What Does a Clinical Research Associate Do?

Clinical research associates (CRAs) perform jobs that ensure the safety of research participants.

They do this by ensuring that the research is conducted according to international standards for human research. Sounds pretty cool, right? 

If protecting other human beings while being part of new discoveries sounds like a satisfying career to you, then keep reading to find out exactly what this job entails!

What Does a Clinical Research Coordinator Do? 

At this point, you may be thinking to yourself that this article was supposed to be about CRAs,  so why are we talking about what clinical research coordinators (CRCs) do? Well, technically, we’re still talking about the same job. CRAs often go by various titles, including clinical research coordinators, clinical program managers, clinical research administrators, and clinical trial associates.

Now that we explained that potentially confusing aspect of the job, let’s jump right into the question of what this job actually entails. If we take the title at face value, we may come away with the impression that this job involves the coordination of research, and you’d be right on the money with this assumption. 

A CRA is involved with the monitoring and overseeing of research, especially research involving humans. If you look at the job description described by the Occupational Network, you’ll see that Clinical Research Coordinators “direct the activities of workers engaged in clinical research projects to ensure compliance with protocols and overall clinical objectives.”

There will be quite a bit of organization and interpersonal communication with this career, so those wanting to enter this job should ensure they are effective oral and written communicators. Statistics show that 98% of those working in this job use a telephone every day, followed by email, then interpersonal interactions with small groups. Although communication is an integral part of the job, documentation and ensuring that those you’re working with are following regulatory compliance is another work activity you’ll spend a lot of your time doing.

Why Do You Want To Be a Clinical Research Associate? 

Before taking the time to go through the educational requirements and certification examinations to become a CRA, you should ask yourself why you want to pursue this career first. For some individuals, this is an ideal career as the job places a premium on organization and attention to detail, which some people have more than others. Others may be drawn to the excitement of discovering new knowledge, while some choose this career because the job places them in a position to ensure humans are safe while research is being conducted. 

There are no right or wrong answers here, but it is essential to find your reasons for choosing this career, as there will inevitably be difficult times you’ll encounter while gaining the experience and credentials necessary to start working this job. Having clarity of purpose often makes these situations more bearable. 

Another advantage of becoming a CRA is the high salary one can expect after getting a job. The majority (56%) of people employed in this job have a bachelor’s degree, with only 12% having a master’s degree. In 2018, there was a reported 63,500 people employed as CRAs, and the field is expected to grow at an average rate of 4-6% in the decade that follows 2018. Those employed in this job reported a median income of $62.07 per hour, which calculated over a year’s worth of work comes out to just over $129,000 per year!

What Is Clinical Research Operations?

Clinical research operations, while being a job, can also describe a group of people that are responsible for the smooth functioning and operations of a research study. Individuals employed in clinical research operations are responsible for ensuring that the study has the necessary human participation needed to be safe and reliable. 

Those employed in clinical research operations are highly valued because many of those employed in clinical research are involved with pharmaceuticals research. Clinical research operations ensure that the research is conducted efficiently so that the company can get its product to market and make money quickly. The immense potential for profits with efficiently completed research and the specialized skillsets necessary to manage research operations explains the high salaries offered to those in these positions.