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Clinical Research Jobs: How to Choose the Right Career Path

Clinical Research Jobs: How to Choose the Right Career Path

To start your career or find your next clinical research job, explore Xtalks Job Search's current openings.

Clinical research is part of a growing industry that provides individuals with rewarding career options and a ladder to climb. Working in the clinical trials industry allows clinical researchers to work with patients and bring new drugs to market.

There are many professions under the clinical research umbrella. To become a professional in this field, one must begin by achieving a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field. After that, different paths need to be taken for different job titles.

Wondering which clinical research job is right for you? Read more to learn about job titles within clinical research, including job descriptions, average annual salaries and the level of experience required to land the role.

To start applying to clinical research jobs now, check out the Xtalks Job Search to find a job that best suits you.

Clinical Research Coordinator

Clinical Research Coordinator Job Description

A clinical research coordinator works under the principal investigator’s direction, which is a person responsible for designing, conducting and managing clinical trials. The job involves supervising the trials and gathering patients by recruiting and screening them to make sure they fit into the inclusion criteria needed for the clinical trial. They are also in charge of ensuring that materials and supplies are safe and keep track of all the documents required during the study period.

Clinical research coordinators must ensure regulations are met and both safety and governmental rules are applied. Additionally, they may need to find and apply for funding and grants for the research, which entails putting together a budget plan for all the costs involved in conducting a trial.

Once that is completed and the trial begins, the clinical research coordinator will be responsible for ensuring that all team members are compliant with the rules and regulations. They will also ensure quality and organization is kept up to par to produce accurate reports.

Finally, the clinical research coordinator monitors the participants in the study to ensure they’re receiving quality medical care, but also to identify and record any adverse events that occurred during the clinical trial.

How To Become a Clinical Research Coordinator

To become a clinical research coordinator, one must earn a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field. This could then lead an applicant to receive an entry-level position in a clinical organization. A blend of education and experience within the clinical research field is required to be a professional clinical research coordinator, therefore, obtaining a clinical research certification allows employers to recognize that the knowledge required for the job has been acquired.

If an applicant has previous medical experience, then acquiring a certificate is all that is needed to receive a job in a clinical research coordinator position. However, if an applicant has no medical experience, some institutions offer degree programs to prepare them for entry-level employment, leading the applicant to be better equipped to pass a clinical research certification.

Clinical Research Coordinator Salary

According to Career Explorer, the average salary for a clinical research coordinator in the US is $112,044 annually. The wages can start at $57,324 per year and go up to $219,000 per year. The number of clinical research coordinator jobs is expected to grow by 10 percent by the year 2026.

Clinical Research Assistant

Clinical Research Assistant Job Description

A clinical research assistant is in charge of finding subjects for the clinical trial but is also involved in collecting, analysing and evaluating data and results received from the study.

Clinical research assistants are also responsible for preparing the lab, volunteers and taking samples, or checking the vitals for volunteers involved in the clinical trial.

A clinical research assistant’s job is to help the principal investigator of the clinical trial ensure they stay on track and are complying with the ethics and scientific requirements needed to achieve a successful trial. Being a clinical research assistant is an excellent place to start in the clinical research career path; it helps make landing a clinical research associate job down the line more achievable.

How to Become a Clinical Research Assistant

Because this is an entry-level position, becoming a clinical research assistant has minimal requirements, including obtaining a Bachelor of Science and some experience in the field that is being researched in the clinical trial.

Clinical Research Assistant

According to Salary, a clinical research assistant in the US makes around $64,000 annually. The average salary ranges between a low of $55,000 and a high of $73,900, depending on the person’s education, certifications, experience and additional skills that they could bring to the job.

Clinical Research Associate

Clinical Research Associate Job Description

A clinical research associate organizes and administers clinical trials of new or current drugs to study the benefits and risks of using them. They help manage and monitor the clinical trials’ different phases while focusing more on data, accuracy and quality control. The main difference between a clinical research associate and a clinical research coordinator is that an associate does not interact with patients but has more responsibility for data quality.

Some of the more detailed responsibilities of a clinical research associate include preparing site reports; ensuring that only qualified individuals are working as site staff and are adequately trained; ensuring that data collected is accurate and verified; making sure that the drugs used in the trial are returned or destroyed once the study is complete; and making sure that all documentation and information needed for a final report is completed to be sent to the sponsor.

