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Clinical Project Manager: Certification & Training

May 07, 2019

This article outlines the education, certification and training needed to become a clinical project manager. The road may be competitive but there are several paths you can take to arrive at this career.

Career Definition of a Clinical Project Manager

A clinical project manager is responsible for an assortment of tasks in supervising the startup and completion of clinical research studies. They oversee hiring, budget, scheduling, regulatory compliance, and contract negotiation. Due to the varied responsibilities, these managers must be very well-rounded in education and work experience.

Required Education & Training

A clinical project manager is a high level position and will take several years of education and work experience to rise to this rank. Obtaining a bachelor's and/or master's degree in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field or even an RN license is a good start. These managers are responsible for supervision of staff, budgeting, scheduling and negotiating contracts, so pursuing a degree program that incorporates business management can be a smart career move. Professional Science Master's (PSMs) degree programs combine advanced education in a particular science field with real-world business skills. For a more general management education, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Public Administration (MPA) are options, as well.

There are several certifications available in the clinical research area. Certification is usually not required but adds competency and professionalism to your resume. The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP), the Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA), and Clinical Research Society (CRS) are organizations that offer certifications for clinical research professionals. These assure the proficiency and application of industry guidelines, federal regulations, and ethical principles, which make for safer and more efficient clinical trials. Applicants must show proof of education and meet the required number of work hours in a clinical research setting. Typically, the higher level degrees mean a lower minimum of hours will be required. If you have an associate's degree, LPN, LVN, or high school diploma, you will probably be required to document more work hours.

Membership to clinical research associations such as, ACRP, SOCRA, and CRS, provide education and career services. Conferences, educational workshops, industry newsletters, and networking opportunities are benefits offered to members.

Training from on-the-job experience is also essential to becoming a clinical project manager. Starting as a clinical data coordinator, clinical research associate or clinical research scientist and moving up to management positions is a way you can gain access to this career. Clinical professionals can get their work experience at universities, contract research organizations (CROs), hospitals, pharmaceutical or biotech companies, and government offices.

Salary and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment for all natural sciences managers, including clinical project managers, is expected to grow 10% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average. The Bureau also reports that the median salary for all natural sciences managers was $123,860 as of 2018. In 2019, Payscale.com reported a median annual income specifically for clinical project managers of $89,265.

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