What is an average day like for a CRA?

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James in Seattle, Washington

43 months ago

Pat - I find these clinical trial/research assistant positions very difficult to obtain (and I've only seen one project assistant job before), even with a B.S. in molecular biology from the UW-Seattle and lab experience. I use company websites directly as recruiters do nothing except spam my phone with advertisements...

So would you recommend getting a CNA license and being a CNA for a few months? Or possibly phlebotomy? I also wonder if it's because I am out of state from all the positions I find. Biotech is huge in Seattle, but the big CROs have nothing going on here, same with clinical trials in general.

Another option is doing an extremely low level CRO lab job like cleaning glassware or breeding rats...then hope I can transfer internally to a CTA position. Any suggestions?

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James in Seattle, Washington

43 months ago

Thanks for the advice! I'm going to apply to the lab posts now.

I'd love to ask a CRA for cover letter help, but I've never actually met one.

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Marry in Bethesda, Maryland

43 months ago

Do you have to immediately handle clinical sample? Like patient's blood, tissues,etc?

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Pat

43 months ago

Marry in Bethesda, Maryland said: Do you have to immediately handle clinical sample? Like patient's blood, tissues,etc?

Usually, CRAs will not be responsible for handling samples; however, they must verify that the CRC/PI collected and processed the samples appropriately. This will ocassionaly require contact with samples. I'd say it depends on the project, but usually not.

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Mary in Bethesda, Maryland

43 months ago

Thank you, Pat! Your answer makes me understand more about the CRA's duty.

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Marie in Sacramento, California

43 months ago

Hello all!

Thank you all to those who have given very insightful responses and descriptions of this profession. And although there are very clear cons for this career, I find that because I have no family (no spouse/children) that I would definitely be well suited for this position.

I am also very interested in becoming a CRA and wonder whether my current career path would be helpful in securing a position as a CRA in the future.

Currently I am employed as a Recruitment Specialist with a CRO and in less than 1 yearr I have been promoted to work under our Quality Assurance Supervisor as her assistant. I jumped at the chance as I thought it would be a great learning experience. She was once a CRC, became a CRA and even became a CRA Manager.

My question is: would it serve me better to follow this path OR pursue becoming a CRC and learn the ropes there?

In addition, I also have a degree and am hoping to gain a masters in the near future.

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Bryan in Coal Center, Pennsylvania

42 months ago

Marie,

I think if you are at a CRO now, stay there and talk to people on the clinical side about your motivations to be a CRA. Take advantage of having a mentor!

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Marie in Sacramento, California

42 months ago

Bryan in Coal Center, Pennsylvania said: Marie,

I think if you are at a CRO now, stay there and talk to people on the clinical side about your motivations to be a CRA. Take advantage of having a mentor!

Hello Bryan,

Thanks for the reply. I certainly plan on taking full advantage of the position and hope that I can exceed her expectations. Are you a CRA?

I would love to hear about the differences between a contractor and CRA who is not, if anyone would oblige me?

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Bryan in Oak Park, Illinois

42 months ago

Marie in Sacramento, California said: Hello Bryan,

Thanks for the reply. I certainly plan on taking full advantage of the position and hope that I can exceed her expectations. Are you a CRA?

I would love to hear about the differences between a contractor and CRA who is not, if anyone would oblige me?

Hi Marie,

I've been a CRA for six years and I was in data for two years before that.

A contractor CRA is often a highly experienced CRA. Contractors do not have the support that CRAs at CROs have (for example, they have to buy all of their own supplies, don't get the training resources, benefits/401k, taxes, rct). It's basically like you are running your own business. The pay is substantially more and it's a lot more independent. Personally, it's not for me because I don't like searching for new contracts every 6 months, but I am getting at least $25k less pay working for cROs.

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James in Tacoma, Washington

42 months ago

Bryan, can you share more about your history? Like, how did you get into data?

I'm trying to break into the clinical research field doing any entry level position, but all I have a B.S. Molecular biology and lab experience. I'm finding it impossible and wondering if I need to just move to RTP or something and start applying from there.

