Industry Insights

What Does a Survey Programmer Do?


Should You Become a Survey Programmer?

Are you interested in a career as a survey programmer for the market research industry? This field involves designing and developing survey software and data collection systems to better meet the needs of research clients. Survey programming is a highly specialized field that requires an understanding of research methodology, data analysis, computer programming, and client service. This article will provide an overview of what to expect if you want to pursue a career in survey programming.

What Is a Survey Programmer and What Do They Do?

A survey programmer is an individual that creates user-friendly surveys, translating written questionnaires that are then used to collect participant data to achieve research goals. Their efforts are a crucial step to get market research up and running. 

First, the survey programmer takes the requested information for a market research project into an interactable survey interface that will capture the data from participants and translate this into actionable insights for clients. This includes programming the actions of certain question types, the survey logic, and putting into place any redirections through various parts of a survey experience. For example, if a questionnaire asks, “Did you eat dinner last night?” with answer selections “Yes or No” and you answer, “No” it doesn’t make sense to then ask, “What did you eat for dinner last night?” The survey logic, if set up correctly, would automatically skip that question. Survey programmers ensure that the survey questions flow smoothly. The insights and analytics that are then derived from the survey project enable leaders to make crucial business decisions.

Survey programmers typically work in the research departments of corporations and at specialty market research firms. Because they are responsible for executing designed surveys, analyzing data, and creating reports for their clients, they must be able to communicate effectively with clients, critically evaluate written questionnaires, and be able to work both independently and in a team setting.

Survey programmers exercise elements of customer service to support their clients throughout the survey creation and testing process, and even into survey fielding. This process includes attending meetings to determine specific client needs, developing questions, designing the flow of the survey, programming the survey questions, optimizing the survey for web and mobile applications, attending launch calls, testing, making revisions, and processing the information collected from the study.

Job Requirements

Survey programming is a technical field that in some ways might even compare it to web development. Successful survey programmers have a variety of the following technical and soft skills.

Individuals in this role must have a strong understanding of research methodology, programming languages such as HTML, XHTML, CSS, Python, and JavaScript, and the latest software technologies.

Having familiarity with the top software being used in survey programming today will make you an ideal candidate. These programs include:

  • Forsta Surveys
  • SPSS Data Collection (formerly Dimensions)
  • Qualtrics
  • Alchemer
  • QuestionPro

Here are the most valuable and necessary skills for a survey programmer to have:

Logic and Technical Skills

Programming languages are loaded with “if/then”, “and/or/not”, and “true/false” statements as participants progress through the survey.  Programmers need to be able to read and construct very complex series of logical statements to accomplish the most basic part of their job role. Additionally, as clients want more complicated designs including media uploads, video plays, eye tracking and other technical advances in their surveys, survey programmers need to have the technical expertise to integrate their clients’ requests seamlessly.

Attention to Detail

Programmers need to be attentive to every detail of a survey instrument, both when interpreting the requirements and then, in writing the programming script.  Missing the smallest detail can have large negative consequences and lose valuable client data or burn participants. Attention to detail is also important for maximizing participant experience. Say for instance, you’re taking a survey and it has broken logic, you’ll likely drop off- it is an inconvenience and bad experience. This results in an incomplete survey response for the organization and the likelihood that participants won’t want to participate in any more surveys. Additionally, in cases where participants have already seen part of the survey, you must exclude those respondent IDs when you refield your project, and that process can be expensive and hinder your feasibility. The ability to catch details that may seem minute or easily passed over in testing prior to survey launch can save organizations a lot of time and money. 


Communication is a vital element in any role, and survey programming is no exception.  Straddling the technical and non-technical worlds, survey programmers need to know how to adjust their communication based on their audience.  Having excellent communication and presentation skills is beneficial, as they often must present their work to clients and other research stakeholders. Most clients won’t be able to follow technical jargon, so they need to be able to convey their ideas in a way that is digestible for a variety of audiences.

In addition, survey programmers must have strong problem-solving skills and the ability to work with various technologies. They need to be able to think outside the box and produce creative solutions to complex problems. 

Survey Programmer Education & Salary 

The average salary for a survey programmer in the United States ranges from $45,600 to $68,400.

The education requirement for a survey programmer role varies. Some organizations require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in computer science, electrical or computer engineering, or mathematics. However, do not get discouraged if you don’t have your degree as most organizations are willing to consider comparable job experience instead.

Data Analyst/Survey Programmer Career Outlook

There is an increasing demand for data analysts and survey programmers as more companies gain access to online research and begin to rely on that research to make decisions.  Skilled survey programmers will never be obsolete in our ever-evolving industry that embraces technological advances and the need for accurate data collection and analysis. 


If you’re looking for a rewarding career that offers many growth opportunities in both technical and client success fields, then a career as a survey programmer may be the right choice for you. With the proper training and experience, you can become an expert in this field and help organizations better understand their customer base and make more informed decisions.

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About InnovateMR – InnovateMR is a full-service sampling and ResTech company that delivers faster, quality insights from business and consumer audiences utilizing cutting-edge technologies to support agile research. As industry pioneers, InnovateMR provides world-class end-to-end survey programming, targeted international sampling, qualitative and quantitative insights, and customized consultation services to support informed, data-driven strategies, and identify growth opportunities. Known for their celebrated status in customer service and results, InnovateMR combines boutique-level service with extensive global reach to achieve partner success.