New Scientist recently published a career ‘case study‘, detailing how Linda Murray, a parasitologist and research assistant made the transition from the lab to a coveted job as a clinical research associate. After sending some resumes, she was lucky to land a role as a clinical trial associate with a CRO — an entry level step that gave her a good overview of the clinical research process.
Unfortunately, the article is not tremendously enlightening about what aspect of Linda’s approach led to her success. She had a friend who was already working as a CRA, which may have helped her to network and put her resume in front of the right people. Additionally, being able to ask someone who’s knowledgeable for insight into the industry can be a huge advantage — that’s basically what an informational interview is all about. Sometimes, luck plays a role as well — if a CRO has just landed a contract for a big new trial, they may need to quickly adjust their staff levels to manage the workload. You may be able to give yourself an edge and increase your chances of being in the “right place at the right time” by reading trade magazines and industry newswatch websites to find out when trials are announced or contracts are awarded.
We’ve published a number of articles about the CRA career path that may help you find your own way to a career in clinical research. Please check them out — and good luck in your search.
Clinical Research Associate jobs are in high demand. CRA jobs pay well, are often home-based, and offer a relatively high degree of personal autonomy. It’s a job that offers a good mix of solo time as well as working with others, and it’s a job where you can really feel like your work matters, because you’re contributing to the safe development of new drugs that can improve lives. The CRA role hasn’t changed a great deal over the years, with the exception of the increasing adoption of electronic methods for collecting case reports. But the nature of CRA employment has changed and is continuing to shift as companies change the way they do business. This article will discuss the four most common CRA employment arrangements and make some predictions for the future. Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s an amusing look at a day in the life of a CRA (Clinical Research Associate) on a site visit. This video is a parody, but it does give you a sense of what site visits are all about.
A CRA may spend 60-80% of their time on the road conducting these visits. Their job is to monitor the conduct of clinical trials, ensuring that research sites are enrolling patients and carrying out the trial correctly, following both the trial protocol and ICH-GCP conduct guidelines. They review a lot of documentation, check site supplies and generally watch out for problems.
When there are problems, a CRA needs to help get the clinical site staff back on the right track, and so they need to have excellent communication and negotiation skills. It can take a lot of diplomacy to get clinical investigators and their staff to change the way they do things in a busy clinic!
The sound in the embedded clip isn’t synchronized quite right. You can see a higher-quality version at the ResearchPoint site. They are the CRO (Contract Research Organization) that created the video.
You can read more about what a CRA job is all about in this earlier article.
Clinical Research Associate jobs are in high demand, partly because many people think that becoming a CRA is a career pathway that will help them make money fast.
Are they right?
Applied Clinical Trials, a trade magazine for the clinical development sector, recently published its 2008 salary survey, which includes salary information for clinical research associates as well as other clinical careers.
According to the survey, independent CRAs earn more than anyone else in the industry — $115K on average — although it’s worth noting that as independents, they have to pay for their own benefits and the costs of marketing their services. Of course, there can be tax advantages to running your own business as well.
The mean salary for CRAs who weren’t self-employed was $76K.
You can read more about the survey at the Applied Clinical Trials website.