How Do I Become a Clinical Research Coordinator?

If you are well-organized and have an interest in the healthcare industry but don’t necessarily want to treat patients, you might be wondering how to become a clinical research coordinator. Whenever clinical research for a new medical procedure, medical device, behavioral therapy or medication involves human subjects, concerns arise about ethics and scientific quality. A clinical research coordinator’s job is to organize and manage aspects of the research project in order to ensure that all of these concerns are dealt with appropriately. Though the principal investigator (PI) of a research initiative manages the project, a clinical research coordinator plays a large role in making sure that human subjects are treated ethically and research methods aren’t flawed.

If clinical research is conducted in a manner that is haphazard, biased, or otherwise not up to the standards of quality scientific research, these mistakes can undermine the validity of the results. The time and expense that investigators, subjects, institutions and companies put into the study becomes a waste. Additionally, when the studies call for human subjects, investigators must take care to obey all guidelines set by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) and any relevant government regulations. Investigators and those backing the research have a lot to lose if the project is not executed correctly, which is why they depend on clinical research coordinators.

A clinical research coordinator is involved in studies from the earliest stages. They examine literature on the subjects involved in the research, including scholarly articles and the published results of past related studies. They help shape the research proposal and the procedures that investigators will follow during the course of the study. Clinical research coordinators have a hand in drafting documents related to the study as well as selecting participants. As the research progresses, these professionals administer treatments or medications and gather data, keeping written records. They ensure that all investigators involved in the study are following the correct protocol.

Because clinical research requires a thorough understanding of science and appropriate research practices, candidates must possess a scientific background. Often, the career choice appeals to nurses, either registered nurses (RN) or licensed practice nurses (LPN). Earning a bachelor’s degree in clinical research, health, engineering or another discipline of science is a good place for aspiring clinical research coordinators to start, though associate’s degree programs and certificate programs also exist. For many positions in this occupation, qualifications include at least one to two years of experience in the clinical research field. The Association of Clinical Research Professionals offers a certification opportunity accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, and the Society of Clinical Research Associates offers an independent, unaccredited certification.

Clinical research coordinators earn a median salary of $54,105 per year, according to, though wages vary based on education, experience, and location. If you have an interest in science and excellent organizational skills, knowing how to become a clinical research coordinator could be the start of a fast-paced, exciting new career.

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