Clinical Research Associate: Job Duties & Info

Apr 11, 2019

Clinical research associates collect and organize data obtained during studies and trials conducted in fields, such as biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. They coordinate and process results gained from long-term testing of drugs, products and medical procedures. Explore the education requirements, salary and employment outlook to see if this is the right career for you.

Career Definition for a Clinical Research Associate

Clinical research associates (CRAs) coordinate the collection, distribution and storage of data obtained during clinical research trials, such as those which test drugs and medical products. In addition to ensuring that trials stay on track with clinical objectives and comply with federal regulations, they may analyze data, create reports, make presentations, monitor individual cases of testing participants, explain procedures to participants and family members and use reference material to conduct additional research. They also maintain databases of patient information, draft correspondence and gather data used in grant proposals and budgeting. Clinical research associates are employed by pharmaceutical companies, scientific research organizations, academic institutions and government agencies throughout the United States.

Education Bachelor's or master's degree
Job Skills Highly organized, strong analytical, problem-solving, research, math, and statistical skills
Median Salary (2018)* $52,330 (for clinical and medical laboratory technologists and technicians)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 14% (for clinical and medical laboratory technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Certification Requirements

Clinical research associate professions generally require a bachelor's degree in nursing or a life sciences field; however, some employers may prefer a master's degree. Employers may also require state nursing licensure and Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP) credentialing, which is earned from the Society of Clinical Research Associates, also known as SoCRA (www.socra.org).

Essential Skills

Clinical research associates must be highly organized with strong analytical, research, math and statistical skills. They should be good problem-solvers with a solid understanding of scientific data collection and management methods. Solid verbal and written communication skills are necessary, as is the ability to interact with healthcare professionals, researchers, clinical trial sponsors and trial participants. Excellent computer skills and proficiency with spreadsheets are essential. Multiple language skills may give an applicant an advantage with certain employers.

Career Outlook and Financial Forecast

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts faster than average job growth of 14% for clinical and medical laboratory technicians, a classification that is similar to clinical research associate professions, throughout the 2016-2026 decade. As of May 2018, the BLS reported that clinical and medical laboratory technicians and technologists made a median annual wage of $52,330. The highest-paid ten percent of workers made about $80,330 in the same year.

Alternate Career Options

Careers that are similar to a clinical research associate include:

Biological Technician

With a bachelor's degree program in biology and sufficient laboratory experience, these techs can find jobs assisting medical and biological scientists with their lab experiments and tests. According to the BLS, these positions paid an annual median salary of $44,500 in 2018, and biological techs could expect faster than average job growth of 10% from 2016-2026.

Veterinary Technologist and Technician

Technologists usually complete a four-year veterinary technologist program, while technicians usually finish a two-year veterinary technician program. Technologists tend to work more in research settings with veterinarians or scientists, and technicians are often supervised by vets and complete lab tests or give advice to animal owners. From 2016-2026, the BLS predicts much faster than average employment growth of 20% for these techs in general and reports an annual median wage overall of $34,420 in 2018, with those working for colleges and universities earning some of the top salaries.

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