About the Industry

Salaries - UK market research 2000-2017

The following looks at salary trends in the UK market research sector over the past 15 years. For salaries in the US, Asia and elsewhere we have little in the way of our own statistics, 'though we will aim to link to and summarise statistics from other sources here in the coming months. Apologies for the omission / the wait.

The general picture - Not bad considering

Mean Salary
Mean Salary
Increase £
Increase %
Mean Salary
Increase %
Entry Level RE: £17,900 (167) £21,600 (277) 3,700 20.7 22,300 (243) 3.2
RE: £22,900 (747) £24,800 (1270) 1,900 8.3 25,500 (853) 2.8
SRE: £27,800 (1061) £29,400 (2197) 1,600 5.8 30,600 (1677) 4.1
Project Manager: £31,000 (482) £37,200 (2363) 6,200 20 37,700 (1899) 1.3
Research Manager: £35,500 (574) £44,800 (640) 9,300 26.2 42,900 (220) -4.2
AD: £39,100 (560) £51,800 (2200) 12,700 32.5 52,200 (1282) 0.8
Director: £54,800 (288) £74,000 (1017) 19,200 35 72,500 (612) -2.0

In 2013 I wrote a series of articles to celebrate our posting job ad no.100,000 - these included one on salary trends (Salary Trends in UK MR 2001-12, February 15th 2013 http://www.mrweb.com/drno/news16832.htm), with a table showing the increase in UK salaries at each level over ten years. It's almost the perfect time to update this, as we're another 5 years on - just the bases are a little smaller this time, partly because 2017's not quite finished yet.

In the 2013 article I noted that:

- these are advertised salaries only, plus they mostly reflect just the money part of the package, not pension and health schemes for example. Use with care, therefore, and focus on trends and differences more than absolute values [Egg-sucking for grannies webinar - click here]

- overall, increases had not been bad. With the following qualifiers: 1. we used in the late twentieth century to consider ourselves fairly low payers as an industry so we're starting from a low base; 2. inflation had been low throughout; and 3. the years 2008-13 were hard for most sectors and we wouldn’t expect big rises.

- between 2000 and 2008, graduate / JRE types were given *more* enticement at least to enter the profession, with a half-decent rise

- from agency side project manager level (just above SRE) and upwards, this period of eight years saw rises above inflation and in some cases (ADs and some very senior roles) the rise was impressive. Client side RMs also did very well

- the 'Big But' was that in this ten-year period, the TOTAL increase in mean SRE pay was 5.8%. REs fared a little better but not much. Researchers with from 1-4 years' experience were often being worked into the ground, and not seeing much compensation in terms of their compensation, as it were.

- I suggested a reason for this, apart from just being tight: the profession was a bit in awe of business development: 'We place too much emphasis on business-getting, and show downright disrespect for people who haven't yet started doing it'.


So what's changed since then? They've been five strange years, with the global presumption of ongoing economic growth pretty much undermined since the events of 2007-9, and the research industry more recently disrupted by the growth of new technologies - although I always argue that the latter is having less effect than some commentators assume. And Brexit, by the way, is doing diddly squat apart from creating uncertainty because it hasn't happened yet anyway, and at this rate might not.

Looking at the updated table, the far right hand column does not make great reading, as it shows that even in a time of low inflation, MR salaries have not kept pace. Then again, UK salaries in most sectors have generally lagged a little behind the rise in prices, as we're consistently told by opposition politicians (and most of the official stats), so the increases of 3-4% in the more junior positions are not that surprising, and at least they are the ones who needed it. It's a little surprising to see that more senior positions have not maintained their momentum from the previous ten years, but given the healthy rises they had earlier, they have done all right overall since 2002. In the case of the most senior level (which we group as 'Director plus' - this being the British definition of Director and not the more junior appellation used in the US and to some extent Australia / Asia), the mean reflects as much the level of vacancies as the rise or fall in remuneration for each - and there haven't been as many very senior positions advertised of late, perhaps because of a move back towards headhunting and word-of-mouth.

The number of client side vacancies has dropped off significantly, and the mean salary is lower - perhaps reflecting other salaries in their companies and therefore underlining that we have not been so unfortunate in our profession.

One phrase that sums up the right hand columns? An industry treading water. All we've done in terms of salaries in the last five years, is slightly even out the imbalance of the previous ten - and that's it.

Are they bad salaries? For junior and early-mid levels, yes, though they are not disastrous they are still not much cop. For late-middle to senior levels, they're generally fine, 'though that conceals a range from exciting right down to truly modest.

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All articles in the 'About the Industry' section written by Nick Thomas of MrWeb during July - October 2017, and © MrWeb Ltd 2017. Thanks to GRIT, ESOMAR, the AMA and the MRS for stats and tables used.

About the industry - contents...

1. What is MR and how is it changing?

A comprehensive guide to what we do, how it's changing, and who else does similar stuff.

2. The global industry today

The supply side: revenues, rankings and company info, full listings.

3. Careers in MR

An introduction to the career ladder, activities, salaries and choices.