How to get a Clinical Research Associate (CRA) Job – 5 Easy Steps

Friends, acquaintances, former colleagues from medical school asked me the same question over and over: what the conditions and requirements are to get a CRA job. 

I have often been approached by people I did not know on e-mail, Linked In, or in-person during medical conferences, asking me what would be needed to start a career as CRA. It is understandable to see people interested in having a well-paid job and being in a selected professional club.

If you have the same questions and wish to have a successful career, you are in the right place. 

I decided to share my knowledge with everyone interested to start, build and maintain a successful career in the clinical research industry.

There are 5 easy steps to get a CRA job and I will be hereby presenting them the best possible way to help you decide if this career is the right one for you.

Step 1

Find Out if the CRA Role Is Suitable For You!

If you know somebody who already works in this field it is fine and the easiest way. He or she can describe what is done on the job every day, how a day in a CRA’s life looks like.

If you haven’t got any acquaintances in this line of business, that is also fine, as I will provide you with essential information that will help you make a decision.

CRA is a qualified professional person who makes sure that a clinical trial is run at the research site at high-quality standards and in line with the study protocol. This is the technical definition but what happens in real life is far away from this simple phrase. 

CRA is acting as a project manager but also as an executive.

For this job you need to gain medical knowledge in various therapeutical areas (TA), to be available to travel 60-70% of your work time, to have good digital skills, to learn how to do cross-check between medical data from patients’ charts and data entries in the study systems.

Another important skill is medical or, even better said, clinical research writing. You need this skill because after each site monitoring visit you need to fill in a visit report.

On top of the above you have to master some of the basic soft skills at a high level:

· Communication in English, both written and spoken, for multiple reasons:

o You have to train medical staff to execute the study protocol requirements at a high level of quality.

o You need to ask medical doctors to follow your guidance and instructions – a difficult task because doctors have strong personalities.

· Negotiation – it is essential to negotiate tight deadlines, subjects’ recruitment for your trial, completion of the data entries in the study systems and win the site team on your side.

· Planning and time management – you will perform the monitoring of 3 to 5 clinical trials at the same time, each with a different stage of execution, so you need to gain highly organizational skills.

· Ability to work under pressure – you will have deadlines for visit report submissions, a quality audit from your sponsor, and even inspections from Regulatory Authorities (RA). It is not a high-stress job but it is indeed a very demanding role.

Step 2

Knowledge

When you have all the required soft skills presented above, the second step is to find out and know what the rules and regulations of clinical research activity are. This can be done by searching ICH – GCP – meaning International Conference of Harmonization – Good Clinical Practice or click the below link to their official site:          https://database.ich.org/sites/default/files/E6_R2_Addendum.pdf

You can read about it but it is not enough, this is just the starting point. To get a CRA job it is essential to get a GCP training certificate. 

GCP, Good Clinical Practice acronym, business concept background

You can easily solve this issue by joining the Clinical Research Mentors Academy and enroll in ICH- Good Clinical Practice E6 (R2) Training https://academy.clinicalresearchmentors.com/courses/; we will provide you with practical guidance besides the explanations of GCP notions.

Step 3

Competitive Advantage 

If you already have job interview experience, then you surely are familiar with a couple of standard questions: why do you consider that you are the right person for this job? or why should we choose you?

Here is the point where you need a competitive advantage. Of course, you can highlight your strengths, such as:

  • Team player;
  • Ability to work under stress and pressure;
  • Good communication and negotiation skills;
  • You like the challenges;
  • You are a quick learner;
  • This job is matching your passion.

And I can go on… Do not get me wrong, it is good that you have those skills and abilities, but guess what? More than 90% of your competitors will say the same things.

Having a competitive advantage is essential for taking such a highly qualified and well-paid job. So, you need to have solid information and a clear vision about what a CRA does and his or her role in a clinical study.

You will surprise your future employer with your deep knowledge of clinical trials once you finish the Essential CRA Training |from CRM Academy, where you will learn about clinical trials from start-up to closeout. This program will be released in Q4 2021.

In our program, we will be guided you step by step, even if you don’t know anything about the CRA job and then you will take the start on a different level.

You will benefit from 15 years of knowledge and experience in clinical research, delivered to you on-demand, to learn in your rhythm, access it when you have time with no deadlines or constraints.

After this program, you will have what it takes to get the job and make the best decision for your future.

