8 Things You Need to Know About a Clinical Research Career

Nowadays there are more and more roles and jobs in the new or relatively new industries.

Clinical Research is young and incredibly dynamic from the perspective of creating new systems and jobs, but also from the Research & Development (R&D) perspective. Being part of the pharmaceutical industry, it brings it in third place when it comes to innovations, right after car and technology industries.

All these make a career in clinical research seem very attractive, but before you start looking for information on the vast internet, here are eight things you must know about it.

1. How accessible is a career in clinical studies for you?

A job in clinical research is accessible to anyone interested in this field and has the necessary qualifications.

Maybe you are under the same impression as I was 20 years ago, which is that the profile of the worker in clinical studies is a person from the academic environment, working in hi-tech laboratories, performing difficult experiments, wearing a white robe or overalls, having protection glasses and almost always looking in a microscope. 

If you have the same image projected in your mind, it is high time you erased it and find out together what reality looks like and if you can have a job in clinical studies, too.

Project management and administrative activities occupy a large part of the clinical studies and as such, most jobs are dedicated to monitoring the quality of and collecting the medical data, which does not necessarily require medical studies. 

If you graduated a university, college or any form of study higher than high school, you can certainly have a career in clinical research!A group of people raising their hands

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So, the answer to your question is: yes, a career in clinical research is within your reach if you comply with the above.

2. Where can you start a career in clinical research?

Here you have 2 main options: on one hand in medical institutions and on the other hand with  a sponsor (pharma companies, biotech) or with a CRO.

Let’s take them one by one. 

First option: a medical unit.

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If you are a doctor, you can join a clinical studies team in a hospital or any other medical institution as Sub-Investigator (SI) to later grow into the role of Principal Investigator (PI). As a nurse, you can have a very important role in the development of studies on-site as a study nurse.

If you do not have the medical background, that is fine, too; you can start as a Clinical Study Coordinator (CSC); you only need to acquire minimal medical knowledge, but more important for this role is to have communication skills, organizing abilities and the capacity to manage and implement a project.

Option number 2 is to start working with a Sponsor or Contract Research Organization (CRO)

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where you have a large variety of jobs. which I have already listed in the previous post (se introduce link aici): Clinical Trial Assistant (CTA), Clinical Research Associate (CRA), Clinical Trial Lead (CTL),  Project Manager (PM), Data Manager (DM), Auditor, Regulatory Officer. If you want to find out more information about each role, please download the CLINICAL RESEARCH CAREER JOURNEY: FROM ASSISTANT TO MANAGERfrom this link (de introdus link aici).

Now you know better where you can start working in clinical studies and on which position, you only need to apply for the desired job….but you need to know where to apply.

That is why I urge you to open an account on glassdoor.com so you can read the feedback of present or former employees from any given company. What glassdoor.com com is offering, truly is priceless in choosing the company you want to apply to!

3. Where can you find advertisements about jobs in clinical research?

Here there are several options:

  1. On the websites of pharma-companies and CROs under „Career” section. Universities and colleges with medical profile, as well as the medical clinics and hospitals, have postings on their websites with the open positions, for instance: Clinical Study Coordinator or Study Nurse.
  2. On specialized websites like phaemiweb.com, glasdoor.com or likedin.com you can see the jobs posted by the big companies. The only condition is to have an account on these sites, as such getting access to all the jobs available at that moment in time all over the world.
  3. The most commonly available method is simply searching on Google; beside the jobs you can find on the websites listed under b), with a more details search, for instance by “Clinical Study Coordinator in Italy” or “Project manager homebased in Germany”, you will find also jobs posted by mid-size and small, regional and local companies, that have not published the open positions on a global website.

4. How can you find the companies offering the most opportunities for a career in clinical research?

The companies offering the most jobs in clinical research are the CROs because these are legal entities highly specialized in this field.

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A simple Google search by “Top 10 CROs” will reveal you all the global CROs presented depending on various criteria (business figures, employees) and here we have IQVIA, Covance, Parexel, PPD, ICON, Medpace, Charles River Laboratories, PRA, Syneos, WuXi Apptec and the list can go on. 

In what regional or local CROs are concerned, besides the Google search that can help you search by “CRO in India” for instance, you have also this little instrument: https://ichgcp.net/cro-list website where you can find most CROs in each country, regardless their global regional or local reach.

Attention: in case you are interested in a job in a pharma- or biotech company, producing innovative medicine, you need to have the same approach! Please keep in mind it is highly unlikely they have a local clinical studies department, simply because their activity got outsourced to CROs.