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Bryan

42 months ago

Hi James,

I got into data management with a CRO right out of college with my BS. I did a lot of work with my professors helping out with research in college. I also worked as an orderly while I was going to school, so I had experience working in a hospital. I did have to move out if state for my first office job, but when I went to being a senior CRA, I got to have more freedom regarding where I lived.

You don't need more than a BS to get started and personally I think it's a bad decision to fall for one of this clinical research training scams or get an unnecessary masters degree.

I would apply to jobs in RTP, NJ, Austin , San Diego - don't move until you get the job. Right now the economy is tough, so challenges are predictable. Just try your best to get any job at a CRO and go from there.

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James in Tacoma, Washington

42 months ago

Thank you for the suggestions Bryan.

As for the clinical training programs, the HR person at a pharm company actually suggested I go back to school for clinical research training the other day. The course my university offers is $3,200, but I may just give it a shot as I have not had a single reply from a CRO or anyone else.

It's amazing how tough it is without connections. My friend gave me an employee referral for a temp job at his current biotech company and instantly I got an interview. The other day I had the in-person interview and they loved me. Just like that! Aside from that, I've had no luck out of about 40 positions I've applied to.

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Marie in Sacramento, California

42 months ago

Bryan said: Hi James,

I got into data management with a CRO right out of college with my BS. I did a lot of work with my professors helping out with research in college. I also worked as an orderly while I was going to school, so I had experience working in a hospital. I did have to move out if state for my first office job, but when I went to being a senior CRA, I got to have more freedom regarding where I lived.

You don't need more than a BS to get started and personally I think it's a bad decision to fall for one of this clinical research training scams or get an unnecessary masters degree.

I would apply to jobs in RTP, NJ, Austin , San Diego - don't move until you get the job. Right now the economy is tough, so challenges are predictable. Just try your best to get any job at a CRO and go from there.

Thank you again for the reply, I was not sure about the differences so that was very helpful! How long did it take to get to your position as a CRA? Also, what does data management entail? Is it similar to working as an RA?

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James in Tacoma, Washington

42 months ago

Marie - he already told you...."I've been a CRA for six years and I was in data for two years before that."

And googling the duties of a DM will point you to: www.wisegeek.com/what-does-a-clinical-data-manager-do.htm

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James in Federal Way, Washington

41 months ago

Also - Does anyone know how quickly a CRO would let you branch out of lab work if that's where you start? My ultimate goal is to become a CRA but I'm most qualified for entry level lab positions at this point (and have a pending interview at a CRO!).

I'm hoping after 6 months or a year I could become a clinical research/trial assistant.

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Candi in Springfield, Missouri

41 months ago

James,

Honestly, it's hard to tell and it all depends on the company. Some companies will have a six month or one year probationary period where you are not eligible for internal transfers, some won't. Some companies are growing while other CROs are crumbling. It also depends on what manager you get because some don't like the idea of other departments 'stealing' their employees (of the joys of office politics!).

I think the experience will be invaluable and will help you down your path, but even though you'll tell your interview your ultimate goal is to be a CRA, make sure you still sound excited for the position you are applying for.

Good luck at your interview!

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James in Federal Way, Washington

41 months ago

Thanks Candi! This would be for one of the largest CROs which seems to be growing quite well. Hopefully they'll give me access to some ICH/GCP training that I can use to make my switch down the road!

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at wits end in Sydney, Australia

40 months ago

Hi, Im currently a CRA and I'm over it. The problem is, I'm not sure what else I can do with this experience?

Any ideas?

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James in Seattle, Washington

40 months ago

Be a clinical research manager

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CS in Chicago, Illinois

37 months ago

PJ121465 in Durham, North Carolina said: Alot of people use the CRA as a stepping stone to other careers in clinical research like Project Management. I've worked in health care as a paramedic, respiratory therapist and perfusionist for over 15 years. I've only been a CRA for about 3 years but I think its the best job I've ever had. You can expect to work 50-60 hours a week exculsive of travel. You can expect to find yourself stranded in airports alot so airline club memberships are always a good idea and investment (I think the United Red Carpet Club on O'Hare's F concourse is an unofficial CRA hang-out). And definitely make the most of your time at home, spend lots of time with family and friends because it will refresh you.

