Job profile

Government Social Research Officer

Government Social Research Officer Job Profile

What is a Government Social research officer?

Government Social Research Officers are in charge of conducting research to help design, implement, assess, and evaluate new and current government policies. This research evidence assists ministers in making policy choices. Government Social Research (GSR) is a civil service analytical profession that generates and disseminates social and behavioural research and guidance.

Civil employees and other government analysts, such as operational researchers, economists, and statisticians, work closely with Government Social Research Officers. The position entails responsibility for policy research and analysis, as well as commissioning and managing research. It is a demanding, fast-paced, and diverse role that has a direct impact on many government activities, frequently at a high leve

Government Social Research Officers are interested in why society is the way it is. They centre their studies on comprehending society and determining what governments and agencies can do to address specific issues. Under the supervision of a supervisor, a Government Social Research Officer does ethical research in a field related to a social science, like anthropology, economics, political science, public health, or sociology. To ask the correct questions and make academically sound findings, Government Social Research Officers must have a background in the topic they are investigating.


The job of a Government Social Research Officer  includes a number of responsibilities and duties, such as:

  • Working on a variety of research topics and applying a variety of research approaches (if conducting internal research).
  • Agreeing on research terms of reference.
  • Conducting or commissioning and analysing in-depth interviews with members of the public and large-scale data sets.
  • Ensuring that research is completed within a certain time limit in order to fulfil policy criteria.
  • Conducting presentations at conferences.
  • Explaining difficult concepts and discoveries in an understandable manner.
  • Commenting on and modifying draught research instruments such as surveys.
  • Project management and commissioning of research initiatives.
  • Supervising, encouraging, and coaching junior employees.
  • Working closely with external research contractors, other government analysts, and policy colleagues during the research
  • Ensuring research quality control
  • Providing information and analysis on the evolution of a policy problem.
  • Debating and negotiating on project needs with clients (policymakers, ministers).
  • Creating written and spoken briefs for policy colleagues and ministers based on research evidence evaluations.
  • Remaining current on policy and social concerns, as well as qualitative and quantitative research methodologies.
  • Providing information about existing studies in a policy area.
  • Responding to external and internal research inquiries from colleagues, government agencies, and others.
  • Developing research specifications.
  • Coordinating competitive tendering exercises.


The salary for Social Research Government Officers is primarily influenced by experience, sector and location.

The UK national average salary for a Government Social Research Officer is £42,447, ranging from £27,000 to £68.000 per year. The average London based salary for a Government Social Research Officer is £46,600, ranging from  £30,000 to £72.000 per year.

Full-time employment is available for government social research officers. Working hours are typically from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., however, some flexibility may be necessary to meet hectic workloads and project schedules. There may be options for part-time work or job sharing, but there are no prospects for self-employment.

Apart from specific government agencies, there are various job possibilities available within local governments in areas such as economic growth, housing, and neighbourhood revitalization.

Whilst most social research jobs involve engaging with study participants, whether through focus groups or one-on-one surveys, the majority of the job requires research and analysis. This implies that Government Social Research Officers must be adept at communicating as well as gathering and understanding data. Before Government Social Research Officers can undertake a study, they must first ask an essential question. Their inquiries are frequently prompted by observations of the environment around them. 

As an example: Why is a given portion of the population suffering from a certain illness? What effect does a new legislation have on the population of a town? What about its police force? Why is one candidate winning the polls in all but one area? What distinguishes those areas?

Furthermore, Government Social Research Officers must assess whether other researchers have posed the same topic and whether the question is really answerable. Once these questions begin to arise in the imagination of a Government Social Research Officers, inquiry becomes crucial. Books, academic publications, and previous research are all reviewed by researchers. At this early stage, the objective is to find what other academics have discovered, what types of studies they’ve conducted, and what data is lacking. A Government Social Research Officer may spot an inaccuracy in another’s conclusion, invent a new approach to ask comparable questions, or draw from a different community.

