Market Research 2018 Salary Analysis

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2018 has been a great year! While working hard helping our clients fill their vacancies, we’ve noticed a few trends and our salary analysis that we’d love to share.

Higher Salaries

We speculate there has been an increase in overall compensation for three main reasons:

  1. MMR Programs
    There are now several more universities providing Master degrees in Market Research as an option for students pursuing higher education. This allows candidates to be foundationally strong in qualitative and quantitative research methods before gaining professional experience, making them overqualified for entry level salaries.
  2. Candidate Driven Market
    It’s a candidates market and companies needs to be more competitive. 2018 has brought more options for senior level candidates and those on the market seem to be interviewing multiple places at once. If you’re interested in a candidate, it’s best to pursue them quickly.
  3. Salary Legislation
    Several states have passed a law prohibiting offers to be based on a candidate’s past salary. Offers are created based on the range indicated for the role as well as the candidate’s expectations.

Growth Positions

In years past, a large number of positions tended to be back fills for someone leaving, being let go, or due to a restructuring. This is not the case in 2018. Most positions have been new because of a growing research function, higher budget or implementation of a new program. For suppliers, we have seen an influx of new positions based on growing or expanding accounts.

Salary Analysis


From the positions we have worked on, the highest paying opportunities are within the Pharmaceutical or Biotechnology industries, with Consumer Goods in a close second. The lowest paying industries have been within Retail and Financial Services.


The highest salaries based on location within the United States have been in San Francisco. Los Angeles, NYC and Chicago follow in that order. This is typically due to cost of living salary adjustments.

Supplier vs. Client

As you evolve within a supplier, you obtain a heavy business development component to your position. The Director+ positions tend to have strong commission opportunity, depending on the organization. Some organizations have no cap on commission, giving candidates an opportunity to double their salary.

On the client-side, as you grow internally you obtain a higher bonus structure, long term incentives and stock (depending on the company.) Some companies even still offer pension plans, stipends for health & wellness, and other big-company benefits.


Market Research Salary

***Salary analysis chart based on real and estimated salaries for positions Smith Hanley worked on and observed during 2018.  Some ranges are large as they include outliers in high and low cost of living areas and in different industries.


Interested in talking with the Market Research and Consumer Insight Recruiter who prepared this information?  Contact Practice Lead, Lindsey Bartlett, at lbartlett@smithhanley.com.

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