Hello there, I am glad to read that perfusionists have also tried to be a CRA. I graduated from perfusion school and I am currently working in the device industry. I want to switch into Research career but would like to be regional/ within Chicago territory. so I am looking into what can be best for me. I have one year research experience in my grad school and three years in medical device industry as a rep. Any suggestions would be helpful.

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Troy in Long Beach, California

37 months ago

Hi all CRAs around the world,
Accidentally I clicked on this page with a Google search for " what a average day for a CRA". I have read all the posts and comments and actually they help me a lot.
Basically, if you guys ever watch the movie "Up in the Air", i think the job of a CRA is really much like the guy in that film instead of going around to lay-off people, CRA will go from one city to another city to do "monitor" at the sites.
I have my bachelor in chemistry and working for a pharmaceutical company recently. My job as a QA which needs a lot in organization and detail as well as follow SOP's and GCMP progress. Besides, people call me "freak NEAT", and I am kind of a well-organized and managed myself (which I have to learn due to living by myself since I'm 19).
Now, I'd like to go to the CRA field and thinking getting a MS in CR so hopefully someone could help me to clarify my concerns:
1) I know we have to go to the site to monitor the CRC's works, who's gonna train me to do all that stuff or all I need is follow the SOP?
2) The payscale of a CRA?
3) I am 24 right now, is it too young to be a CRA?
Thank you very much everyone! ^_^

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Mather in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

37 months ago

Hi Troy,
Here's the answers to your questions:

1. Usually CRAs start out working at a CRO (contract research organization). CROs will provide all training to you when you are hired. Typically, a new CRA will do two or four weeks in classroom training, a few weeks doing company SOP training, at least a week of protocol and study-specific training and then they will go out to multiple visits alongside an experience monitor until they feel comfortable going out on their own.

2. Entry-level CRAs usually begin work with at least 2 years of clinical research experience. The first year of monitoring is tough and the pay isn't that great but you get such good training, the low pay is worth it, but you usually get a promotion every other year so you'll get more money quickly.
CRA 1 : 35-55k
CRA 2: 50-75k
CRA 3 / Senior CRA 1 or 2 : 70-90k
Lead CRA : 80-100k

3. You are never too young for any job, but you can be too inexperienced. Typically the entry level CRA is someone who has an already established career as a research assistant, CRC, RN or in data management, so the typical age seems to be in the late 20's-40's.

BTW, I suggest trying to get a job first instead of getting a Master's degree. I would get a job as a research assistant helping out doing file audits at a CRO first and then use the tuition reimbursement program to pay for your school.

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Troy in Long Beach, California

36 months ago

Hi Mather,
THanks so much for your info. I really appreciate it. I have not mention before is I am currently working with my professor as a research assistant besides a full-time job at a pharmaceutical company. Which I wonder right now is how could we know a company is a CRO or not? And do you know how could we can find any of these CROs?
Thanks again Mather for you answers.
Best,

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Mather in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

36 months ago

Troy in Long Beach, California said: Hi Mather,
THanks so much for your info. I really appreciate it. I have not mention before is I am currently working with my professor as a research assistant besides a full-time job at a pharmaceutical company. Which I wonder right now is how could we know a company is a CRO or not? And do you know how could we can find any of these CROs?
Thanks again Mather for you answers.
Best,

Google it. I looked at three websites for CRO and the phrase was proudly highlighted on the front of their webpage- they don't keep their business type a secret.

Here's a wikipedia page you may find helpful: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_contract_research_organizations

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geneva in Racine, Wisconsin

36 months ago

Hi, I've been an RN with a BSN for 25 years and I'm interested in the CRA position. My kids are grown. I actually like paperwork than direct patient care. No clinical research experience at all. I'm taking an online certification class for CRA now. What are my chances and who would hire me? I can travel and would enjoy it. Worked 17 hours yesterday and really need a career change!
Suggestions.

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Sammy in Austin, Texas

36 months ago

Geneva,

You may want to work as a CRC (clinical research coordinator) before you consider applying for CRA jobs. The CRA position is not suitable for people with clinical research work experience.

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Sammy in Austin, Texas

36 months ago

Without*

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MB in Croydon, United Kingdom

31 months ago

can anyone tell me what the difference is between a homebased cra, office based cra and a field based cra?

many thanks for your help!!

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Mather in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

31 months ago

Hi MB,

All of the positions you've listed pretty much have the same exact job description. The only difference is where you go when you are not traveling to investigative sites.

Homebased CRA: Travels between 50-80%, but when they are not traveling, they write their reports from their home office. These CRAs usually have >2 years experience as a CRA.

Office-based CRA: There are two kinds of office-based CRAs:
1. (Most Common) Travels between 50-80%, but when they are not traveling, they write their reports at the office building. Typically, it's good for new CRAs to look for a job where they can work in an office when they are not traveling because it provides more face-to-face time, more opportunities for mentorship and training. It's hard to have questions and be home alone in your home office. When you work in a office, you can see your colleagues at least once a week.
2. (Not very common) There are some CRAs that work solely from the office and only travel on occasion. Of course, these CRAs only get compensated a fraction of what traveling CRAs get. They help out as support staff and help with data analysis, file reviews, etc.

Field Based: CRAs that travel almost 100% of the time

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MB in Croydon, United Kingdom

31 months ago

Thank you Mather :-)

I have also come across the term ' clinical monitoring associate'- how different is this from a CRA? Anyone know?

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James in Seattle, Washington

31 months ago

That's no different from a CRA. Sometimes people throw the word monitor in there to make sure it's clear that they are monitors (some people call coordinators CRAs for some reason).

Geneva- Sammy is right, you'll need to be a CRC first, but that'll be a big salary decrease from your RN job. In my opinion you should look for research RN positions that have normal hours, you'll do more research-related (paperwork) tasks that way. 17 hours in one day is not right, I have so much respect for you guys...can you at least find a RN job with a regular 9-5 shift?

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hemacr in Los Angeles, California

31 months ago

Hi, I have a foreign medical degree and have been managing randomized clinical trials of behavioral interventions (HIV prevention). I am thorough with Social and Behavioral Research, IRB procedures, monitoring visits, reporting protocol violations and adverse events. I am a mid-level manager. Been working for a university for over 9 years. I am now interested in moving into medication trials. It seems that without FDA related experience its tough to get a job!! How does one get experience?! Personal situation permits a limited salary cut!!
I am willing to relocate from my current West Coast location to the East Coast.
Suggestions, ideas and comments are welcome.

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Mather in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

31 months ago

Hi Hemacr,

It sounds like you'd be a great fit for a CRC position. I am not sure of your current salary, but a CRC typically pays between $30-60k depending on your experience and expertise. After 2 years of working as a CRC, you can transition into a CRA role that pays up to 100k after 5 years of experience, so it's a long-term investment in your future.

Also keep in mind that your personal situation may limit a salary cut, but if you move to an area with a lower cost of living while maintaining the same salary, it'll be like getting a raise. Perhaps the low-cost living of the south or mid west may be an option for you!

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hemacr in Los Angeles, California

31 months ago

Thanks Mather. Even if I am willing to take a $10K cut and relocate to other locations, I notice that almost all positions require at least 2-3 years experience with FDA paper work and procedures, which I don't have. Not sure how to get out of this and move forward...

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Helpinghemacr in Seattle, Washington

31 months ago

Hemacr-
1) Apply anyway to the positions you want
2) Tell your boss/colleagues/friends of your interests, they may know people
3) Talk to recruiters, they might be able to help
4) Attend a clinical research organization conference and meet people

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hemacr in Los Angeles, California

31 months ago

Helpinghemacr in Seattle, Washington said: Hemacr-
1) Apply anyway to the positions you want
2) Tell your boss/colleagues/friends of your interests, they may know people
3) Talk to recruiters, they might be able to help
4) Attend a clinical research organization conference and meet people

Thanks Helpinghemacr. I am already doing 1 and 2 of your suggestions, Haven't tried 3 yet. Should start on that. I plan on attending the SOCRA conference in Sept. Thanks again.
This is a nice forum. People actually post some good responses. Will keep you posted.

