Clinical Research Coordinator

Clinical trials are an essential component of medical research in which human participants are utilized to advance medical knowledge. These trials can be observational, where a group is simply studied without intervention, or clinical, where an intervention is applied to some or all of the participants.

According to the World Health Organization (Global Observatory on Health R&D 2018), there were 8,260 clinical trials performed in the United States in 2017. Without these trials, new treatments, procedures, and medicine wouldn’t reach the market. 

Clinical research coordinators are integral to the success of clinical research trials. They help manage much of the administrative work from budgeting, compliance, and reporting, in addition to helping execute the trial itself by obtaining informed consent, administering questionnaires, and screening applicants for eligibility. 

Below is an overview of the clinical research coordinator career, including steps to take to obtain a job, education needed, and the licensing requirements.

Clinical Research Coordinator Specializations & Degree Types

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Many colleges and universities offer degrees in clinical research both at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Roughly 56 percent of professionals in this career hold a bachelor’s, while 12 percent hold a master’s (O*NET Online “Clinical Research Coordinators” 2019).

There are even associate degree programs in clinical research such as the associate of applied science degree in clinical research at Oklahoma City Community College. Some students will choose to complete their education as a registered nurse (RN) prior to completing a certificate of mastery in clinical research and entering the field. Students who wish to pursue a career in clinical research can also major in a wide variety of health sciences degrees, including biology, public health, and health administration.

Admissions Requirements for Clinical Research Coordinator Programs

Clinical research coordinator program admission requirements vary by school, but nearly all require students to have graduated from high school or completed a GED. Bachelor’s degree programs often require an SAT or ACT score in addition to completion of specific high school classes such as foreign languages, advanced math, or science. Personal statement essays and letters of recommendation generally must be submitted as well.

Certificate programs frequently require that students have already completed either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Master’s programs require students to have completed a bachelor’s degree. Many programs look for GRE scores and work experience, in addition to personal essays, letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.

Clinical Research Coordinator Program Accreditation

While there is no national or regional accrediting body for clinical research coordinator programs, students can ensure that the program they are enrolling in is high quality by verifying what accreditation the school does hold. Students should look for schools that hold national or regional accreditation that is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the United States Department of Education (USDE).

On-Campus Clinical Research Coordinator Degree Programs

University of North Carolina, Wilmington – College of Health and Human Services School of Nursing

Completing a bachelor of science degree (BS) in clinical research at UNCW’s School of Nursing prepares students to navigate the regulatory, business, and clinical aspects of developing new therapies to treat diseases, extend life expectancy, and increase the quality of life. Students are required to take prerequisite courses and fulfill general university education requirements in their first two years at UNCW. In the spring of their sophomore year, they can apply for admission to the clinical research program. 

Once in the program, students take courses such as pharmacotherapeutics, bioanalytics, and managing clinical trials. Senior year requirements include an internship that gives students hands-on experience in the science and management of clinical research. 

  • Location: Wilmington, NC
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $9,254 per semester

Boston University – School of Medicine 

BU’s master’s in clinical research at Boston University’s School of Medicine is an outstanding program. Students attending full-time can complete this 32-credit program in just four semesters. An extensive practicum and capstone project are required to graduate. 

This program is ideal for physicians, nurses, research coordinators, and other professionals who want to learn how to manage clinical research. To apply for fall admission, students should submit their application, transcripts verifying a baccalaureate degree, letters of recommendation, and GRE scores. 

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Council on Medical Education of the American Medical Association (AMA)
  • Tuition: $78,509 total

Northwest Vista College

The associate’s of applied science in clinical research coordinator at Northwest Vista College prepares students to work in clinical research administration. The three-year program teaches students how to manage a clinical trial, including ethical and regulatory considerations. All students must take a Good Clinical Practice course, which teaches them internationally recognized standards to ensure their trials uphold high scientific standards. 

During the final year of the program, students must complete a clinical research internship. During this internship, students work with a local mentor in a clinical trial to develop objectives and then work towards meeting them. Internships can take place in businesses, universities, medical centers, or even pharmaceutical companies. 

