Expand mobile version menu

Internet Researcher

What They Do

Insider Info

Internet researchers are professional Net surfers. They use their computer skills and experience to navigate the Internet and find information their clients need.

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 report.

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.

At a Glance

Conduct research using the Internet

  • Keeping current with web growth is essential
  • Good judgment is required to filter out bad information
  • A degree in information sciences is becoming the standard requirement