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Arizonaheat in Mesa, Arizona

30 months ago

I have 1.5 yrs exp as a CR Asst, I applied for a CRC position and they called me for interview,
I was wondering what questions should I expect and or how can I prepare for the interview?
Thank you in advance!!

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CURLYDEWD IN TEXAS in San Antonio, Texas

30 months ago

I am currently a Contract Clinical Research Coordinator with the United States Department of Defense (Army and Air Force)with a background in Animal and human related studies and protocols. I have over 3 years experience.

I am looking to venture out to the next step as a CRA, however....I am clueless as to what companies I should look towards to place applications and resumes.

Can anyone help with the names or links to some of the better companies to work for?

Greatly appreciated

RB

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Red

29 months ago

Be prepared to tell stories about your past with the new STAR method of interviewing. It's very common in today's competitive job market at the big CROs.

For example, an interview question I have gotten a lot: tell me about a disagreement you had and how you handled it. Then, I would answer something like this:
S: I was working on an osteomyelitis study and the PI wanted to do ( x ); however, I felt it was best to do ( y ) for the following reasons: (a, b, c).
T: Together, we had to work on a compromise that would both meet the federal guidelines, sponsor requests and consideration for her site's specific situation.
A: I took the PI's concerns to the sponsor with suggested resolution (z ) and got the compromise approved. I gave the CRC instructions on implementation and a schedule for checking in on the new method.
R: After the two, six and ten week check ins, we found that the new plan was successful and the site was able to continue work on the study.

Taking time to remember and rehearse stories of issues you have resolved in the past are essential to getting through one of these new interviews!

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9274kks in Richlands, North Carolina

27 months ago

I am also interested in finding a career as a CRA. However, I do not know what other type of jobs a pharma study company might offer. If you're starting at the bottom... what jobs are available in the order of lowest rank to mid rank. It seems like a CRA is a little higher rank for a beginner.
I have a BA in education, so I know it will be very hard to break into the pharma business. Any suggestions?

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Cary in Durham, North Carolina

27 months ago

9274kks in Richlands, North Carolina said: I am also interested in finding a career as a CRA. However, I do not know what other type of jobs a pharma study company might offer. If you're starting at the bottom... what jobs are available in the order of lowest rank to mid rank. It seems like a CRA is a little higher rank for a beginner.
I have a BA in education, so I know it will be very hard to break into the pharma business. Any suggestions?

KKS,

Pharma companies need a wide range of professionals to run their business. We need, scientists, lab professionals, mathmaticians, clinical people, medical writers, document/file management, human resources, business anaylsts, contract negotiators, IT professionals, project managers, regulatory affairs, corperate trainers, accountants, etc. etc.

The question I have for you is where do you see yourself and what motivates you.

I have to admit the BA is really a mismatch for a position like CRA because the CRA's work is so clinical. An employer is going to need to see that when you open up a cancer's patient's medical chart, are you going to recall that Triamcinolone is a prohibited steroid, able to question the acceptable range for LFTs for safe treatment with the IP and discuss the care plan for subjects in the study? A CRA's job requires a vast clinical knowledge of diseases, what lab values mean, medical terminology and abbreviations. If you were to want to advance into the CRA role, you should include something in your resume to show your medical knowledged.

The most common way to get started as a CRA is to start as a CRC (clinical research coordinator) also called a SC (study coordinator). In fact, many companies now adays require all entry-level CRAs to have at least two years experience as a CRC. However, you can also try to get an internal promotion from working an in-house file room position called a CTA (clinical trial assistant)or RC (research coordinator).

