Clinical Research Degrees by Program Level
Clinical research as a field of study involves the testing of various medicines, products and treatments for effectiveness and safety. Professionals work in biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device industries, among others. Associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs in clinical research are available.
Associate's Degree in Clinical Research Coordination
In an associate's-level program for clinical research coordinators, students learn to set up and manage the development of new medicines, products and health treatments. Learning how to work with human subjects is mandatory. Many programs focus on lab skills, pharmacology and data collection as well as analysis. At most schools, the goal of an associate's program is to prepare students to assist a head researcher or investigator in a lab setting.
Many programs offer fieldwork overseen by professionals. Students take classes primarily focused on the processes and practices of clinical research, from terminology to protocol to practical application. Core courses are typically combined with a standard liberal arts curriculum. Following are a few courses a typical associate's degree program in the field might include:
- Clinical research regulations
- Site management in clinical research
- Clinical data analysis
- Research management
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Although an associate's degree in clinical research coordination is often a background for further education in clinical research or related fields, graduates may find entry-level positions that can lead to becoming a clinical research coordinator. Most of these positions consist of assisting at hospitals, doctor's offices, universities or private research and pharmaceutical companies. According to PayScale.com in November 2010, clinical research coordinator salaries ranged from $35,664-$52,490.
Bachelor's Degree in Clinical Research
Although available, bachelor's degree programs in clinical research are relatively uncommon. A candidate's studies at this level cover the testing and development of new medications, as well as the gathering and analysis of evidence. Additionally, patient care topics are covered. Curricula include significant amounts of hands-on training in actual lab environments.
Baccalaureate programs in clinical research include general education courses covering biology and and chemistry. It's common for an internship to be the focus of the senior year. Core courses cover:
- Drug development
- Clinical study administration
- New product development
- Data management
- Laboratory clinical assessment
Popular Career Options
Individuals with a bachelor's degree in clinical research can find employment in a wide variety of fields. Possible places of employment include but are not limited to organizations that research contracts, government agencies, health facilities, private pharmaceutical companies and universities. A few position possibilities include:
- Research associate
- Government trial compliance investigator
- Clinical trial designer
Master's Degree in Clinical Research
Master's programs in clinical research are geared for various audiences, including both students pursuing further or related study in the field following completion of their bachelor's degree as well as professionals already holding degrees in areas such as pharmacy, nursing and medicine. Programs are sometimes available on a part-time basis, and classes may be held in the evenings in order to accommodate working individuals. At the master's level, there is less study of theory and more practical application of knowledge in clinical settings.
Prerequisites for enrollment at the master's level vary depending on the program's intended students. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement. However, some programs designed for practicing professionals might also stipulate a graduate degree in a health-related discipline as well as minimum amount of work experience in a relevant field.
At the master's level, coursework tends to be focused on applying previous training in clinical research and scientific methods to real-world environments. Independent study, hands-on projects and seminars are usually built into the curriculum as well. Classes may include:
- Research project management
- Advanced data analysis
- Research in health services
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Students seeking a master's degree in clinical research usually do so to complement other professional pursuits relating to health and medicine. Graduates often apply their specialized studies in clinical research to their current professional field, often as administrators or head researchers. Salaries vary according to the field.
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