A Government Social Research Officers job then moves from analysing current data to gathering new information. Government Social Research Officers often adjust their questions as required, create a survey based on their findings, and then seek clearance from an ethical body. They collaborate with subject matter experts or other researchers to analyse the data and look at it from as many angles as possible, working to understand what it is telling them and if that data is statistically significant — if the study’s results are applicable to society at large or if they are more likely an anomaly of that specific research methodology. After that, they can discuss their results at a conference or in a paper before moving on to the next pressing issue.

Every stage of the process is designed to guarantee that everything a Government Social Research Officer conducts contributes to a better knowledge of society. This data may then be used to influence new policies, determine where funding is directed, and more.


A good first or higher degree in a social science topic with a significant social research component is required for admittance into government social research. Graduates in mathematics and statistics are occasionally employed. If you hold a second class honours degree (in any discipline), you may be able to get admission by first completing a relevant postgraduate qualification.

The following topics may help your chances:

  • Sociology
  • Geography
  • Criminology
  • Psychology
  • Social sciences
  • Social statistics
  • Social policy
  • Political science or politics

You could continue your education if your undergraduate degree did not involve instruction in social research methodologies. Although a Masters or PhD in a social science topic is not required for new Government Social Research Officers, many persons with these postgraduate degrees apply for these positions. Such credentials reflect dedication and may be valuable for future professional advancement.

The Civil Service administers Civil Service Fast Stream, a system that allows graduates to work as social, economic, statistical, and operational researchers in a short period of time. Further information and admission criteria may be found on the website  Government Social Research Fast Stream initiative. See the Government Social Research (GSR) profession for further information on the function of Government Social Research Officers and how to get started in this field.


Must have skills:

Some of the skills that you will have to posses or acquire in order to become a Government Social Research Officer include:

  • Thorough awareness of the political process.
  • High level of experience in the usage of database software and specialty programmes, such as SPSS
  • Capacity to conduct research on the internet.
  • Excellent research and maths abilities.
  • Capacity to analyse logically.
  • Knowledge and expertise with statistical theory and methodologies.
  • Strong interest in policy and its influence on government choices.
  • High degree of passion and initiative .
  • Good organisational skills.
  • Determination to properly investigate topics.
  • Capacity to operate successfully in groups.

Work experience

The Civil Service has a Guaranteed Interview Program for disabled candidates, as well as a GSR Summer Student Placement Plan. Candidates must be in their final year of an undergraduate degree that involves about one-third of courses in social research methodologies and be anticipating a 2.1 or first class honours degree. 

Sandwich student placements with a significant social research techniques component are also available through the GSR for students in their penultimate year of their undergraduate degree. Work experience in an applied research context is desired, but not required.

Each department is responsible for its own recruitment. Fresh graduates are often hired as research officers; for senior Government Social Research Officer positions, sufficient work experience is required.

Entrance is difficult. Consider writing to the department’s head researcher to request work experience or shadowing. The Welsh Government provides industrial placements for undergraduate students enrolled in sandwich degree programmes.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) offers government internships to PhD students who are supported by them.

Career prospects

Most likely, you will be a Government Social Research Officer for two years before you are promoted to a higher position. If you have a postgraduate degree, you may be able to enter this field as a senior Government Social Research Officer.

Graduates on the Fast Stream participate in an accelerated growth and leadership programme, which provides them with greater resources to swiftly advance to senior positions. In their first several years, fast streamers should anticipate to change jobs every 18 months to two years.

You should be able to move up to the role of Principal Research Officer after about four years. You can then advance to the position of Chief Research Officer, where you will be in charge of social research in a department. As you advance in your career, you will be more involved in staff management, strategic initiatives, and research programmes.

There are lots of opportunities for secondments, moving between departments, and working on other policy issues. It is feasible to move from research to mainstream Civil Service policy or administrative positions. Secondments outside of government are also an option.

Related Courses

These are some specific areas of study that may improve your chances of landing your dream job as a Government Social Research Officer:

  • Sociology
  • Geography
  • Criminology
  • Psychology
  • Social sciences
  • Social statistics
  • Social policy
  • Political science or politics
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