With NHS trusts nationwide
supporting opportunities for people to actively participate in clinical research, it’s not surprising that the field also offers many exciting science jobs for those in possession of a nursing, life sciences or medical sciences degree.
Clinical research associates are responsible for the coordination of clinical trials for new or current drugs, so that the benefits and risks of their use can be assessed. They are usually employed by pharmaceutical firms or contract research organisations (CROs) working on behalf of pharmaceutical companies.
If you're considering pursuing a career as a clinical research associate, here are a few things you should know:
What are a clinical research associate’s day-to-day duties?
The exact tasks that one may be expected to perform in this role depend on the employer, but typically range from the writing of drug trial methodologies (procedures) and the identification and briefing of appropriate trial investigators (clinicians) to monitoring the progress of a trial and writing reports.
Clinical research associates also often need to present trial protocols to a steering committee, identify and assess which facilities are suitable for use as clinical trial sites, ensure that all unused trial supplies are accounted for and close down trial sites on the completion of a trial, among many other possible responsibilities.
As stated by Rebecca, one clinical research associate profiled in a case study
on the website of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry: “No two days are the same. Every compound and every study is different, so each one has unique areas you need to look at.”
What qualities are required for this role?
There are a variety of attributes that tend to lend themselves well to a clinical research associate career, including:
- A confident, outgoing personality
- The ability to work independently and take initiative
- Good teamwork abilities, tact, and attention to detail
- Strong organisational / time management skills.
Great written and oral communication skills are also a must for building effective relationships with trial centre staff and colleagues, as is an enjoyment of travel, since clinical research associates can expect to spend a lot of time out of the office visiting trials.
What qualifications are needed?
To secure a role as a clinical research associate, you will almost certainly need to have a degree or postgraduate qualification in nursing, life sciences or medical sciences. This covers such subjects as anatomy, biochemistry, chemistry, immunology, pharmacology or physiology.
Those who lack a degree or who only possess an HND are unlikely to be able to break into this field. It may occasionally be possible for them to start in an administrative role – as a clinical trials administrator or NHS study-site coordinator, for example. However, even in this instance, considerable experience – if not also additional qualifications – would be required to progress.
Is clinical research associate the right career for me?
If you have a suitable scientific background and you're looking for a role that involves a high level of interaction with people and plenty of travel – potentially internationally – you may well find a clinical research associate role highly rewarding.
However, this job does also have its negative aspects, including tight deadlines and a high degree of pressure, so it is important to consider whether you would thrive in this kind of environment – as well as whether you have the time management skills to look after what may be several trials simultaneously.
Finally, there is the matter of pay. A clinical research associate's salary starts around £22,000 to £28,000, rising to as much as £60,000 in some senior roles.