CRA isn't entry level then what is a RA?

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Matt in Waxhaw, North Carolina

67 months ago


I am currently 2 semesters away from attaining my Undergrad Degree in Clinical Research from Campbell University. On the last semester we go on internships and I have been told that most of the people on internship are hired as CRA's or Research Associates(RA). Have any of you heard something similar? If so, what is a RA and what is the entry level salary? I also plan to get my Masters in Clinical Research which is also offered at Campbell University, what, if any, immediate effects will this possibly have on my carrier? I hope I am not posting this in the incorrect forum. If so I apologize. Thank you guys so much for your time in advance!

-Concerned/Confused student

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Massa in Chicago, Illinois

67 months ago

The idea that getting a degree in clinical researchqualifies you to work as a CRA is a myth propagated by training school. In order to become a CRA you need to work for at least 2 years in clinical research, preferrably as a CRC or an RA ( also referred to as a CTA at some places).

Entry level salary in clinical research is approximately 30-40k depending on experience. After u get entry level experience, you can move into a CRA role that pays 55k to start out.

I don't think a masters sill help u Now. Wait until u qualify for tuition reimbursement from youremployer and then think about getting a masters.

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Kathy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

67 months ago

Haha, yeah right... Someone with a Bachelor's degree and no experience (except for a one semester internship) getting a job as a CRA.... (hahaha)... I have to agree. Massa is right, the idea that clinical research degrees or training (even with internship) qualifies someone to be a CRA is a myth.

An entry-level CRA job requires at least 2 years experience in clinical research. You can get this experience by being a research assistant (an in-house assistant to CRAs), by being a CRC (assisting the doctor with patients in the trial) or by being in data management (giving the data a double check before lock). Some people with 5 years experience in these positions still have trouble breaking into that first entry-level CRA job.

All of these entry level jobs pay about the same, about 35k on the east coast. The tricky part about research assistants is that it seems that every company has a different name for this position. Some call it CTAs (clinical trial assistants), RA (research assistant), PA (project assistant) and there are even more. But, it's all pretty much the same job. You help the CRAs out in the field and make sure the regulatory files are up to date and contain everything it should. During this time, enjoy every night you get to sleep in your own bed and spend time with your family, because you won't be able to do that as a CRA.

My advice is to apply to every clinical research job in your area. If someone offers you any job in the field, take it, especially in this economy!

Just being enrolled in classes for your Master's won't do any good for your career. A Master's degree is something that can differentiate you, but if it's certainly not necessary for a CRA job. If you really want that Master's, wait a year after working at one company and you'll qualify for tuition reimbursement (where your employer will pay for most of the cost of the master's)- no one should have to pay for it by themselves.

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Sadua in Austin, Texas

67 months ago

Hi Matt!

Try testing the economy by trying to get an entry level position like a RA or CRC. If I were you, I'd aggressively search for your first RA or CRC job about 2 months before you graduate. Looking for a CRA job without 2 years experience in clinical research is unrealistic.

Then, after you get the job, then you can begin to consider a Master's degree. A person with a Master's degree with no work experience is still a person that doesn't have work experience. To US employers, education will never be a replacement for experience.

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