gain entry without a postgraduate research methods-related degree. Examples include think tanks, market research consultancies, government social research departments (research officer), Civil Service Fast Stream (economist stream), and the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB). These opportunities will be very competitive, require at least a good upper 2nd class degree and relevant work experience will be desirable. 

The reality is in all sectors of economic and social research, employers are increasingly recruiting those who have completed postgraduate study in a relevant subject with a strong research methods element.

How to decide whether to pursue postgraduate study and how to decide on a course

  • Consider carefully the areas of social and/or economic research you are interested in. Research the range of employers you could work for
  • The Bank of England and Government Economic Service fund allow graduate trainees to study part-time for a relevant postgraduate course
  • Make contact with the recruitment departments of employers of interest and check for any specific postgraduate courses that are particularly valued. Do they recruit at undergraduate level? If so, do you need substantial relevant work experience to compensate for not having a relevant postgraduate qualification?
  • Some courses may require you to have done relevant work experience - check with admissions staff
  • How is the course taught? Does this fit with your preferred learning style?
  • Is the course accredited or recognised by a reputable professional body? For example, the Market Research Society lists accredited postgraduate courses (with social research elements) in the UK on their website.


Professional Bodies

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Provides an excellent free online resource, ESRC Today, which gives updates on a regular basis on research being carried out. 

The Social Research Association (SRA)
The SRA provides a forum for people working in a diverse range of settings and in different subject specialities through which wider contacts can be formed and views and information can be exchanged. Look out for the comprehensive careers information section, the job vacancies listing and the free SRA e-bulletin with current news from the sector.

The Royal Economic Society 
Through this association you may find the quarterly newsletter useful for keeping up to date with economic research. As an undergraduate or postgraduate you could obtain 3 years membership for £34 and this would provide you with access to a directory of worldwide members - consider making use of this for any speculative applications for work experience.