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Clinical Research Assistant: Salary, Requirements and Job Outlook

Clinical research assistants work anywhere and everywhere that scientific studies are performed. They find subjects for clinical trials, help with collection and analysis of data, and assist in the evaluation of the results.

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Salary

Annual salaries for a clinical research assistant vary depending on relevant experience and specific employer. According to PayScale.com in December 2013, the majority of such assistants earn between $25,280 and $48,261 a year, with a median annual salary reported as $33,817 by the same source. Those employed by a college or university were reported to earn between $30,635 and $37,500 a year.

These few examples of annual earnings indicate a wide salary range. Education, experience, and skills in the specific research field are all factors in determining the salary of a clinical research assistant.

Requirements

Clinical research assistants work for hospitals, laboratories, and other institutions that conduct scientific studies. As a prerequisite, they are universally required to have at least a Bachelor of Science, usually in a life sciences or social sciences subject. Most employers require their research assistants to have significant education or experience in the specific field being researched. Biology, biotechnology, and psychology are just a few examples of degree majors than can lead to a career as a clinical research assistant.

In addition to the educational requirement, most clinical research assistants are expected to have some experience working in clinical trials. They should be constantly aware of proper clinical procedure and should have extensive knowledge regarding the subject being researched, as well as the technology used in the trial. Clinical research assistants are often asked to shoulder a majority of the responsibility when it comes to finding and interviewing potential participants for the trial. Other duties involve taking samples, collating and analyzing data, and helping to evaluate the possible implications of the trial's results. For these reasons, clinical research assistants must usually be both well-educated and experienced. For entry-level graduates seeking their first clinical position, laboratory and testing experience included in their degree program curriculum may satisfy both of these standards.

Job Outlook

There will always be clinical trials, so there will always be a need for clinical research assistants; however, those wishing to extend and make the most of their opportunities in this field should consider becoming a Clinical Research Associate (CRA). The CRA, or Monitor, has the job of overseeing research assistants and ensuring that clinical trials are run properly. Their responsibilities include informing trial subjects and securing their consent, maintaining good clinical practices over the course of the trial, and handling documents and reports.

Several colleges offer CRA training programs, many of which can also be found on-line. Admission to these programs almost always requires the applicant to have at minimum a bachelor's degree or certification as a healthcare professional such as an RN or an M.D.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides job outlook projection data for the positions of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians. While these job titles are not the equivalent to the clinical research assistant, the BLS notes that duties between the different positions often overlap and considers their job outlooks comparable. Between 2010 and 2020, employment for clinical laboratory technicians and technologists is expected to rise by 13%, from 330,600 positions to 373,500 (www.bls.gov).

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