Working as a clinical research associate (CRA) is a very rewarding career. Responsibilities of a CRA include helping to set up a clinical trail and then monitoring trial protocol once a study is up and running. Completing these tasks requires a special skill set and also has certain educational requirements. Those already employed in the health or pharmaceutical industries may already have many of the required credentials.
CRAs are required to have either a science degree or a nursing degree. A life science degree, such as in biology, pharmacy or biochemistry, is the most useful degree to have. Nurses looking to switch their career from bedside nursing into clinical research can do so by becoming a CRA. Certification as a CRA is available from many colleges and universities and can give job seekers an edge over the competition. Knowledge of good clinical practices can be obtained in a CRA certification program, which is a requirement when employed in the clinical research field. Graduate degrees in the medical field may be a prerequisite for moving into a senior CRA position.
Qualifying as a CRA requires a specific skill set. Functioning well as a team player is essential, but independent work is also required, which demands a certain amount of self-motivation. Communicating skillfully, both orally and in writing, is considered a necessity for this position. Monitoring large amounts of data requires a keen eye for detail, and those who travel well will fit into this position more easily, since some CRA positions require up to 70 percent travel. Confidentiality is essential in clinical trials, requiring a CRA to have strong ethics and morals.
CRA positions will usually require direct experience in a certain medical field such as oncology, orthopedics or neurology. Previous employment in any area of research may be enough, but generally CRAs often start off as research assistants or research coordinators. Work experience in medical sales, data management or a clinical laboratory is also helpful when attempting to become a CRA. Budgeting and managing people in past positions will also go a long way toward becoming a CRA.