Job descriptions and industry overviews

Clinical research associate: job description

19 Jul 2023, 08:42

Clinical research associates (CRAs) organise and administer clinical trials of new or current drugs in order to assess the benefits and risks of using them.

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Clinical research associate : Salaries | Employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Clinical research associates help to organise and monitor the different phases of clinical trials of drugs.

Key responsibilities include:

  • writing drug trial methodologies (procedures).
  • identifying and briefing appropriate trial investigators (clinicians).
  • setting up and disbanding trial study centres.
  • designing trial materials and supplying study centres with sufficient quantities.
  • providing clinicians with instructions on how to conduct the trials.
  • collecting and authenticating data collection forms (commonly known as case report forms).
  • monitoring progress throughout the duration of the trial.
  • writing reports.

Graduate salaries

Salary survey websites suggest that for clinical research associates range from around £23,000 to £36,000. Earnings will increase with experience and will also depend on location.

Typical employers of clinical research associates

  • Pharmaceutical companies.
  • Clinical contract agencies or houses.
  • Hospital academic departments.

As there is strong competition for vacancies, work experience gained using relevant scientific and analytical techniques can be useful, as can previous nursing, medical sales, pharmaceutical research and clinical laboratory work.

Vacancies are advertised by specialist recruitment agencies, online, in national newspapers and in scientific journals.

The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. Read our article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.

Qualifications and training required

To become a CRA, you’ll need to hold an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in nursing, life sciences (for example, biology, microbiology, toxicology, biochemistry, or pharmacology) or medical sciences (such as physiology, immunology, medicine, anatomy or pharmacy). See our article on scientific postgraduate study to explore your different options.

Doing a PhD may improve your promotional prospects (some employers provide opportunities to gain higher professional qualifications via block or day release).

Key skills for clinical research associates

  • Commercial awareness.
  • A logical and inquisitive mind.
  • Good organisational abilities.
  • Excellent numerical, written and verbal communication skills.
  • Confidence.

Next, check out our article on how to get a graduate job in science and research .

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