5. What jobs can you apply for in the beginning if you have no experience?

First you need to do your homework and see which job fits you the best and then consider applying for that role.

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Asses what each of these positions involve – ideally there would be a job description helping you to make a decision whether that job is a match for you or not. 

Most jobs are for Clinical Research Associate, which can be an excellent choice, this is how I started in clinical studies; but you need to consider that it involves 60% traveling and only 40% office work. Sometimes the percentage of time spent visiting the sites is even higher, especially when the study initiation at the medical centers takes place. 

Should you wish for a an office based job, then you can go for Clinical Trial Associate, In-house Clinical Research Associate, Regulatory Officer (entry level) within a CRO or a pharmaceuticals company, or you can start as a Clinical Study Coordinator in a hospital. 

If you are a nurse, you can start as a study-nurse or as a sub-investigator if you are a doctor.

In conclusion, the position you can apply for to start a career in clinical studies can be one of the following:

  • Clinical Trial Assistant – office based;
  • Clinical Research Associate – at least 60% travelling, but also better salary;
  • In-House Clinical Research Associate – 99% office based;
  • Regulatory Officer – office based;
  • Clinical Study Coordinator – hospital / medical center (office) based.

Any one of these is a very good choice if you believe it is a match to you.

6. How can you career grow in clinical research?

I have said this before: you alone are setting the limits of your evolution in this field, the level you wish to reach in your own development. Sure, professional background needs to meet opportunity, but you are the one that has to want to climb up that professional ladder and learn new things. 

That being said, you need to know that no career or career growth has a guarantee once you have entered the clinical research industry. We all know that there are external factors outside our control, influencing both our professional and personal life.

Coming back to your career, this can expand either vertically or horizontally. Below you have a sample of the two evolution paths.

Once you reach the position of Clinical Trial Lead and CRA Manager, you can go on working internationally, coordinating projects and managing people/teams regionally or continentally. You will have a clearer picture of how you want to evolve and what direction to steer your career in only once you start working in the field and understand what you enjoy doing the most.

In order to have the correct image of potential professional growth within the same role, I am presenting you with another example and the average time span for moving from one level to another.

7. How secure is a job in clinical research?

As I have said before, no job is 100% safe or guaranteed.

What I do know, based on my 15-year experience and from my colleagues, is this:

  • Jobs in clinical research remained active throughout the financial crises between 2008 and 2010; furthermore, the demand for qualified personnel grew during the Covid-19 pandemic. Do not fall for any statement without having the numbers to back them up! So let’s see….
  • As per the clinicaltrials.gov website, the number of studies enlisted per year on this platform has increased from 17.347 in 2010 to 36.742 in 2020 – more than double. That explains the increasing demand of qualified personnel in this field.
  • According to a report from www.Grandviewresearch.com, “The global clinical trials market size was estimated at 44.3 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.7% from 2021 to 2028.”
  • Also www.Grandviewresearch.com states that an increase of the global clinical studies market is estimated at up to USD 69.5 billions until 2028.

Well all these figures lead us to one single conclusion: having a job in the clinical studies industry, offers medium and long-term safety and stability.

So far so good! There is one very important aspect.

8. What is the salary you can earn in clinical research?

That is the 1 million dollar question! It is the question that cannot be avoided when you are searching for any job. Well, salaries in clinical trial industry differ from one continent to another and from one country to another, but one thing is certain: it is above the salary average in the respective region.

You can find important details on the salary range in your region or country by accessing the anonymously gathered information on www.glassdoor.com. 

“How?” you are asking: it is easy and I must go back to www.glassdoor.com 

Step 1: google search for instance “CRA Salary in USA” or “Project Manager in India” – but you can also search after your country and the job with want.

Step 2: look for “glassdoor.com” to appear in the search result and access the information.

Step 3: you will see both the minimum and maximum, as well as the average salary in your country.

www.glasdoor.com have one of the most precise estimations of the employees’ income in the clinical research industry, because the data is collected anonymously from those actually working in clinical studies.

What else do you need to need to know about the salary for a certain job? From the entry level up to expert or senior level, the salary can double and as such from CRA Junior (Entry Level) to Senior CRA, the gross salary grows between 80% and 110% and this only in 5 years!!!

Well, these were the 8 things you need to know about a clinical research career.

For more details access our courses on www.clinicalresearchmentors.com to smoothly build your path in your clinical research career.

  • raveena aher says:

    this things are more important to know about clinical research. thank you for this information.

  • Emilia Lucy says:

    Thank you for writing and formatting this article so well. It has really given my brain a boost. I agree with much of this info.

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