How to write a clinical research associate resume

This post will help you write a resume for clinical research jobs: entry-level clinical research associate jobs, clinical research coordinator jobs or clinical trial associate jobs would be good targets for this advice.

The hardest step to a successful career in clinical research is the first one. Getting your foot in the door takes patience, preparation, ingenuity and a toolkit of supporting materials and behaviors that will make you stand out above the competition.  A well-crafted resume can help you get your chance to shine as a clinical research associate, medical science liaison or other pharmaceutical professional.

There are a million guides out there that will give you good general advice on writing and formatting your resume, and (with one important exception) I’m not going to waste your time by duplicating that advice here. These tips are specific to the clinical research field. If you’re applying for entry-level clinical research associate jobs, the following suggestions may help your resume get noticed.

  1. This is the one piece of ‘general’ advice that I’m going to repeat. Ironically, it’s the one thing that you shouldn’t need to be told: PROOFREAD YOUR RESUME. It’s shocking, but when I worked as a recruiter I would estimate that 60% or more of the clinical research resumes I reviewed every day contained at least one glaring error. Whether it’s a simple typo, a spelling mistake or poor grammar, errors in your resume make you look bad.If you were mid-career, and had experience that was in high demand, small errors wouldn’t matter so much. It’s a rare company that would turn down an experienced CRA over a typo.  But when you’re just starting out you can’t afford to come across as lazy, uncaring, or inattentive to detail.  So double- and triple-check your resume for errors.Reading through the text backwards, word by word, is a good way to catch typographical and spelling mistakes. For grammar, enlist the help of friends, and ask them to read closely.  This is especially important if English is not your first language.

  2. The guiding principle that you should keep in mind is that clinical research is patient-oriented, human research. As much as possible, your resume should be written to place your experience, skills and objectives into this context.

  3. Most clinical research associates and many other pharmaceutical industry professionals have an educational background in the life sciences or health sciences, but simply listing your degree is not enough to put you ahead of the pack. Keeping the clinical context in mind, you should draw attention to any of your educational experiences that had specific relevance to human health and medicine.  For example, you might write:
    B.Sc. Biology, Central Anystate University.  2006.
    Relevant coursework: Human Biology, Infectious Diseases, Cancer Biology,
    Pathology, Epidemiology
    Cumulative GPA: 3.4

    Don’t make any specific mention of coursework that isn’t directly relevant to the clinical field, such as genetics, biochemistry, or zoology — the one exception might be statistics, or better yet biostatistics. Do include your GPA if you did well (3.0 or higher). If you’re still working on your studies, make a point of taking classes that are relevant to human health.

  4. If you have completed, or are completing an advanced research degree, it’s still important to focus on the clinical. Non-clinical and pre-clinical experiments using in vitro systems and animal models is valuable, and there are skills that you can transfer, but clinical research is very different and you won’t do yourself any favours by thinking that you’ll shift easily from one to the other.Again, draw out the coursework and the aspects of your research that are relevant to clinical studies, and de-emphasize the rest.  If your thesis wasn’t about human health, don’t draw attention to it — leave the title off your resume. Likewise, a series of publications on genetic pathways is very impressive, but unless they are related to human disease you should save them for a different resume. If you’re still working on your studies, take elective classes that will boost your knowledge of human health and different therapeutic areas, and try to tweak the focus of your research and the titles of your publications to reflect their relevance to medicine.

  5. The two most important characteristics of a clinical research professional are attention to detail and communications skills. Your resume should reflect that you have these qualities in abundance. Show, don’t tell — give examples from your experiences (previous jobs, projects, extracurricular activities) that demonstrate these qualities in action. Perhaps the best single thing that you can do to demonstrate a commitment to developing your communications skills is to enroll in Toastmasters or another public-speaking program.

  6. Use extracurricular and volunteer activities to demonstrate your interest in the field of health care. My alma mater has undergraduate clubs (the Human Health & Disease Students’ Association and the Society for Public Health Outreach, for example) that would be relevant, and there are of course many health-related charitable foundations that are always grateful for dedicated volunteers. You could also volunteer in a hospital or clinic. If you’ve ever volunteered to be a research subject in a clinical trial, this can also show your awareness of what the job is about. For example:
    - Volunteered as a research subject in a Phase I bioequivalence trial
      conducted by Example Clinical Research.