Step 4

Finding a CRA Job 

Now you have a picture of the CRA role, clinical trials regulations, GCP, and solid knowledge on clinical monitoring.

What is next? Finding a CRA job advertisement and applying for the position!

I will not enter the topic of how to build your CV and Letter of Intent; you will find plenty of tutorials and information about this with a simple Google search.  

I have only one very strong piece of advice here: be honest when you write your CV. It would be a shame to get the job and get fired because your CV was fake!

First, it is a must to know that if in case of an IT job interview, you can wear jeans and a T-shirt, for a CRA job interview you need at least a business casual outfit or suit.

The right question now is where you can find a CRA job to apply for. 

I can help you with guidance on that and below I give you the places where the research jobs are posted:

  • One of the best solutions is LinkedIn, the professional network. Complete here your profile and CV and you can start searching for open CRA positions. It is an excellent platform for any clinical research jobs, not only for CRA;
  • Another platform dedicated to the pharma business is www.pharmiweb.com. Here, after you build your profile, quite easily, the job searching engine is intuitive and user-friendly;
  • The websites www.Glassdoor.com and Total.com are general web-based job searching platforms, where you can find many jobs, but these are not dedicated to pharma only;
  • Very useful website is www.proclinical.com with a whole section for CRA jobs even for entry-level;
  • Another very good direction is to go directly to the source. How to do that?  

o Using search engines: just type in CRO or Clinical research Organization and Google, Bing will display a long list of companies;

o Accessing the web page of any CRO you will surely find their careers page, displaying this role, location of all the CRAs and other jobs within that company;

o Choosing to apply for a global CRO (Top 10 CRO on Google) or a regional or local CRO, anywhere is fine.

  • Similar to CRO are Pharmaceutical companies with internal CRA or Clinical Monitor positions. The career search on their websites is similar to the CRO.
  • The last but not least proposed solution is to submit your CV to recruitment companies, some of which are highly specialized in pharma and CRO jobs.

Step 5

Go to interviews

When you are going to interview, please remember you need to wear a suit or a business casual outfit for face-2-face meetings.

Smiling diverse businesswomen shake hands at group meeting, friendly asian hr handshaking congratulating hired applicant at job interview, satisfied millennial partners make contract deal concept

Do your homework: search the internet and read about the company, get feedback on the work environment – glassdoor.com has this tool, look for their values, objectives, mission, company history, find out about the leading team and founder, in one phrase show honest interest on the employer.

There are some questions to answer before going to the interview. What kind of people is the company looking for? Or what is the profile of the ideal candidate?

Let’s see….

  • Good communication skills;
  • Solid knowledge of the business and job-related activities;
  • Digital competencies;
  • Pro-activity – the employer is expecting you to show initiative for improvement of the workflow, processes, etc.; 
  • Can-do attitude – nobody, but absolute nobody, likes to have an employee who needs to be constantly pushed to perform their daily job or puts up a fight with temporary assignments. If you are stubborn and inflexible, then CRA is not the right job for you;
  • Willing to help and be a mentor for junior employees;
  • Act independently, but also transparently, when an issue is identified. Every manager is expecting you to be informed and updated on any issue or problem, but at the same time to receive from you at least two SMART solutions for that problem;
  • Ownership – when you receive a project/study,
    • it is a must to acknowledge that it is your “child”. It is your responsibility to do everything from a professional point of view to deliver the results. You can simply not justify your lack of results by blaming the other department for their delay in answering. You need to follow up until you get the information. 
    • In short, it is your responsibility to deliver, and for this, you need to organize, follow up, coordinate, train, ensure the deadlines are complied with, delivery is done at high quality – simply put: take ownership of your tasks.

All of the above need to be highlighted by you during the interview.

  • English language – advanced level is a must, especially medical English or better said – and this notion was invented by me – “clinical research English”. For sure you will have at least a conversation in English and possibly a written test.
  • The interview process in clinical research is not a speed race, is a marathon. It is possible to have at least 3 – 4 meetings: with the recruiter, HR, your future manager, the manager of your future manager, depending on the employer’s rules.

This is my 5 steps blueprint for finding a CRA job.

Join Clinical Research Mentors Academy to enroll ICH-Good Clinical Practice E6 (R2) Training and have a jump start on advanced knowledge and a competitive advantage for CRA job interviews.  

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