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Clinical Research Associate

Career Overview

As a clinical research associate you will be involved in all aspects of research design, data collection, data analysis and development of research findings. The clinical research associate is literally the liaison between the clinical scientist and the project itself, and the clinical research associate is the front line person that manages the day-to-day operation of the project as well as providing assistance to the team.

The clinical research associate is also responsible for understanding the various safety procedures, policies and best practices for laboratory conditions and experiments. The clinical research associate is key in helping develop the research process and must possess an excellent knowledge of laboratory procedures as well as aspects of chemistry, biology and other life sciences.

The clinical research associate is usually the team leader when the research scientist is not present. Often in pharmaceutical trials and test the clinical research associate is the team leader and is responsible for managing both the trial or experiment as well as the laboratory and staff. Many hospitals, universities, private companies as well as pharmaceutical companies employ clinical research associate as project managers and developers.

Career Requirements

Most basic clinical research associate jobs require at least a Bachelor of Arts or Sciences with a major in a life science or inorganic science strand. Some programs will also accept Associates, Bachelors or more advanced degrees in Nursing or a related field.

In addition most require some experience with data management and collection, a good understanding of laboratory safety procedures and experimental development, as well as experience in both supervised and unsupervised settings. Some states and agencies require that the clinical research associate be credentialed through one of the many programs recognized by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.

Specialized settings may include other requirements such as experimental design, computer programs, data analysis and even biotechnical components. In addition the clinical research associate will need to understand FDA requirements for drug development and experimental trial design.

It is possible for clinical research associate to work both on a contract basis and as an in-house clinical research associate.


Job Outlook

With the increase in the research and development of new medications and advanced treatment options in the medical field the demand for clinical research associate has increased. While the majority of the jobs are in research facilities and are not located in all areas of the country there is a definite demand in the pharmaceutical sector.

For those individuals that are very independent workers that enjoy working in team settings and having responsibility to complete trials without supervision the career of clinical research associate is just the job you may be looking for.

The working conditions are very standard with some overtime required to meet deadlines. Most clinical research associates work a standard day with limited weekend or overtime hours required.

Career Track

Clinical research associates with experience in various trials can find many opportunities in management and research and development. The areas of specialization that many clinical research associates continue to develop makes them idea project managers and even researchers provided they complete additional training or educational requirements.

Many clinical research associates decide to complete Master’s level programs and become project designers and work on a contract basis. This allows a lot of freedom and provides clinical research associates with the option to specialize in a field and work for select agencies rather than just working for one company.


Depending on the agency or facility that the clinical research associate works with the salary range is variable. Years of experience as well as training and certification also play a role in the salary. For most clinical research associates working in hospitals or other government agencies the starting salary is usually $32,000 per year.

More experienced clinical research associates can start from $35,000 to $38,000 at the same facilities. Private sector facilities and pharmaceutical companies pay slightly higher with salaries ranging from $41,000 to $46,000. Senior level clinical research associates with these companies may make over $60,000 per year.

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