How to choose a clinical research training program

It’s getting to the point where you can’t open a newspaper or current affairs magazine without reading an article about how difficult it is to get a decent job these days. See, for example, “The Youth Unemployment Bomb” in Business Week or “The Outsiders” in the Economist. Many new graduates leave college deep in debt, and find that their degree is not quite the ticket to ride they had thought it would be. As a result, many are deciding to head back to school to pursue career-focused postgraduate education.

Career colleges and ‘practical’ masters degree programs are a very visible example of supply and demand. If a particular job category is seen as ‘hot’, you can bet you’ll be able to find a college ready to sell you a postgraduate program promising to prepare you for the field. Some require a year or more of classwork, whereas others offer results from a short online program. Many promise internships, co-op placements and opportunities to network with industry professionals. This is definitely true of the pharmaceutical sector: there are almost too many programs to count offering classes, certificates and degrees in clinical research, regulatory affairs, pharmaceutical quality control, and just about any other role in the sector.

Personally, I think this is a pretty disgusting development. It used to be that new graduates would be given a chance at an entry-level role, and trained on the job. Their college diploma or graduate degree was sufficient evidence to show that they were smart enough and determined enough to be given a chance to perform. Many of the current leaders in the pharmaceutical industry got where they are after being hired right out of school with little or no ‘real-world’ experience. Nowadays, students pay through the nose for their undergraduate education, only to find that they are expected to pay even more when they finish. They attend career colleges in order to gain access to internships, paying tuition instead of receiving a paycheque as they get that vitally-important entry level experience. It seems like an incredibly exploitative system.

Clearly, this can be a treacherous – and expensive – path for someone who’s simply trying to get their foot in the door to begin their working life. If you are trying to fulfill your career goals of becoming a clinical research associate, for example, how do you navigate this maze of choices, avoid ripoffs and scams, and find a program that’s right for you?

If you have decided that some additional training is the right next step for you, here are some things to look for when researching and choosing which institution will receive your hard-earned dollars:

(1) Bricks and mortar. One of the greatest advantages that a career training program can offer is the opportunity to build your network with people who are, or soon will be working in the pharmaceutical industry. Online programs simply can’t offer the same chance to get to know your classmates and teachers.

(2) Professional faculty: Your program should be taught by people with current, real-world experience in the industry. The program website should offer detailed bios on all lecturers and guest speakers. Google their names, and make sure that their pharmaceutical industry experience is relevant, significant, and recent. Clinical research, regulatory affairs and other pharmaceutical careers are very dynamic. You want to be sure you’re learning from someone who has experience with the most current facets of the industry.

(3) Pedigree/Reputation. In order for the program to add cachet to your resume, people will have to have heard of it. For this reason, a program that’s affiliated with a well-known institution may be better than a small standalone career college. If you’re not sure about the program’s reputation, do some investigating! Post a question to a relevant linkedin group, or ask for recommendations during your informational interviews. You can also check with professional organizations (like ACRP or SoCRA for clinical research) to see what programs they suggest.


Posted: August 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Clinical research, Education, Resources, Training | 2 Comments »

BIO Career Fair – June 27

Just thought I’d share this announcement I got in my email recently.  BIO is, of course, possibly the largest biotechnology meeting/conference in North America.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted: June 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Industry associations, Interviewing, networking | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Resources for your pharmaceutical job search

As you know, I am a huge believer that doing self-study and learning about the pharmaceutical industry job you hope to fill is an important step in preparing for a successful job search. These are just some quick links to books that might be helpful in finding a job in the pharmaceutical industry.

These books cover a wide range, from general pharmaceutical career advice, to detailed specifics about business development, pharmaceutical sales, medical science liaisons, clinical research, regulatory affairs and medical writing. I will follow up on each of these books in more detail in future posts.
Read the rest of this entry »


Posted: March 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Business Development, Clinical research, Clinical Research Associates, Medical Science Liaisons, Regulatory affairs, Resources, Sales | No Comments »

Using LinkedIn to find Clinical Research Jobs: Part 1

The Blue Sky Resumes blog has a great post, the 7 Mistakes You’re Probably Making on LinkedIn.

The pharmaceutical and biotech sectors have been enthusiastic adopters of this social networking site. If you’ve ever wondered how to find the names of people to call for informational interviews, or for personalizing your cover letters, this is your answer.

These days, LinkedIn should definitely be a part of your networking strategy but you can’t just put up a profile and forget it.   Louise Fletcher’s advice will help your profile get attention.

If you’re trying to land a clinical research job, you should apply these tips on how to write a clinical research resume to your profile as well. Be sure to sign up for some LinkedIn groups that relate to your career goals (e.g. the Good Clinical Practice group).

In a future post, we’ll talk about how to use LinkedIn to actively build relationships, and discuss the value of other niche social networking sites.


Posted: February 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Informational interviews, networking, Resources, Resumes & CVs | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

How to prepare for a career as a medical science liaison

Medical Science Liaison jobs are often seen as the “Golden Ticket” for advanced degree holders looking at career options in the pharmaceutical industry. The thought of receiving a six-figure salary to travel from place to place discussing the latest scientific research is incredibly alluring, and many PhDs and postdocs see the skill sets required as a “perfect match” for their own experiences carrying out research and making presentations. But for most, MSL jobs remain out of reach, because they don’t think carefully about what the industry is looking for in applicants.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted: February 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Marketing, Medical Science Liaisons, networking, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »