The role of clinical research associates

The role of clinical research associates (CRAs) is to coordinate clinical trials of new drugs before they enter the market. An interesting and well-paid job with a range of responsibilities, let’s look at what the role entails and how to enter the world of medicine by becoming a professional CRA.

Where will I work?

A clinical research associate will generally work for a pharmaceutical company; alternatively, they can be employed by a contract research organization that undertakes clinical trials on behalf of such companies. Your daily tasks are likely to be split between days in the office and days at trial sites observing volunteer patients; therefore, your hours are likely to be relatively flexible. The associate may also work closely with Patient Recruitment Services such as those offered by to recruit the most suitable volunteers for the studies that are being undertaken.

Trials are often set up in hospitals or GP surgeries where NHS doctors are on hand. You may be required to travel between trial sites, some of which could be abroad and require overnight stays; however, there are also opportunities to carry out administrative work from home, which can be very attractive to those with families.

What will I do?

A clinical research associate’s time will often be quite pressured, with various trials being coordinated at once; therefore, good time management is key. The role itself is very varied and people-oriented, meaning that is very difficult to become bored. Level 1 CRAs will assist with the administration of trials, whereas level 2 CRAs coordinate the trials.

Although it is costly to conduct trials in the UK when compared with other companies in Europe and Asia, firms often prefer to use the UK as a research base and utilise our NHS service’s strong patient base as a resource. Anyone can search the wide range of clinical trials being conducted in accordance with the NHS via the NHS website.

How to apply?

Candidates usually require a degree in medicine or a life science; however, some senior members are known to have joined from nursing or with PhDs. A level of training is required and the Institute of Clinical Research runs accredited courses to suit these requirements.

Employers usually take on graduates as monitors and trial assistants to allow them to gain experience before paying for their full CRA training.

Trainees can expect to earn in excess of £24,000 per annum, whilst fully qualified CRAs can earn in excess of £40,000.