All About Information Brokers: What They Do and How to Become One

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Paige Cody / fifeflyingfife

Valerie L. Sizelove
Valerie L. Sizelove375
Freelance writer, mom of four.
Have you heard of information brokers? Even if you haven’t, they probably affect you every day.
That’s because information brokers (also called data brokers) collect data from public sources — anything from your music preferences to your address is game for these professionals. Useful market information is everywhere, just waiting to be collected and sold.
Information brokerage is an excellent career choice if you have a good nose for digging up information and want to enter the technology workforce. If you’re looking for a stay-at-home job and have excellent research skills, this may be an ideal field for you.

What exactly does an information broker do?

In simple terms, information brokers collect loads of seemingly useless data and compile it into useful databases and reports for clients. Businesses, companies and organizations looking for customer profiles or market data often hire data brokers to compile this information. Other clients, such as medical research firms or private investigators may also enlist the help of data brokers.
The Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) defines these specialists as both primary and secondary researchers. First, they have to research the data needs of their clients, and then they scour multitudes of data to pinpoint exactly what their clients need.
The types of data commonly collected and sold by brokers include people’s names, ages, career fields and incomes, among many other details. Information brokers find this type of valuable information by using various public sources, such as:
  • Government and public records
  • Surveys
  • Social media
  • Online search services
  • Census records
  • Private database subscriptions
Data brokers compile their troves of information in ways that are useful and understandable for their clients. For example, some information brokers sell consumer profiles to companies so that the companies know where to focus their efforts in the market.

Where do information brokers work?

The general work setting for information brokers is within an office, whether they work in-house for an agency or from home. Most information brokers are self-employed, working from a home office for multiple clients. Others work for large companies like LexisNexis and ProQuest.
The industry range where data brokers may sell information is very wide, including:
  • Hospitality
  • Manufacturing
  • Financial institutions
  • Insurance agencies
  • Political campaigns
  • Federal agencies
  • Medical/pharmacological companies
  • Historians

Information broker ethics

To have a long-running and respectable career, you have to make sure that your data collection methods are ethical. While a ton of information is available to the public, there are laws on how this data can be used and sold. 
Be sure to also study up on the legal aspects of data brokerage so that you don’t compromise private information and dig yourself into a hole. Your reputation is everything when it comes to independent information brokerage.

Expected salary and job outlook for information brokers

Information brokers make good money. Their income is very high compared to the average minimum wage. According to ZipRecruiter, information brokers made an average salary of $73,821 in 2019. 
For a broader look at income, it’s reported that they make anywhere from $40,000 to $100,00 per year. It all depends on the types of clients they serve, whether they work independently or for an agency and their client load.
There’s no doubt that getting started in this career field will pay off, with strong incomes reported across the country and a shortage of women in the technology sector. Plus, information technology is advancing every day.
Despite more and more information becoming publicly available on the internet, it takes a skilled professional to sift through and organize that data. Businesses and organizations could try to do it themselves, but they'd save a lot of time and effort by hiring professionals. Therefore, it's likely that the demand for information brokers will continue to grow as more information becomes available. 

What education is required to become a data broker?

In order to become an information broker, it’s best to complete a degree or certificate in research and data systems. You should also gain a background in the industry that you want to serve. However, if you have a nose for finding information, you can learn research skills from previous work experience, too.
When it comes down to it, most clients will want to hire information brokers with a degree that proves they have learned research skills. Here are some examples of bachelor’s degrees you may want to pursue on the road to becoming an information broker:
  • Business Administration
  • Marketing
  • International Business
  • Real Estate
  • E-Commerce
  • Economics
  • Library Science
The degree you pursue will depend on the industry in which you want to work. Real estate information brokers need to understand the ins and outs of real estate, and those who sell information to medical companies should have a basic understanding of the medical field.

Learn more about this job

To learn more about the career opportunities for information brokers, check out the AIIP, which is an organization for independent information professionals. A whole section is dedicated to independent researchers, many of which make their living as information brokers.

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