Internet researchers are professional Net surfers. They use their computer
skills and experience to navigate the Internet and find information their
Many customers come to online researchers to learn what the Internet community
is saying about their company. Other clients want to know about specific subjects,
like new Internet technologies. Busy executives contract Internet researchers
to search the Net for a topic and then put together that information in a
Online research is no easy task when you consider the huge number of users
worldwide and lack of any real order on the web. Researchers have to maintain
strict standards for the quality of information they produce.
"Who wouldn't feel overwhelmed by the amount of information on the Net?"
asks Scott Yanoff, an Internet researcher in Milwaukee.
Many online researchers own their own research companies or work freelance,
accepting research assignments as short-term contracts with clients. They
work out of their homes or small offices. Others work with large Internet
consulting firms or directories like Yahoo.
While there are no specific physical requirements to become an Internet
researcher, you'll want to invest in a comfortable chair and a good monitor
for hours of endless surfing. You could be spending entire days in front of
the computer screen, wading through piles of information. Most Internet researchers
work a regular eight-hour day.
While an Internet researcher's main resource is the Net, many have well-developed
people skills. Schools are looking for applicants with more outgoing personalities
than your everyday bookworm.
Diane H. Sonnenwald is a professor and an advisor for the student chapter
of the American Society of Information Science at the University of North
Carolina. "One of the things we always look for in people who apply to our
program is [people skills]. If they say they are applying to our program because
they love books, we groan," she says.
"They're not working with books and there's a great service aspect to the
job. They should like working with people -- helping people find information
to solve their problems. It's a problem-solving, service-oriented field."
While there are relatively few of them in the U.S., the future for Internet
researchers looks fairly bright across North America.
"The demand for their services won't go away," says David McClure, executive
director of the Association of Online Professionals (AOP). "There will always
be a strong demand for researchers who can keep pace with technology. There
are growing opportunities in this area."
"The skill is not yet widely recognized. In the short term, it will be
relatively rare. In the medium term, prospects are brighter once the world
comes to recognize the importance of the medium. In the longer term, I believe
we will generally come to internalize the capability -- job prospects long
term won't be as good," says information processing expert Steve Gallinger.