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.
Annual salaries for a clinical research assistant vary depending on relevant experience and specific employer. The average annual salary for clinical research assistants based on nationwide job postings available in October, 2010 is $47,000, according to Indeed.com.
A survey by the University of California - San Diego website reports an annual salary of $25,334 for a clinical research assistant who graduated from the psychology program (career.ucsd.edu). Clinical research assistants and similar positions at the University at Buffalo make between $28,423 and $57,335 annually, according to the school's Research Foundation Salary Guidelines published in 2010 (hr.buffalo.edu).
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.
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.
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 2008 and 2018, employment for clinical laboratory technicians and technologists is expected to rise by 14%, from 328,100 positions to 373,600 (www.bls.gov).
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