Advice for a newly graduate on the pursuit of becoming a CRA?

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Comments (4)

Anh Phan in Los Angeles, California

14 months ago

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with an emphasis in genetics and have ~8 months of laboratory experience in an academic lab researching on mammalian genetics and bioinformatics. I was recently hired as a clinical laboratory assistant at a CRO 2 weeks ago and I just want to know what should be my next steps in becoming a CRA. I know I should gain at least 2 years of experience but I am not sure about the certification aspect. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Paula in Windsor, Connecticut

14 months ago

Hi Ahn,

In order to become a CRA, start by transitioning out of the lab. CRA promotions rarely come from the bench as it's hard to convince hiring managers that lab work is similar to research on real life human beings. The most important thing a CRA does is protect the rights and safety of people in research studies and you won't get that in the lab.

A clinical trial assistant (CTA) will likely be the next stepping stone before becoming a CRA. Positions are numerous for new grads at CROs.

You don't need to worry about getting certified at this point in time. Certifications are only available for people who have worked as a CRA for two years (not a CTA, not as lab assistant- the time spent in those jobs won't count)

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Anh Phan in Los Angeles, California

14 months ago

Hi Paula,

I was researching and a few people talked about transitioning from a clinical lab assistant into a clinical research coordinator. So the impression I get is that I should focus on getting promoted from a clinical lab assistant to lab coordinator after having enough experience before I am qualified to become a CRA.

Do you think if I were to pursue a masters in Biology in the meantime benefit me or make me unappealing/overqualified? Thank you in advance!

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Mather in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

14 months ago

A clinical research coordinator is NOT a lab coordinator. A clinical research coordinator (CRC) is often a nurse who works one-on-one with human research subjects. They obtain consent, take vitals, draw blood, teach the patient how to use their diary, input eCRFs and do paperwork under the guidance of a doctor. This position is a good stepping stone to being a CRA.

If you like the lab, forget about being a CRA. Lab work and CRA work do not have anything in common.

I think that a Master's degree often makes entry level candidates look overqualified and it hurts them. A master's comes in handy for a mid-career move- not so much for getting started. Also a Master's on Biology really doesn't have much to with being a CRA- a master's in Biology would be a good idea if you wanted to continue your career in the lab and advance in that position. There are a few Master's programs for clinical research, regulatory affairs, health policy, pharma development, etc. that are a better match for a CRA.

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