How to Become Clinical Researcher
Clinical Researcher Careers & Degrees

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According to CNN Money, the Clinical Research profession is one of the best jobs in America, landing at the number 4 spot out of 100 top jobs.

What makes this profession one of the best jobs out there? Growth potential, high wages and the variety of topics to research make this a busy and engaging profession.

Individuals who want to become a Clinical Researcher will need to take several steps in order to enter this field.

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Education Requirements to Become a Clinical Researcher

The minimum level of education that an individual needs in order to become a Clinical Researcher is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college.

Some positions and employers request an individual have a minimum of a Master’s degree as well as a CRA certification.

Recommended areas of study for the undergraduate degree include Medical Technology, Public Health Administration or Microbiology.

Typical courses that an individual takes during their undergraduate degree include: Anatomy, Health Care Management, Biostatistics, Mathematics, Biochemistry and Epidemiology.

An extensive educational background in these areas of study will help individuals prepare for the in depth research they perform.

Individuals pursuing a Master’s degree may also opt to focus on Medical Technology, Public Health Administration or Microbiology.

In addition, individuals who want to become a Clinical Researcher may also gain some work experience by working as a health care worker or lab technician.

For better prospects, individuals can seek a Clinical Research Associate (CRA) certification provided by professional groups such as the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP).

The ACRP has very detailed requirements in order to take the certification exam.

Professionals must be able to show that they can work independently on a variety of research topics, work on behalf of sponsors and be able to handle a variety of essential duties that Clinical Researchers perform.

Visit ACRP for more information on the CRA certification.

Clinical Researcher Job Description

Clinical Researchers are hired by pharmaceutical, medical device manufacturers, contract research organizations or by academic institutions to oversee and conduct clinical studies and trials on a variety of medical devices and pharmaceuticals waiting to be approved to be on the market.

Their extensive work is required and is the final step into getting several types of medical devices or pharmaceuticals onto the market.

Their clinical trials must assure that any products going onto the market are safe and effective for human use or consumption.

Using their extensive background, Clinical Researchers are responsible for overseeing clinical trials and making sure all proper protocols and procedures are being followed by their team.

In short, these professionals are responsible for the quality control needed to carry out important clinical trials.

In addition, these professionals are responsible for leading and carrying out experiments, clinical research and other medical studies.

They monitor procedures and end results and supervise other researchers carrying out the experiments or clinical research.

Some day to day duties for Clinical Researchers include:

  • Responsible for the management of assigned clinical trials
  • Be the main contact person for inquiries regarding patient information
  • Selection of researchers and management of selected Clinical Research Assistants
  • Patient recruitment and analysis
  • Prepare documentation for anything related to the trial
  • Coordination of the transportation of laboratory samples before and after trials
  • Organize clinical trial material
  • Manage project files including information regarding to the progress or ethical information

Clinical Researcher Salary and Career Path

Medical Scientists, which includes professionals working as Clinical Researchers, earned a median annual of income of $90,700 in 2012.

The exact wage will depend heavily on experience as well as the industry an individual is employed in.

For example, professionals working in the Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry earned approximately $92,940 per year in 2012 while Medical Scientists working in higher education such as colleges and universities earned approximately $53,740 in 2012.

The job projections for this career look strong and are expected to increase by 36.4 percent through the year 2022.

Compared to other professions, this growth is considered fast and strong.

The sheer amount of clinical trials that are required to be performed and the increased personalization of medicines are factors in this fast growing industry and contribute to its title of one of the best jobs in America.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$82,760
$43K
$54K
$82K
$108K
$133K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$64,270
Arizona$68,700
Arkansas$66,740
California$104,960
Colorado$70,350
Connecticut$78,190
Delaware$63,260
District of Columbia$90,800
Florida$60,610
Georgia$95,510
Hawaii$73,060
Idaho$69,280
Illinois$67,770
Indiana$65,650
Iowa$76,660
Kansas$53,240
Kentucky$55,250
Maine$67,590
Maryland$105,840
Massachusetts$82,300
Michigan$62,280
Minnesota$74,600
Missouri$75,890
Montana$91,780
Nebraska$69,710
Nevada$71,840
New Hampshire$71,350
New Jersey$81,270
New Mexico$50,280
New York$81,540
North Carolina$69,250
North Dakota$60,840
Ohio$68,570
Oklahoma$49,790
Oregon$59,520
Pennsylvania$79,840
Rhode Island$79,070
South Carolina$67,420
South Dakota$56,220
Tennessee$70,860
Texas$55,030
Utah$64,430
Vermont$61,390
Virginia$96,690
Washington$76,990
West Virginia$53,280
Wisconsin$67,310
Puerto Rico$50,280

The top earning state in the field is Maryland, where the average salary is $105,840.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Maryland - $105,840
California - $104,960
Virginia - $96,690
Georgia - $95,510
Montana - $91,780
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Microbiologists, OCC Code 19-1022, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a clinical researcher do?

A clinical researcher uses data gathered from patients to do research on illnesses and to develop new treatments.

Clinical researchers can work in hospitals, medical facilities, or laboratories.

They usually work in teams with other researchers and healthcare professionals to conduct clinical trials, medical studies, and research.

Clinical researchers can specialize in a particular field and their role varies from employer to employer.

As a clinical researcher, you will need a variety of skills, including medical knowledge, analytical thinking, attention to detail, good communication skills and the ability to follow strict research protocols.

Clinical researchers usually work full-time.

QuestionHow much does a clinical researcher make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for medical scientists, in general, was 84,810 as of May 2018.

However, salaries in this field vary widely, based on many factors, including the employer, the field of expertise and the researcher’s level of experience.

Some earn less than $50,000 a year, while others make more than $150,000.

Those who work for the pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing field are usually better paid.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a clinical researcher?

Clinical researchers need a bachelor’s degree in health sciences, biology or a related field.

Tuition costs vary widely depending on the school you choose and the program itself.

For example, a four-year bachelor’s degree program in biology can range anywhere between $10,000 and more than $50,000 a year.

Graduate certificates are also available and can give you better job prospects.

After gaining a few years of experience in the field you can be promoted to a clinical research associate or a clinical research coordinator position.

QuestionWhat is the demand for clinical researchers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for medical scientists, in general, is projected to grow by 8 percent from 2018 to 2028.

The expected growth is explained in part by the fact that more people are diagnosed with chronic conditions and the demand for pharmaceuticals is expected to increase.

Clinical researchers will be needed to perform research related to conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cancer.

The number of job openings may vary year by year, as the demand for clinical researchers can be affected by the level of federal government funding.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a clinical researcher?

In order to find entry-level employment as a clinical researcher, you will need at least four years of post-secondary education.

After getting a bachelor’s degree in medical science, biology, pharmacology or a related field, you may also seek a graduate certificate that can usually be earned in less than one year and may give you better job prospects.

Career advancement opportunities will also be available after gaining a few years of experience in the field.

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