How Can I Become a Clinical Trial Coordinator?

Explore the career requirements for clinical trial coordinators. Get the facts about education requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Clinical Trial Coordinator?

Clinical trial coordinators organize and manage clinical studies with human subjects. They assist with planning of the trial, including experimental design and budget planning, as well as the coordination of all scientists involved in the project. They also make sure that the trial remains in regulatory compliance and that there are no conflicts of interest. After the study is complete, they may be involved in the communication of the results to the public in an understandable way.

Learn about the educational options and earning potential for jobs in this field from the following table.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree is typical; associate's degree is sufficient for some positions
Education Field of Study Clinical research coordination
Medical assisting
Certification Option Association of Clinical Research Professionals certification may be preferred or required by some employers
Key Skills Detail-oriented, safety conscious, medical knowledge
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% (for all natural science managers)*
Median Salary (2017) $47,838**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

What Does a Clinical Trial Coordinator Do?

A clinical trial coordinator, also called a clinical research coordinator, manages clinical research projects and makes sure that the projects follow protocol. In this position, you would help to ensure that new medicines are safe for human use by testing them on human participants and observing the effects of the drugs. You would document the informed consent of participants, drug dispensation records and case report forms.

Other job duties might include:

  • Recruiting and reviewing potential subjects
  • Creating research project protocol
  • Recording side effects
  • Observing government standards and institutional policies

You might find work in a large hospital or an independent laboratory. Some clinical trial coordinators must work rotating shifts and have inconsistent schedules, so you may need to work weekends and holidays.

What Training Do I Need?

The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) recognizes several educational paths to becoming a clinical trial coordinator who is eligible for certification. You could study for an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree or become a registered nurse. You may also be eligible for entry-level work if you have worked as a medical assistant or possess a high school diploma with appropriate experience; however, the majority of clinical trial coordinators hold a bachelor's degree.

Yearlong training programs in clinical research coordination are offered for graduates who possess a bachelor's degree. You might also enter this kind of program if you work in the clinical research industry and want to become qualified for a coordinator position. In a training program, you would learn about clinical research, medical terminology, drug development and human subject protection.

How Do I Become Certified?

Certification is available through the ACRP and shows that your experience and qualifications have been recognized by the organization. By meeting certification standards you lessen the risks for research subjects. To be eligible for the exam, you must meet the organization's educational requirements and have two years of full-time or equivalent part-time experience in clinical research. You can choose to take the certification exam in March or September of any year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you're interested in the management side of healthcare, a career as a health services manager might be worth pursuing. Instead of overseeing a specific research project, you would be responsible for overseeing the daily operations of a medical facility or hospital unit. This job usually requires a bachelor's degree and prior work experience. Alternatively, if you're looking to get involved in the research itself, you might want to become a biological technician in a lab that does medical or translational research. Your job would be to assist with experimental testing and analysis. A bachelor's degree is usually required for an entry-level position.

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