What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming a Clinical Research Associate?

Choosing to study physical or biological science is a major decision, but for science-minded students, it’s a step toward a successful career. By studying in these college programs, you could become a clinical research associate (CRA) in biology, which is among the top paying careers for physical and biological science majors. Experienced clinical research associates earn a median salary of $91,700 per year. Their work includes using automated equipment to evaluate the results of test conducted in hospitals and laboratories and supervising the personnel conducting the research to make sure the tests comply with regulations. To start preparing for this career, you will need a college education.

A Clinical Research Associate’s Education

The first step toward attaining your dream of becoming a clinical research associate is earning a degree. A bachelor’s degree is usually required for even the most entry-level of clinical research positions, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. More advanced work or jobs with more prestigious organizations may require a higher level of education.

During their undergraduate education, students should choose a major that exposes them to plenty of coursework in health and science. Popular programs of study among aspiring clinical research associates include biology, chemistry, life sciences, medical technology and clinical laboratory technology. To develop their knowledge and skills fully, students should take as many courses as possible in subjects like biology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, mathematics and statistics. Through both classroom lecture and laboratory work, students should develop thorough knowledge of developing research protocol, conducting research using appropriate methods and analyzing data.

The Experience Required for a CRA Position

Before you find a career as a clinical research associate, you will likely need some experience in research. If you choose to complete an internship during your college studies, that experience could help you land a clinical research associate job or at least network to find a non-clinical research position where you could establish yourself and develop your skills and your résumé. Likewise, if you didn’t participate in an internship as a student, you can start growing your skills and relevant work history in a non-clinical position with a research firm.

Candidates can help make themselves more marketable in the field of clinical research, whether they are looking for that first CRA job or seeking to advance their careers. Earning a higher-level degree can expand candidates’ job prospects. Many medical scientists have a Ph.D., and some even have a medical degree in addition to their research-based doctorate degree. With enough experience, CRAs can also earn certification from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals to illustrate their skills and dedication to the field.

Working in the field of clinical research and medical science is very rewarding in more ways than one. In addition to the high rate of pay, clinical researchers have the opportunity to make an important difference to society through their roles in researching and developing important medical technology.

Ben Karleen

Brenda Rufener

Laura Kilmartin