Clinical Research

Case Study of a Clinical Research Associate

Christine graduated with a degree in biomedical science from the University of Glasgow in 2006. She now works as a Senior Clinical Research Associate (CRA) for a leading Clinical Research Organisation (CRO) and recently she has taken on the functional role of a Lead Senior Clinical Research Associate.

Here are some of her views about some common questions that she shared with the James Lind Institute:

Education and Skills Required to get a Job Opportunity in the Clinical Research Domain

When I graduated from the university I wanted to get into the clinical research field but didn’t know how. A friend of mine who was working as a CRA at that time with a reputed pharmaceutical company informed me that ant life science degree is enough to work as a CRA however the candidate must have a good understanding of clinical research process and thorough knowledge about various international guidelines and regulations to perform clinical trials. This encouraged me and I decided to pursue a training program in clinical research. After completing my training I took a laboratory job at the Veterinary Laboratory Agency where I worked for a few months. Then I interviewed at a global CRO for the position of a Clinical Research Assistant and was lucky enough to get hired. After working as an assistant I was promoted to the position of Clinical Research Associate and now after a few years of experience as a CRA and Sr. CRA I am going to be the Lead CRA for a global project. It has been an amazing learning experience. I think my diploma in clinical research helped me immensely.

Career Growth in the Clinical Research Industry

I worked as a Clinical Research Assistant for about 1 year before being promoted to the level of CRA I. I worked in this position for 2 more years before I got an offer of working with another large CRO as a CRA II. After working with them for 1 year as a CRA II, I was promoted to Senior CRA level.  I have been working as a Sr. CRA for about 3 years now and as I said I am now going to be the Lead CRA for a global project.  In my career I have now worked on tens of global studies, travelled many countries and learnt so many new things.

Typical Routine

My day varies significantly. It could be an 11-hour day comprising of travelling to different research locations either by car, train or plane, based on the research centres location. Alternatively, my day can be spent in the office on the phone with CRA’s throughout Europe, talking about study timelines and ensuring that we are on track to fulfil sponsor deadlines. The number of duties to be performed over the course of a clinical trial are endless. Every day is different from the last and this is one of the reasons why I like this field.

Job Satisfaction

The best thing about this role is the sense of working so as to approach an end target that will genuinely make a difference to the patients lives. When work deadlines are fast nearing and pressure levels are high, it can be easy to forget the bigger picture that without the role of the Clinical research professional, new medicines would not be developed.

When working on a clinical trial and hearing from the research staff that their subjects have really seen a progress in their quality of life since being on the trial, or from studying the subject satisfaction questionnaires, there is a feeling of achievement that what we do as an individual, an organization and an industry makes a difference.

How to Get Into the Clinical Research Field

If you would like to get into this field, there are so many opportunities out there. Being an under graduate or graduate searching for your first job can be challenging, but don’t give up your search. There are many CROs and pharmaceutical companies who are looking for people with life science degrees and a good understanding of clinical research, good organisational skills and attention to detail, so being capable to demonstrate these would be a good start. Make sure you are applying for jobs at the right place, in the way and with the right attitude.


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