  7. Demonstrate your knowledge of the drug development and clinical trials process. This should be right up at the top of your resume in the ‘profile’ section so that a quick scan for keywords at least puts you in the ‘maybe’ pile right at the start. If you can afford to complete classes or a certified ICH-GCP training program, list it among your credentials; if not, complete a self-study of ICH-GCP online or by reading and make note of it on your resume. Don’t go overboard here; you could include a couple of good resources that you have studied carefully but not a comprehensive bibliography of everything you’ve ever read on the subject.
    For example:

    Self-Study
    - Good Practices in Clinical Research Web Course, Center for Experimental
      Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences
      and Technology: http://hstelearning.mit.edu/gcp/eng/home.html
    - Woodin, K. & Schneider, J. (2003).
      The CRA's Guide to Monitoring Clinical Research.
      Boston, MA.:Thomson Centerwatch.

  8. Join a professional association such as the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) or the Society of Clinical Research Associates (SoCRA) and include it in a list of professional affiliations.

  9. Travel — a lot of travel — is a fact of life for clinical research associates, so it can be good to show that you’re aware and willing to handle this job requirement on your resume. But don’t say you “love to travel”or you’ll come off as someone expecting their job to be an endless vacation.  Traveling to clinical sites isn’t at all glamorous. So instead, write something like:
    - Ready and willing to accommodate frequent local, domestic or
    international business travel.

None of the above will guarantee your success in finding an entry-level clinical research job. Your resume is only one part of a comprehensive job-search strategy, but optimizing it using the essential goals of clinical research as an organizing principle will help you come across at your best.

Some clinical research books you could review for self-study in place of a formal ICH GCP training program might include:

Good luck!

P.S. Need more help developing a resume that will get attention?  If you’re open to trying very creative approaches, you might want to check out Guerrilla Resumes for some bold ways to get noticed.


Posted: January 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Clinical research, Clinical Research Associates, ICH-GCP, Resumes & CVs | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

13 Comments on “How to write a clinical research associate resume”

  1. 1 How to polish your profile on LinkedIn | Your First Pharma Job said at 11:28 am on February 14th, 2009:

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  2. 2 S W said at 12:28 pm on August 6th, 2009:

    Thank you. This is very helpful while I construct my resume for CRA positions. Because of this article I won’t place some irrelevant information in my resume that I would have normally placed in it to get a job that I have wanted. Thanks again.

  3. 3 Petya said at 3:15 am on September 19th, 2009:

    Thank you for your free professional advice. This article led to implementation of a new strategy in my CV. Warm Regards.

  4. 4 vamsi said at 11:52 pm on January 11th, 2010:

    Thanks a lot for information you gave. It’s really helpful for entry level job seekers in clinical research. Thanks and Best Regards.

  5. 5 Gregg Willison said at 3:34 pm on January 18th, 2010:

    I recently graduated from Kriger Research International with a certificate in the CRA program. Last year in June I recieved my certificate in the Quality Assurance/Regulatory Affairs program. I have a BLA in Biology and Business Admin and an Associates in Psych. My 14 years of experience in management/supervisor positions in the blood banking, plasma and platelet industry has given me a vast array of skills and experience. However, I am desperately trying to get my foot in the door as a CRA or QA/Regulatory Affairs position. I am redoing my resume trying to at least keep it to one page and using key words that pop out. What advice can you give me if I live in Springfield,Mo and am trying to locate to California where the industry is obviously more advanced and better opportunities exist?

  6. 6 mirza kahkashan said at 8:55 pm on March 17th, 2010:

    I wz very much worried about how to start my resume s i m new and just in II semester of Masters in Science in CLIINCAL RESEARCH & REGULATORY AFFAIRS .

    very many thanks…

  7. 7 Cheryl MacDonald said at 11:21 am on September 17th, 2010:

    I will be taking a Clinical Research Certification course at Boston College this fall and need to prepare a clinical research resume. This information was very helpful as to what to highlight and focus on when building the resume, and thanks for the Toastmaster’s link!

  8. 8 sunny said at 12:22 pm on February 1st, 2011:

    respected sir/mam,
    i am really grateful for all the information provided for making our resumes.. thank u .. thanks a ton… we wish u all success for the future en devours..

  9. 9 vimala koritala said at 3:05 am on March 9th, 2011:

    we need a copy of sample resume format.satisfied with guidelines but not clearly

  10. 10 cliniversity said at 5:18 am on April 14th, 2011:

    Very well written post. Its crisp and to the point. I will recommend all aspirants to have a look at your blog.

    Cheers!

  11. 11 Headhunter said at 1:04 pm on June 11th, 2011:

    Thank you!

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  13. 13 Lloyd Irvin said at 8:58 pm on May 2nd, 2013:

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