Clinical research associate: job description
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.
Typical employers of clinical research associates include pharmaceutical companies and clinical contract agencies.
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
- 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 such as Clinical Research Focus, Nursing Times, New Scientist, Nature and The Pharmaceutical Journal.
- 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.
- If you'd like to find out what your salary might look like, take a look at our article on how much you might earn in science on our TARGETcareers website.
To become a CRA it is necessary 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). Read 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).
- Commercial awareness
- A logical and inquisitive mind
- Good organisational abilities
- Excellent numerical, written and verbal communication skills
Next: search graduate jobs and internships
- View our science and research graduate vacancies and internships
- Read our article on how to get a graduate job in science, research and development