Clinical research associate
Life Sciences

Clinical research associates help to organise and monitor the different phases of clinical trials of drugs.

Work Activities

Key responsibilities include:

  • writing drug trial methodologies (procedures)
  • identifying and briefing appropriate trial investigators (clinicians)
  • setting up and disbanding trial study centres
  • designing trial materials and supplying study centres with sufficient quantities
  • providing clinicians with instructions on how to conduct the trials
  • collecting and authenticating data collection forms (commonly known as case report forms)
  • monitoring progress throughout the duration of the trial
  • writing reports

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills for clinical research associates

  • Commercial awareness
  • A logical and inquisitive mind
  • Good organisational abilities
  • Excellent numerical, written and verbal communication skills
  • Confidence

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of clinical research associates

  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Clinical contract agencies or houses
  • Hospital academic departments

As there is strong competition for vacancies, work experience gained using relevant scientific and analytical techniques can be useful, as can previous nursing, medical sales, pharmaceutical research and clinical laboratory work. Vacancies are advertised by specialist recruitment agencies, online, in national newspapers and in scientific journals such as Clinical Research Focus, Nursing Times, New Scientist, Nature and The Pharmaceutical Journal.

  • The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. read the TARGETjobs article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.


Qualifications and training required

To become a CRA it is necessary to hold an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in nursing, life sciences (for example, biology, microbiology, toxicology, biochemistry, or pharmacology) or medical sciences (such as physiology, immunology, medicine, anatomy or pharmacy). read the TARGETjobs article on scientific postgraduate study to explore your different options and visit the science section of TARGETpostgrad for lots more advice. Doing a PhD may improve your promotional prospects (some employers provide opportunities to gain higher professional qualifications via block or day release).

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