  • Location: San Antonio, TX
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $466 per credit 

Pima Community College

At Pima Community College, aspiring clinical research coordinators can complete an associate’s in applied science in clinical research coordination. In addition to general education classes in writing, math, and science, students must complete 35 credits in clinical research coursework. 

Courses include an introduction to research data, product development and regulatory affairs, pharmacology for clinical trials, and research management. To graduate, students must complete an internship. Often, this internship can lead to job opportunities where the internship was completed. 

In order to be eligible for admissions to this competitive program, students must attend an in-person information session and have a meeting with the program director. They must also complete an online application, provide proof of health insurance, and submit immunization records.   

  • Location: Tucson, AZ
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $306 per credit 

Florida State College at Jacksonville

With a clinical research coordinator technical certificate from Florida State College at Jacksonville, students can find entry-level employment in clinical research. This program is targeted towards students who already have a health care background but may not have experience in clinical research.  These include nurses, medical assistants, and laboratory technicians, although students with a business background may also find this certificate useful. 

All students must complete 30 credits. Required classes include basic pharmacology for health information management, health data analysis, medical terminology for health professions, and research methods and applications. Credits completed for this certificate can be used to complete the clinical research professionals associate’s of science should a student chose to continue their education.  

  • Location: Jacksonville, FL
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $401.27 per credit

Online or Hybrid Clinical Research Coordinator Degree Programs

The George Washington University – School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Students who have already completed an associate degree or have between 45 to 60 transferable credits can apply for the GWU bachelor of science in clinical research administration. 

This online degree completion program comprises 60 credits and prepares students to work in the field of clinical research, where they can help bring new therapeutic treatments, devices, and practices to market. Students learn to write clinical development plans, navigate ethical considerations, and adhere to local, national, and federal regulations.   

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA)
  • Tuition: $38,100 total

Campbell University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

With the flexibility to complete courses at their leisure, students can find the online master of science in clinical research at Campbell University to be accessible and innovative. In as little as a year, students can earn a degree that prepares them for leadership roles in government agencies, biotechnology industries, and medical institutions. 

Required courses include data management, medical ethics, and healthcare economics. A four-semester research-based project is required as well. Students typically find employment as project managers, biostatisticians, and clinical research coordinators upon graduation. 

  • Location: Buies Creek, NC 
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $925 per credit

Drexel University College of Medicine

The online master’s in clinical research management, organization, and administration at Drexel University can help jump-start a clinical research career. Targeted at professionals who already work in clinical research, this master’s provides the credentials and education to step into management. 

Unlike other clinical research management programs, this program doesn’t have a set curriculum. Students must complete courses in seven key areas, but they can select which courses based on their interests and aspirations. 

Graduates of this program will have the skill to apply frameworks and philosophies to clinical research, employ good clinical practices, utilize statistics to make decisions, and adhere to a high ethical and regulatory standard. 

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA 
  • Duration: Two to three years
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $1200 per credit 

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Sometimes clinical research coordinators find themselves working in the field with little to no training. The clinical research coordinator training at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is designed specifically for these professionals. This program is offered as a two-day in-person or five-session online class and is a crash course in clinical trial coordination. It covers the basics of Good Clinical Practice, clinical research conduct, and federal regulations.

While this program is not intended to replace a full program of study, it can provide valuable information in a short period of time to professionals who need it right away. Students can also expect to receive many tools and templates to help get them up and running as quickly as possible. 

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Duration: Two days or five sessions
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $199 to $499

University of Central Florida College of Health and Public Affairs

The University of Central Florida College of Health and Public Affairs offers both an online master’s degree and an online graduate certificate in research administration. Both programs provide students with an in-depth understanding of research practices, ethics, and regulation. While the master’s program is 36 credits and approximately two years, the certificate is only 18 credits and can be completed in just one year. Credits earned as part of the certificate can later be used to earn the master’s, should a student continue their studies. 

This program encompasses all aspects of research administration and does not limit itself to just clinical research. This can be advantageous for students as they learn about intellectual property protection, commercialization, and strategic planning, which they may not get in a traditional clinical research program. 

  • Location: Orlando, FL
  • Duration: One to two years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $715.80 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Clinical Research Coordinator?