How to Become a Clinical Research Associate

Becoming a clinical research associate can be a tough process as companies that conduct clinical trials must follow strict regulations; therefore, recruitment is selective. Thus, competition is high and previous experience, such as being a clinical research assistant, is required. Two years of monitoring experience, including roles as a clinical trial administrator or a clinical project assistant, is required to be qualified for a clinical research associate job.

Clinical Research Associate Salary

A clinical research associate makes $97,368 per year as an average base salary. However, the wage can differ depending on years of experience, starting at $81,505 for one to two years of experience, and $124,022 for individuals with six to nine years of experience.

Clinical Research Specialist

Clinical Research Specialist Job Description

 Like other clinical research job roles, clinical research specialists conduct their work in labs and offices. They control teams of professionals that plan for projects that are aimed at advancing treatments through clinical trials.

This high-level position requires advanced communication skills, professional knowledge within the clinical research field, the ability to manage a team and expertise in analyzing clinical data.

Clinical research specialists are responsible for developing protocols for the study, including the study design, risk assessments and research tools needed to ensure that the study is conducted with ethics and accuracy. Additionally, they are responsible for coordinating and managing the team by providing them with materials and information needed to progress in the study. They are also in charge of monitoring and ensuring that the team is compliant with protocols. Finally, they could be asked to analyze, document and prepare reports that would later be presented to the larger medical community.

How to Become a Clinical Research Specialist

To become a clinical research specialist, candidates are expected to have earned a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field and have previous management skills. Many employers prefer applicants to have received a postgraduate degree such as a Master of Science. Employers will also seek out applicants with a nursing degree or any other healthcare-related degree.

Furthermore, gaining experience in a relevant clinical research field is of utmost importance in order to understand the larger picture of the job. Interpersonal skills and a good understanding of the regulations set out by the FDA around appropriate documentation for clinical research are critical parts of this career path.

Clinical Research Specialist Salary

A clinical research specialist’s salary is around $82,308 per year.

Clinical Research Scientist

Clinical Research Scientist Job Description

 Clinical research scientists are responsible for performing scientific research and clinical investigations to study diseases and other illnesses to advance diagnosis and treatments. They also assist physicians in diagnosing patients by identifying health conditions.

Clinical research scientists may interact with patients depending on the stage of research the study is in. Nevertheless, they do assist doctors in providing an effective treatment plan for patients.

Furthermore, clinical research scientists mainly work in labs where they could interact with infectious specimens, requiring them to be familiar with best practices around handling patient samples. Additionally, troubleshooting minor problems related to lab equipment is also required to succeed in the job.

Clinical research scientists will also be expected to be proficient in computer software that aids in producing necessary graphs, slides and documents to present their findings to others as required by their employer. They also need to stay up to date with scientific findings published in the literature to build on previous research.

How to Become a Clinical Research Scientist

To become a clinical research scientist, a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field is required. Majors such as biology, biochemistry, pharmacology and, if possible, clinical research, aid in achieving the first steps in becoming a clinical research scientist. To act as a principal investigator in research, obtaining a master’s degree and a PhD is highly recommended. Having a doctoral degree will allow an applicant to achieve a lead researcher job within clinical research.

Experience in clinical research has helped many people become a clinical research scientist, with previous positions as a clinical research associate or assistant being an asset. Earning certifications and gaining further experience will aid in achieving leadership roles.

Clinical Research Scientist Salary

According to Payscale, the average salary for a clinical research scientist is $103,927 annually, with a base salary of $75,295.


A clinical research job can be rewarding as clinical trials develop new therapies to improve patients’ quality of life. The outlook for a career in clinical research is promising.

According to the results of a survey from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP), monthly job posting for clinical trial positions increased by 9.3 percent over the last three years. This is because there has been a 12.2 percent growth in the number of clinical trials from 2016 to 2019.

Furthermore, there is a lot of investment in this sector because of the level of innovation taking place within the clinical research field. As clinical trials continue to deliver data supporting the approval of new drugs and devices, more investments are being made on an international scale, providing a lot of growth in this industry.

Grand View Research states that “the global clinical trial market size was estimated at $44.3 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.7 percent from 2021 to 2028.” Furthermore, the market size value in 2021 is estimated to be $47 billion with a forecasted revenue of $69.5 billion in 2028.

To start your career or find your next clinical research job, explore Xtalks Job Search’s current openings.