Research Associate Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Research Associate, or Clinical Research Associate, is responsible for monitoring one or more study sites for clinical trials to uphold ethical guidelines and ensure the successful completion of clinical trials. Their duties include reviewing participant applications and medical records, coordinating with medical and legal teams to determine trial activities and collecting valuable data throughout clinical trials to contribute to their final reports.

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Research Associate Duties and Responsibilities

The primary duties of Research Associates are to plan and conduct research. Depending on the field, this can include things like managing data, conducting interviews and publishing research. Research Associates must also interpret their data or findings in an actionable way, with the goal being to inform businesses about which decisions they should make. Other important duties and responsibilities for Research Associates include:

  • Identifying new resources companies can use to reach their goals
  • Contributing to multiple research projects at once
  • Communicating with senior researchers to understand business challenges and potential solutions
  • Working with data engineers to construct and maintain databases

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What Does a Research Associate Do?

Research Associates typically work for medical research laboratories, pharmaceutical companies or government agencies to ensure the safety and efficiency of clinical trials or studies. They work closely with clinical trial participants, medical professionals and other clinical research staff to test the effects of new pharmaceutical drugs or treatments before going on the market. Their job is to create clinical trial schedules and maintain up-to-date records on trial participants, legal documents and health forms. They may also be responsible for hiring and training clinical trial staff members and contacting previous employees to check their availability for upcoming trials.

Research Associate Skills and Qualifications

Research Associates need several technical skills to succeed in this role. They must have skills related to their background (e.g., an understanding of health care or financial markets) and the ability to gather data. Research Associates also need to be good at technical writing and be able to express complex data in a simple, actionable way. Other important skills and qualifications for these employees include:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Analytical skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Listening skills
  • Time-management skills
  • The ability to maintain quality standards, ensuring the integrity of data
  • Teamwork skills

Research Associate Salary Expectations

According to salary estimates from roughly 1,300 Indeed users, employees and job postings, the average annual salary for Research Associates is approximately $53,000. Pay can fluctuate greatly based on factors such as the job’s location and the candidate’s education and experience level. 

Research Associate Education and Training Requirements

A Research Associate needs to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as marketing, math or statistics. Additional training is not required, but many students will complete research and gain relevant experience as part of their degree. Candidates may also complete a master’s degree, though this isn’t required for all positions.

Research Associate Experience Requirements

Research Associates can find work with no prior experience (outside of their college coursework). In fact, some companies hire Research Associates while they’re still completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Some Research Associates complete a few years of professional experience before moving into full-time research positions or into Research Scientist or management roles.

Job Description Samples for Similar Positions

A Research Associate’s skillset overlaps with several other positions, so it can help to expand your research into a few similar roles. For example, Research Analysts purely interpret and present data, whereas Research Associates conduct research and play a role in planning studies. Understanding these differences can help you craft the perfect job posting for your role. A few roles similar to a Research Associate are:

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Frequently asked questions about Research Associates


What is the difference between a Clinical Research Associate and a Clinical Research Coordinator?

The difference between a Clinical Research Associate and a Clinical Research Coordinator is their seniority and respective job duties. For example, Clinical Research Associates have more professional experience in clinical research and therefore hold a more senior role when compared with Clinical Research Coordinators. Clinical Research Associates usually hire and oversee Clinical Research Coordinators to help them oversee daily activities at trial sites. 

Because Clinical Research Associates have a more managerial role, they focus more on setting up, scheduling and coordinating participant details for a clinical trial. They also might be responsible for traveling to different trial sites throughout their workday. In contrast, Clinical Research Coordinators work at one trial site and engage in more frequent, in-depth conversations with trial participants. They also have more responsibility to collect data and send their findings to the Research Associate.


What are the daily duties of a Research Associate?

On a typical day, a Research Associate starts by reviewing the activities scheduled at one or more trial locations. They notify their team of specific tasks they need to complete and make their rounds to speak with participants and other clinical staff. Throughout the day, they oversee the administration of pharmaceutical drugs and other treatments, recording the dosage amount and participant responses. 

Once back in their office, Research Associates create participant job postings for upcoming trials, review candidate applications and conduct phone or in-person interviews with prospective participants. They also use this time to upload documents to their digital filing system and work on case reports.


What qualities make a good Research Associate?

A good Research Associate has a commitment to the health and safety of clinical trial participants. Their attentiveness in this area motivates them to verify a participant’s health details and reference clinical trial guidelines before finalizing procedures. They have excellent verbal and written communication, enabling them to engage in meaningful conversations with participants and write comprehensive reports that outline clinical progress. Further, a good Research Associate is well-organized and seeks to maintain accurate and up-to-date records by implementing digital filing systems and other software programs.


Who does a Research Associate report to?

A Research Associate usually reports to the Clinical Research Manager or Director of Clinical Research, depending on the organizational structure of their facility. In some cases, a Research Associate may report to the Principal Investigator for a clinical trial to get approval for certain activities or scheduling details. These individuals provide Research Associates with budgeting expectations and offer overarching guidance throughout clinical trials.

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