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Clinical Research Associate (CRA) Certifications and Schools

The development of drugs and medical devices depends heavily on the expertise of clinical research associates (CRAs). Earning certification in this field requires passing a series of exams, and you'll need to meet education and experience requirements in order to sit for these exams. Find out what your educational options are in the clinical research field.

What You Need to Know

Clinical research associates play a key part in producing the medical advances that extend and improve human life. Before a new drug, treatment or medical device is available to the general public, it must be tested for both safety and effectiveness. These research associates plan, perform, manage and monitor the testing procedures that make these advances possible.

Certification Certification available from the Society of Clinical Research Associates.
Degree Associate degree in clinical research; bachelor's, master's and graduate certificates also available
Responsibilities Clinical research associates plan, monitor, audit and evaluate results from research studies including both safety and efficacy data,

Sources: Society of Clinical Research Association.

What Type of Certification Can I Obtain as a Clinical Research Associate?

The Society of Clinical Research Associates (SoCRA) issues the Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP) credential to eligible applicants from a wide variety of disciplines who are conducting clinical research for the development of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. To earn the credential, you will be tested over a broad spectrum of internationally recognized research standards. The basis for your certification examination will derive from the International Conference on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use. The certification exams cover:

  • Research ethics
  • Laws and regulations
  • Trial lengths and parameters
  • Sponsorship
  • Financial disclosures
  • Research trial safety for clinicians and trial subjects.

The guidelines for Good Clinical Practice (GCP) also provide test material on quality assurance testing, randomization procedures and adverse effect reporting.

How Can I Become Eligible For Certification?

In order to be eligible, you need to be a current member of SoCRA working under approved GCP guidelines. A combination of professional experience and academic study will be required to apply for certification. You will need two full years of clinical research experience, a degree in clinical research (associate's, bachelor's or graduate), or a combination of a graduate certificate with a minimum number of professional research hours.

What Degree or Certificate Programs Are Available?

You may pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree in clinical research. You may also choose to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in clinical research. If you are already a medical professional, you may choose a graduate certificate program that will provide transferable career skills and enhance your professional development. Your program may involve a collection of lecture courses and laboratory practice. You may conduct supervised and autonomous research projects involving selecting research subjects, monitoring and keeping records, managing unanticipated problems or safety concerns, conducting audits and inspections, as well as interpreting data and providing statistical analysis.

Some schools that offer clinical research degree and certificate programs include:

  • Pima Community College
  • Durham Technical Community College
  • Boston College
  • George Washington University
  • University of California San Diego
  • University of North Carolina - Wilmington