Clinical research associates are in growing demand, with the number of job vacancies expected to double in the next ten years. Clinical research associates participate in clinical trials with pharmaceutical companies as well as a wide selection of medical companies. A clinical trial is a study of the effects, benefits and any related risks associated with a new or current drug. Pharmaceutical companies require certain qualifications for these positions.
A life or medical science degree is required. Degrees in one of the following areas will be required: biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology, immunology, nursing or toxicology. Other fields may include anatomy, physiology, veterinary medicine or microbiology.
Relevant work experience will include one to five years of experience in medical, research or pharmaceutical fields. Experience as a clinical data coordinator is a plus. Relevant work experience will not necessarily include actual participation in the clinical trials themselves, but as support for the trials. This will be in the form of keeping abreast of paperwork, scheduling and overall office support.
Personal skills that are required include above average computer skills including database management; excellent written and oral communications; attention to detail; good administrative and organizational skills; understanding the importance of good clinical research and time management. In addition, a driver's license will be needed as some travel may be required, based on the company's needs. The ability to work without supervision is very important as clinical research assistants work alone and many times, even from their homes. Quite often, clinical research assistants travel to physician's offices, trial centers and hospitals during the scope of employment.
Completion of an accredited clinical research assistant program may be required, however, some companies allow on-the-job training before or during the program. This is determined by individual companies. Clinical research assistant programs teach information needed and key concepts of the pharmaceutical field. Explanations of the roles and responsibilities of the clinical research assistant as well as job roles and criteria requirements are part of the course program as well.
Salary expectations of a clinical research associate vary by region, experience and education. Salary ranges are $40,000 to $60,000 for entry-level positions with less than four years of experience. People who have five years or more of experience in clinical trials along with the required education can receive up to $90,000 a year.
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