After graduating from high school, students can expect to spend two to four years completing their clinical research coordinator education. Then, depending on what kind of degree was obtained, students need to secure employment in the field and complete 3,000 to 6,000 hours performing the essential job duties of a clinical research coordinator. Upon completion of the hours, they can sit for certification exams.

How To Become a Clinical Research Coordinator – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a Ged (Four Years)

Students who wish to pursue a career as a clinical research coordinator need to complete high school or acquire their GED. They are encouraged to have strong marks in math and science coursework in order to qualify for an undergraduate program. 

Step 2: Attend an Undergraduate College Program (Two to Four Years)

Professionals in the clinical research coordination field generally have some form of an undergraduate degree, be it a bachelor’s or associate degree. Although you can work in the field without one, securing employment, advancement, and certification can be difficult. 

Step 3: Gain Work Experience in the Clinical Research Field (18 Months to Three Years)

Once students have completed a degree in clinical research management or a similar field, they can seek employment in a clinical facility assisting with trials. Typical employers include hospitals, government agencies, universities, and pharmaceutical companies. 

Step 4: Obtain Certification (Timelines Vary)

Certification through the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) or the Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) can be completed once professionals have met the eligibility requirements and passed the appropriate test. Which certification a person should pursue depends largely on their professional aspirations and specific subfield.  

Step 5: Complete a Certificate or Master’s Degree Program (Optional, One to Two Years)

While a master’s degree or certification is not required to work in this field, obtaining further education can improve a professional’s chance for advancement. Also, professionals who continue their education can find it easier to participate in innovation within the field. 

What Do Clinical Research Coordinators Do?

Clinical research coordinators are responsible for overseeing and managing clinical research trials. Typically they work under a principal investigator and their duties can include:

  • Collecting data
  • Informing research participants about the study
  • Ensuring a trial adheres to federal, state, institutional, and local regulations
  • Administering questionnaires
  • Assisting in responding to any audits
  • Helping develop, categorize, and manage the project’s budget
  • Making sure the project follows guidelines, meets objectives, and stays on schedule 
  • Maintaining and categorizing all the study materials and findings
  • Preparing study materials
  • Screen subjects for eligibility
  • Conducting and safeguarding informed consent processes
  • Purchasing and maintaining study supplies
  • Participating in the study reporting process
  • Assisting with closing out the project upon completion

Clinical Research Coordinator Certifications & Licensure

There are two main licensing bodies for clinical research coordinators:

  1. The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) offers certification as a clinical research associate (CRA), clinical research coordinator (CRC), principal investigator (PI), and ACRP certified professional (ACRP-CP), as well as the subspecialties of ACRP medical device professional (ACRP-MDP), and ACRP project manager (ACRP-PM).
  2. The Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) offers a certified clinical research professional (CCRP) certification.

Professionals in the field who want to continue their education or improve their chances of advancement can seek any number of clinical research coordinator certificates offered at universities across the U.S. Some are completely online, such as the graduate certificate program at Boston University’s School of Medicine. Other courses are in person, such as the certificate of mastery in clinical research offered by Oklahoma City Community College.

How Much Do Clinical Research Coordinators Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS May 2019) there are over 60,000 people working in the field of “natural science managers,” which includes clinical research coordinators. On average, professionals in this field make $133,670 annually. The percentiles for wages were: 

  • 10th percentile: $62,080
  • 25th percentile: $88,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $118,970
  • 75th percentile: $159,750
  • 90th percentile: More than $208,000

Clinical Research Coordinator Alternatives

Here are two alternatives to a career as a clinical research coordinator. 

Become a Health Data Analyst

Health data analysts collect and analyze various types of healthcare data in order to inform systems of care. These highly trained informatics professionals drive the continuing evolution of healthcare institutions with their unique mix of specialized healthcare knowledge and data analysis skills.

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization:  American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

Become an Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists gather data and perform research to help protect the environment and human health. They can work in the field or in a lab, collect data, analyze results, develop plans and protocols to fix environmental problems, and prepare technical reports of their research and findings. 

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Ecological Society of America
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.