A professional qualification for foundation level (bronze) qualitative researchers is very close to being launched. The following necessary pre-requisites are in place:

  • The syllabus for training and assessment has industry-wide approval.
  • Sufficient funding for launching and administering the assessment for the qualification for the first six months has been pledged by the following industry associations: AQR, MRS, ESOMAR, SRA, ICG and AURA.
  • The Global Institute for Qualitative Research, the body which will develop, administer and assess the professional qualification, only needs to be incorporated.

Need for professionalisation

The industry-wide Steering Group spearheading this initiative for professionalisation surveyed 984 qualitative respondents last May. Key facts underlining the need for a professional qualification supported by professional training are:

1. The reaction to a professionalisation scheme and qualification proved very encouraging with an 85% positive rating. Importantly, those most positive are client side and newer entrants to the industry

2. Qualitative training is predominantly informal. Some 57% say they have had a lot in their career compared with formal training (19%). Indeed, 10% say they have had no formal training at all.

3. Only 9% of the qualitative cohort rate qualitative research high on professionalism, viewing medicine (67%), law (55%), and accountancy (47%) as much higher. They even rate quantitative more highly at 12%.

Next step is for the industry

The professionalisation qualification will only succeed if it is financially self-sustaining which will only be possible if the qualitative sector really wants it and is prepared to make it happen. The industry-wide Steering Group met in London in mid-December and concluded that, to proceed with launching the professional qualification, it needs hard commitment from research agencies to put its researchers through the qualification at £400 per candidate.

Clients, who are one of the most positive cohorts about professionalisation, also need to fully endorse the scheme. The Steering Group aims over the next few months to ask you,
the qualitative industry, to commit your researchers and your support to a professional qualification.

It has taken three years to arrive at this point on the professionalisation journey and in my opinion, if it does not happen now, it will be another generation before we are here again. Professionaliation is just a step away: it sits on the launch pad, everything is in place…but that next step is in the qualitative industry’s hands.