Clinical Research Associate Job Info

A clinical research associate job can involve working across a large spectrum of possible areas of medical and health related subjects. Clinical research associates (CRAs) often work on some of the most advanced clinical studies in the world. This area of research includes the Big Science areas of pharmaceuticals and other new therapeutic products. 

Education and training

CRA jobs are by definition not entry level jobs. CRAs are previously qualified in either medicine or science. The minimum degree requirement is a Bachelors Degree in these fields, although many institutions set their own levels of qualification for specific jobs. In the US certification standards have been set by the Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) to establish an industry wide standard of qualification. CRAs require prior experience for certification.

If you're in the process of qualification, or qualified and have a specific area of CRA work in mind as a career, it's advised to research qualifications requirements in detail. This is a huge career field, and career tracks therefore need careful mapping. We strongly suggest direct contact with relevant institutions for current firsthand information regarding specific requirements

The work environment

CRAs carry out and monitor clinical research projects. This can involved detailed, exhaustive use of multiple samples, tests, and studies. Some research projects literally take decades. In the pure research field, CRAs can find themselves working with science nobody has ever done before. It definitely doesn't get dull.

However, this is real science in its most highly documented, sometimes pedantic, form, and it's also hard work. Testing and data analysis can be a labor, as well as a joy. CRAs are busy people. Research projects are highly structured, involving often intensive checking and rechecking of information. To give some idea of basic lab research processes, a batch of 250 samples, each requiring accurate documentation, may result in 5 samples proceeding to the next stages of research. CRAs may handle multiple batches in the course of a normal week.

Working hours are generally standardized by the institution, but CRAs may also find themselves catching up on documentation and test work. In some cases tests are conducted on deadlines, which further complicates the working hours.

Salaries for CRAs are estimated at an average of $60,000 per year. That is a ballpark figure, and can be significantly higher for experienced CRAs and specialists. 

The career environment

One of the less obvious facets of CRA work from a career perspective is that research work is particularly valuable as a career advancement asset. In both medical and scientific research, some research jobs are top of the range positions which are major assets in further work and qualification. Some roles in medicine and science require extensive research experience as essential criteria. For example, in medicine, if your ambition was to work at Johns Hopkins, you would require a very impressive resume of research experience.

That's exactly what CRA jobs can do for your career. It's also excellent professional experience, in a practical sense. For those intending to pursue their own research, CRA work is the first  step to success.