How Do I Become a Certified Clinical Research Professional?

Research what it takes to be a certified clinical research professional. Learn about job duties, education, certification and salary 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 Certified Clinical Research Professional?

There are several different types of clinical research professionals. One option is to work as a clinical laboratory technologist, a job where you would collect samples and run tests on patient samples that medical researchers could use to better understand the origins and development of disease. Certification is only required in some states, but it can improve job prospects even in states where it is optional.

Another option is a job as a clinical research coordinator. These professionals are usually trained medical scientists, and they take care of the planning, coordination, and management of clinical trials and other translational research projects. They make sure that all the staff involved in research follow protocols and safety procedures for experiments. They may also record the progress of the research and help analyze the data as it is collected.

The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering the different levels of this profession.

Clinical Laboratory Technologist Clinical Research Coordinator
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Bachelor's, PhD &/or MD degrees
Education Field of Study Clinical research, medical laboratory technology, clinical laboratory science Bachelor's: biochemistry
PhD: Genetics, pathology
MD: medicine
Key Responsibilities Collect & analyze biological substances to find evidence of disease or medical conditions; provide findings to diagnosing physician; follow safety protocols regarding hazardous substances Design & manage research projects, supervise lab personnel, report findings
Licensure Required Licensing &/or certification required by some states &/or employers, specifics vary Physician license required in all states for gene therapy & practice of medicine
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14%* 13% for medical scientists, except epidemiologists*
Average Salary (2014) $61,860* $93,730 for medical scientists, except epidemiologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Where Could I Work?

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most research professionals work full time, splitting their time between offices and laboratories. You may find employment in the public and private sectors, working for organizations such as universities, federal agencies, research and development departments of tech companies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Your position may require long hours to meet deadlines and could possibly require working with hazardous materials involved with the research.

What Education and Training Do I Need?

There are several educational options at the undergraduate and graduate level if you're interested in a clinical research coordinator, also called a medical scientist, position. Certificate programs in clinical research are usually designed for people who already have a bachelor's degree in a scientific field (or an equivalent work background) and who wish to improve their expertise of research methodology. These programs typically take about one year to complete.

Undergraduate degree programs (both associate's and bachelor's) in clinical research are also available and are designed for students who wish to work in supportive roles in medical and scientific work settings that involve labs and research. Curricula for both certificate and undergraduate programs commonly include biology, math, statistics, data management, and diagnostics, among other topics that may prepare you to become a research associate or project manager at a lab. Alternatively, a bachelor's degree in a math or physical science may also provide you with the basic skills and knowledge to become a clinical research professional, once those are combined with work experience.

How Do I Become Certified?

The designation of Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP) is offered through the Society of Research Associates (SOCRA). This certification requires you to fulfill specific education and work requirements, pass an examination and be a member of the organization.

The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) also provides certification exams for credentials such as Clinical Research Associate, Clinical Research Coordinator, and Physician Investigator. These exams are offered twice a year, in March and September, and measure your knowledge base and ability to problem solve. In order to qualify for certification, the ACRP states that you need to meet both academic and professional experience requirements.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are looking for a research-related job outside of the field of medicine, you might want to think about becoming a forensic science technician. Instead of running tests on research subject samples like clinical laboratory technologists do, these professionals conduct experiments on chemical and biological specimens from crime scenes in order to help with criminal investigations. A bachelor's degree is typically required for this job. Alternatively, if you're looking for a different oversight position within the medical field, you could decide to become a health services manager. Instead of coordinating research studies, health services managers organize the operations of medical facilities and hospital units. You would need to earn at least a bachelor's degree before getting this job.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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