How to Become a Clinical Research Associate


If you want to become a clinical research associate, you need to begin by determining if this career path is right for you.


Are you interested in the clinical research process? Can you find fulfillment in ensuring clinical trials are conducted safely and ethically? Are you interested in career that allows you to grow and take on more responsibility? If so, then a career as a clinical research associate may be well suited for you!


Below we've outlined what else you'll need to succeed in a career as a clinical research associate. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Clinical Research Associate

To get an entry-level job in clinical research, you need at least an undergraduate degree in nursing, life sciences or medical sciences. It is highly recommended to have a graduate degree, as it can allow you to qualify for more senior level positions, a higher pay grade and an advantage over other job applicants.


It is occasionally possible to get into this field from the administrative side without formal education in the above-mentioned areas, however it requires a substantial amount of administrative experience in clinical research, and possibly additional qualifications.





General Job Description of a Clinical Research Associate

Clinical research associates are responsible for setting up, monitoring and completing clinical trials related to the effects, risks, efficacy and benefits of new and existing medicines.



Typical Job Responsibilities

• Design case record forms

• May locate suitable facilities for the study

• Liaise with doctors and other professionals throughout the study

• Monitor the trial throughout its duration, which involves visiting study locations on a regular basis

• Coordinate with the ethics committee, which safeguards the rights, safety and wellbeing of all trial subjects

• Ensure all trial supplies are accounted for

• Discuss the results of testing with medical statisticians

• Perform data and document verification by ensuring data entered into case record forms is consistent with patient clinical notes

• Take detailed notes during clinical studies

• Prepare progress reports during all stages of the study



Skills Needed to Be Successful

To become an effective clinical research associate, you need to acquire a certain set of skills. Being proficient in this skill set may allow you to move into positions of more responsibility and higher pay. These skills include:


• Knowledge of the health care system, health care legislation, procedures and practices for regulating the development of health care products

• Must be able to critique a journal article and rate the evidence level

• Must be able to formulate a clinical development plan

• Must be able to ensure clinical trial data is credible and accurate and that the rights, integrity and confidentiality of trial subjects are protected

• Need to have a full understanding of liabilities and responsibilities of conducting research with human subjects

• Must have an understanding of the challenges and limitations of implementing and maintaining databases





Career Advancement Possibilities

Although career structures vary from company to company, you can typically move up from an entry-level position in clinical research (such as clinical trial administrator, or junior research associate) fairly quickly depending on factors such as the proficiency of your skill set, your level of motivation, your previous experience, your level of education, and many others. Taking on more responsibility may involve such tasks as:


• Working on pre-trial procedures

• Attending investigator meetings

• Coordinating ethics committee and regulatory authority applications

• Supervising and training junior staff

• Project management



Typical Salary in This Proffesion

The salary levels of clinical research associates can vary depending on a variety of factors, including their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, whether they are certified or not, the level of funding for their project and many others.


Unfortunately there is no specific salary data for clinical research associates in Canada or the United States. We can however, get a good idea of their salary level by looking at the salary level of closely related professions, such as Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, and Laboratory Managers.


Clinical Research Associate Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for workers in the Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians occupational group is $46,680. And according to the Lab Manager Magazine Salary and Budget survey (2007 figures), the earnings of Clinical Laboratory Managers in the United States is $62,910 per year.



Who Employs Clinical Research Associates?

Clinical research associates are typically hired by the following types of organizations:


• Contract Research Organization (Typically contracted by companies to run their clinical trials)

• Pharmaceutical companies

• Self-employment (Freelance basis)



Job Postings - Current Opportunities 

Our job board below has "clinical research associate" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.



Careers Similar to Clinical Research Associate

Listed below are careers that are similar in nature to clinical research associate, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


• Biotechnology Researcher

• Clinical Data Analyst

• Clinical Research Coordinator

• Clinical Technician 

• Laboratory Manager 




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this profession.


Occupations in Alberta:Biochemist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 6, 2019.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Medical Scientists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 6, 2019.

Insights:How to Become a Clinical Research Associate.” (June 22, 2018). Aerotek website. Retrieved November 6, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Clinical Research Associate

Scholarships in our database are sorted by major. Those that are relevant for the education needed to become a clinical research associate can be found on the pages listed below:


Biochemistry Scholarships

Biology Scholarships

Chemistry Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study at the Post-Secondary Level

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a clinical research associate. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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Clinical Research Associate