How To Become a Clinical Research Assistant

If you have an interest in science, a desire to help discover new medical breakthroughs, and excellent analytical and critical-thinking skills, you might wonder how to become a clinical research assistant. Clinical research tests new pharmaceutical medications, medical devices and medical or behavioral treatments, therapies and interventions. Without clinical research, scientist could not have discovered many of the medications and devices in use today that help people live healthier, more active lives. There would be no chance at pioneering advanced diagnostic tests or a cure for cancer. Clinical research assistants have the opportunity to be directly involved in this exciting scientific field.

In clinical trials at hospitals, universities and other science labs and research facilities, a clinical research assistant is responsible for handling study materials, which may include potentially hazardous chemicals and specimens. Organizing and preparing laboratory settings for research may fall under the job description. If the study involves human subjects, clinical research assistants may be responsible for interviewing, selecting, and maintaining contact with these participants. Once the research trial begins, these professionals educate subjects and gather data relevant to the study.

As the word ‘assistant’ implies, these professionals do not manage others. They work under the supervision of the principal investigator (PI), who is in charge of the study. Clinical research assistants may have the opportunity to work with and learn from upper-level researchers and technicians. Although they are typically not involved in the management or development of the study, these professionals play an important role in research, observing and recording results.

Because the job of a clinical research assistant is intrinsically technical, a background in some discipline of science is often a requirement for securing this position. Employers typically look for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in biology, life sciences, chemistry, nursing or another health or science field. Because clinical research assistants must have a thorough understanding of medical terminology, courses in anatomy and physiology are essential, as is a solid understanding of mathematics. Additionally, aspiring clinical research assistants should follow investigators’ instructions precisely, be observant when monitoring progress, and be driven to learn and innovate. Finding a job as a clinical research assistant may require up to two years of experience, which many candidates get during their educational career as graduate or undergraduate research assistants in their college’s research laboratory.

Clinical research assistants earn a median annual salary of $34,426, according to After gaining experience in this entry-level position, these professionals may choose to move into higher-level positions in clinical research that have more responsibility, or to increase their earning potential by pursuing an advanced degree. For many clinical research assistants, the appeal of the profession lies in helping discover new medical advances to help heal the injured and sick or prevent diseases altogether. If you enjoy working in a laboratory setting and want to enter a career in science, knowing how to become a clinical research assistant may be the start of a rewarding new career.

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