How to Become a Clinical Research Nurse

Research the requirements to become a clinical research nurse. Learn about the job description and duties, and explore the step-by-step process to start a career in clinical research. View article »

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  • 0:00 Clinical Research…
  • 0:55 Obtain a BSN
  • 1:40 Get Licensed & Gain Experience
  • 2:26 Get Certified
  • 3:07 Find a Job
  • 3:22 Maintain Licensure

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Video Transcript

Clinical Research Nurse Overview

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Nursing
Licensure/Certification Licensure is required; certification preferred
Experience Varies; 2+ years of related nursing or research experience
Key Skills Skills in active listening, judgment and decision making, speaking, critical thinking, time management, writing and reading comprehension; ability to use field-specific software such as those used for analysis and patient profile management
Salary $64,691 (2016 Median for clinical research nurses)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,, Job listings from employers (November 2012), O*Net Online

Clinical research nurses work in hospitals and other medical facilities. They operate as members of teams who deal with clinical research studies and evaluate current patient care practices. These professionals also help develop new procedures in light of research evidence. Clinical research nurses need skills in active listening, judgment and decision making, speaking, critical thinking, time management, writing and reading comprehension. They also must be able to use field-specific software, such as that used for analysis and patient profile management. reported that clinical research nurses earned a median annual salary of $64,691 as of January 2016. Let's explore the steps involved in becoming a clinical research nurse.

Obtain a BSN

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program provides comprehensive training that can form the basis for a career as a clinical research nurse (CRN). Some nursing schools accept applicants with a high school diploma, while others also require completion of some college courses as a prerequisite for enrollment. Other prerequisites might include an exemplary academic record, health and vaccination clearance, evidence of volunteer experience and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. It takes approximately four years for a full-time student to complete a BSN program.

Get Licensed & Gain Experience

After completing a state-approved nursing program, prospective CRNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). Candidates register to take the exam through their state nursing board, which may impose additional eligibility guidelines.

Clinical research nurses need experience in addition to a nursing degree and some opportunities require experience in a particular specialty, such as oncology. Some research facilities and hospitals offer internship programs for nurses who want to concentrate in research and learn advanced technical skills.

Get Certified

The Society of Clinical Research Associates offers a voluntary Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP) credential, which is applicable to clinical research nurses. Those with a nursing degree can take the exam after two years of clinical experience. The certification provides evidence of advanced knowledge specific to research, such as informed consent, governing laws and study design. While the CCRP credential is voluntary, some employers might require it in addition to certification in Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support.

Find a Job

With a bachelor's degree and experience, a nurse might find a research job with a private research facility, hospital, government agency, or pharmaceutical company that employs CRNs to oversee its clinical studies.

Maintain Licensure

Licenses must be renewed periodically, which can require evidence of continuing education. The CCRP credential requires recertification every three years, which also means completing continuing education credits. Often certified nurse specialists must earn a graduate degree for advancement to higher positions in the field. Advancement opportunities increase with experience, education and certification.

In summary, a clinical research nurse needs at least a bachelor's degree in nursing coupled with state licensure and nursing experience.

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