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Clinical Research Degrees by Program Level

Oct 13, 2019

Clinical research as a field of study involves the testing of various medicines, products and treatments for effectiveness and safety. Professionals work in biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device industries, among others.

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Essential Information

Associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs in clinical research are available. Undergraduate degree programs in clinical research coordination give students a fundamental knowledge of the principles of research into new medicines and health treatments. Students learn the principles of working in a lab, conducting research and analyzing data. They also develop the skills needed to work with the human subjects that are integral to this field. Master's degree programs are clinical programs aimed at health professionals or researchers. Students engage in independent research, seminars and learn project management skills. Master's programs can be completed in 18-30 months of study, depending on if the student attends full- or part-time.

For an associate's degree program or a bachelor's degree program, a high school diploma or GED is required of applicants. Associate's degree programs can have fieldwork and bachelor's degree programs often require an internship. For a master's degree program, a bachelor's degree in a related field is necessary. Some programs designed for practicing professionals might also require a minimum amount of work experience in a relevant field.


Associate's Degree in Clinical Research Coordination

In an associate's-level program for clinical research coordinators, students learn to set up and manage the development of new medicines, products and health treatments. Learning how to work with human subjects is mandatory. Many programs focus on lab skills, pharmacology and data collection as well as analysis. At most schools, the goal of an associate's program is to prepare students to assist a head researcher or investigator in a lab setting.

Many programs offer fieldwork overseen by professionals. Students take classes primarily focused on the processes and practices of clinical research, from terminology to protocol to practical application. Core courses are typically combined with a standard liberal arts curriculum. Following are a few courses a typical associate's degree program in the field might include:

  • Clinical research regulations
  • Pharmacology
  • Site management in clinical research
  • Clinical data analysis
  • Research management

Bachelor's Degree in Clinical Research

Although available, bachelor's degree programs in clinical research are relatively uncommon. A candidate's studies at this level cover the testing and development of new medications, as well as the gathering and analysis of evidence. Additionally, patient care topics are covered. Curricula include significant amounts of hands-on training in actual lab environments.

Baccalaureate programs in clinical research include general education courses covering biology and chemistry. It's common for an internship to be the focus of the senior year. Core courses cover:

  • Drug development
  • Clinical study administration
  • New product development
  • Data management
  • Laboratory clinical assessment

Master's Degree in Clinical Research

Master's programs in clinical research are geared for various audiences, including both students pursuing further or related study in the field following completion of their bachelor's degree as well as professionals already holding degrees in areas such as pharmacy, nursing and medicine. Programs are sometimes available on a part-time basis, and classes may be held in the evenings in order to accommodate working individuals. At the master's level, there is less study of theory and more practical application of knowledge in clinical settings.

At the master's level, coursework tends to be focused on applying previous training in clinical research and scientific methods to real-world environments. Independent study, hands-on projects and seminars are usually built into the curriculum as well. Classes may include:

  • Biostatistics
  • Research project management
  • Advanced data analysis
  • Epidemiology
  • Research in health services

Popular Career Options

Individuals with a bachelor's degree in clinical research can find employment in a wide variety of fields. Possible places of employment include but are not limited to organizations that research contracts, government agencies, health facilities, private pharmaceutical companies and universities. A few position possibilities include:

  • Research associate
  • Government trial compliance investigator
  • Clinical trial designer

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Although an associate's degree in clinical research coordination is often a background for further education in clinical research or related fields, graduates may find entry-level positions that can lead to becoming a clinical research coordinator. Most of these positions consist of assisting at hospitals, doctor's offices, universities or private research and pharmaceutical companies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical and clinical lab technicians earned a median annual salary of $38,950 in 2018.

Students seeking a master's degree in clinical research usually do so to complement other professional pursuits relating to health and medicine. Graduates often apply their specialized studies in clinical research to their current professional field, often as administrators or head researchers. Salaries vary according to the field.

Associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees are all available in clinical research to prepare students for careers in research and data analysis. While some programs are specifically for those already in the field, graduates can find employment in a number of fields and environments.

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