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9274kks in Richlands, North Carolina

27 months ago

Thank you. Your information is very helpful. I certainly will take it into consideration. It sounds as if I should not try for a CRA, but rather a CRC.
Thanks, again!

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rxjignesh in Flushing, New York

27 months ago

Ninji in Irvington, New Jersey said: Hey Ram I have also bs in pharmacy and doin masters, CRA is the best field to get in. If you have talent, dedication and ready to put extra efforts, it will be rewarding down the line.

Hello Ninji,

As you mention, this is rewarding field. I graduated in MS and now working in mount sinai medical center at NY as a associate researcher in Basic science. I want to get in to this field but bit getting any interview call. do you have any suggestion?

thanks
jignesh

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Jamaicagirl23 in Brooklyn, New York

22 months ago

rxjignesh in Flushing, New York said: Hello Ninji,

As you mention, this is rewarding field. I graduated in MS and now working in mount sinai medical center at NY as a associate researcher in Basic science. I want to get in to this field but bit getting any interview call. do you have any suggestion?

thanks
jignesh

How did you get a job as an associate researcher? I have a BA and I have been trying to get a job Mount Sinai for a while now. Did you apply online? Did you get a referral?

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xyz in Jersey City, New Jersey

21 months ago

Hi Jignesh..I have finished my MS in medical microbiology.Can you guide me how to get a job in Mount Sinai.

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curious in Denver, Colorado

17 months ago

I am still deciding if this would be a career I would find interesting/enjoyable? I have heard there is a lot of travel, but what else are CRA's responsible for doing?
- I echo this. I am interviewing for a position as a CRA this week, coming from a 40-50 hour (outside of commute) night shift RN position. Is the work-life balance as good as they say? I'm currently away from home 3-4 nights a week. Will it be similar (aside from me sleeping at night, now)?

Any thoughts would be appreciated. I am seeing very mixed reviews on the CRA career lifestyle - I've seen everything between "awesome" and "atrocious."

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Mather in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

17 months ago

The CRA gig is not cut out for everyone. It's a tough job and you have to love what you are doing. A CRA's job is to:
-Ensure the rights, safety and welfare of human research subjects
-Ensure the protocol is being followed and when it's not, findign the deviations and ensuring they are reported
-Make sure that other people are doing their job.... keeping in mind that you aren't their boss and cannot give them any rewards
-Keeping everyone informed. You are a middleman between the sponsor and the doctor and it's your job to be the liason. Often, this will take dozens of email, completion of a LOT of spreadsheets and meetings.

Here's a list of things that CRAs do and find joy in:
-Working with a new group of people every day.
-Working with a new electronic medical records system everyday.
-Playing a bit of detective
-Playing the bad guy and asking doctors/nurses to prioritize the your study. When the sponsor changes their mind and a site has to re-do a significant amount of work, you are the one to break the news to them and work your magic to make sure it gets done.
-Having a nice quiet dinner in a restaurant alone, seeing a movie alone and navigating a brand new city you've never been to before alone. There's a lot of really cool adventure, but some people find it really isolating to be alone so much.
-Computer systems, databases and excel. If you aren't computer proficient, the CRA job is not for you.

You can expect that some weeks you will be working >70 hours- very rarely have I met a CRA that works a 40 hour week. Mostly you will find all the travel will eat up a lot of time. You are at the mercy of the airlines and you aren't going home until the plane takes off.

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TJ123 in NorCal, California

17 months ago

Mather,

Could you describe the CRAs role with regards to the pharmacacy and IP? What is routine when the CRA has their visit with the pharmacy?

Thanks

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Jane Doe

17 months ago

I'm a new grad nursing student with drug safety associate training. Trying to see how can I get my foot at the door via clinical trial assistant positions? Is CROs a better idea? if yes, how can I get more infos on these job positions?
thanks.

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Sara

17 months ago

Hi am a CRA I have blog where I talk about some of the basics of being a CRA check it out beginnercra.wordpress.com. I plan on including some hands on stuff how to get started the right things to say on an interview. I also offer coaching so if you are interested please check it out at beginnercra.wordpress.com

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