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Comments (11)

James in Central District, Hong Kong

51 months ago

Hello internet strangers who's advice I'm going to use to make a huge career decision,

I want to become a CRA. The route I want to take is research/trial assistant, CRC --> CRA (or possibly skip CRC if possible). Long story short, I need your guys' opinions on rather or not to take a somewhat-irrelevant job, or if, in your opinion, I have decent chances for a more relevant position.

I have a B.S. in molecular biology and worked in a government immunology lab for 8 months, then tutored English overseas for 4 months. During that 4 months I decided I wanted a more people-oriented career rather than doing the bench side of clinical research (so I wanted to become a CRA).

I was recently offered to work in a very busy clinical research laboratory at a massive cancer research center. This was going to be perfect as I was hoping to get experience in clinical research.

Two problems:
1) I'd actually spend about 70% of my time just making viruses that would be used for clinical research, but not research I would be involved in. I would just make the viruses that are used to deliver genes for gene therapy.
2) They want a two year commitment.

This means I'd be almost 26 by the time I was done, and the main thing I'd have to add to my resume is "I made tons and tons of viruses used in clinical trials and basic research". Maybe some of that 30% free time could be used to learn about the clinical aspect, but in your guys' opinion, should I turn down the offer and apply for clinical trial/research assistant positions (maybe even research study assistant positions)? I'd apply all over the world, as I'm not afraid to move.

Do I even have a shot at getting such a position? I've applied to three CTA positions and did not get any response, despite having the minimum requirements. With no nursing, administrative, or clinical experience it may be tough.

Thanks for the opinions!

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Tammy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

51 months ago

Dear James,

Its my opinion that making a two year commitment to a job that you already know you are not really interested in is a very bad idea. If it wasn't for the two year commitment, I'd say go for it as a interim job you can use as a resume builder, but don't spend two years on a job that you are not in love with.

It's difficult to get your first CTA job with so many people competing for the same position. Even though CTA jobs do not require clinical research experience, in this economy, I bet you that people with experience applied just so they can get a job. You just can't compete with those with experience. Just keep applying. Avoid job websites and look directly on CRO's webpages or network with current employees. You just need to find the opportunity thatll make you the happiest.

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James in Central District, Hong Kong

51 months ago

Tammy, thank you so much for offering your thoughts.

You mention the difficulty in getting a CTA job - do you believe I have any kind of chance in this economy, given my credentials? Please be honest, as I would rather do that 2 year job than be unemployed for the next several months!

In terms of happiness I would actually be quite ok with the 2 year position because it would be where my friends, family, and girlfriend are and I think the research in the lab is incredibly interesting. I also enjoy the facility and the people in the lab. The only thing keeping me back is it's non-relevance to my future, as I'm quite certain I do not want to work at the bench the rest of my life.

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Chris in Markham, Ontario

51 months ago

i can understand why you haven't heard back from the CTA applications - employers would prefer someone with admin experiences b/c as a CTA you will be doing LOTS of admin work. i agree that CTA would be a stepping stone to move onto CRA, but i suggest you to think it over to make sure you could mentally afford doing routine and endless admin work for at least 1 year before moving onto CRA. i can tell from your post that you enjoy meeting and interacting with people, and this is what a CRA career would offer. do a bit more research about this career before making the decision to be a CRA, find out the good and bad about this career. do you have any CRA friends btw?

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James in Central District, Hong Kong

51 months ago

Chris - The positions I have applied for do not mention previous admin experience, but I recognize they would much prefer it. Do you think it's unlikely that I could be selected based on my background? How would you recommend getting relevant admin experience? Do you think I would have the qualifications to become a research study assistant, and then go from there? Someone must start somewhere, so I'm trying to figure out where at is!

I do not know any CRAs, I wish I did. I just graduated college last year as a first-gen college student, so the only people I really know who are interested in this kind of thing are my own age, and are all currently pre-med or doing bench work.

I have read much about the bad aspects of CRA work as there are many great threads on this website with CRAs sharing their experiences. It has not deterred me, and the thing people often get burned out on (lots of traveling, not being at home) are one of the most attractive things about the career to me.

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Jack in Central District, Hong Kong

51 months ago

Chris,
I am currently working in a CRO as a CTA.
i can tell you that Though the requirements of being CTA is unbelievably low, stepping into the industry is still uneasy for many people .
I can share my route to be CTA, 1. working in pharma company as Sales for a year, and then working in a pharmaceutical specialized media agency for another year.
For fresher without too much working experience in the pharma industry, it is almost helpless to enter the industry.
sometimes, it is really by luck ........i believe

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Jack in Central District, Hong Kong

51 months ago

Chris,
I am currently working in a CRO as a CTA.
i can tell you that Though the requirements of being CTA is unbelievably low, stepping into the industry is still uneasy for many people .
I can share my route to be CTA, 1. working in pharma company as Sales for a year, and then working in a pharmaceutical specialized media agency for another year.
For fresher without too much working experience in the pharma industry, it is almost helpless to enter the industry.
RA or pharma sales are two possible ways to enter the Clinical research .
but if i were you, i wont think too much about the career path.
just Do The BESt.

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James in Central District, Hong Kong

51 months ago

Jack, you are in HK too?

When you say RA, do you mean being a research assistant? That's the job I'm having trouble getting right now.

Also, how did you get into pharma sales? The jobs I see for those always want business degrees and business experience.

The research assistant jobs always want experience as a nurse, medical assistant, or some kind of office work.

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John in Central District, Hong Kong

51 months ago

Hi James,
I am facing the same difficulties,just feel helpless about breaking into this field, I am also a fresh grad last year and used to applied for several CTA and CRA positions. Frustratingly, no response at all.
I have the same thoughts like yours, craving for a jobs could travel around and interact with different people and not get stuck in office/lab all the day.

Many people suggest start the career as CTA, but the fact may be rare vacancy in Hong Kong.

I guess the "RA" that Jack mentioned means Regulatory Affair in Pharmaceutical Industry.

For pharma sales,quite a few my colleagues (in uni with B.Sc) now work as sales in different pharma.it seems easy to get one.

I do really want to make some CRA friends in HK as well,

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James in Seattle, Washington

51 months ago

Where'd all these Hong Kong people come from? haha. I'm back in Seattle now and applying all over the place. Here's an example of the requirements to be a CTA:

Must have either relevant work experience or High School Diploma (or equivalent). - Yep, plus a 4 year molecular bio degree...
Research or health care related academic or work experience preferable. - Not required, just preferred, but yes I have this.
Must have good written and spoken English (Required). - I'm a Native Speaker.
Good organizational skills, ability to manage multiple tasks and meticulous attention to detail. - Yes.
Computer literary: e.g. Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook. - I've been using these since middle school.
Willingness to travel for job related activities if required (expected travel for this position is < 10%). I would LOVE to travel!

Well, I should just be a shoe in, right?

nope! Well, good luck to all of us. Hopefully the U.S. ends its wars and focuses on the economy. If I were still in Hong Kong, I'd invite you to hang out.

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John in Kowloon, Hong Kong

51 months ago

Hey, James.
Would you like to leave me your email?
So that we would chat and exchange our experience at a later time.
here is my email : jeantkc@googlemail.com
Great to hear back from you,and good luck for your job hunting.

Cheers,
John

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