What You Should Know About This Degree
Becoming a clinical researcher is a common career step for those already working as clinical research assistants. The addition of a master’s degree gives you the ability to design, coordinate, and manage trials, as well as work with a team to analyze results and answer the research question posed by the trial.
The need for trained professionals in all areas of healthcare is expanding rapidly as the population in the U.S. ages, requiring more medical intervention and the increased use of drugs to improve quality of life and manage chronic conditions. The advent of personalized medicine leads to greatly increased, although smaller in scope, medical trials.
There is no one national credential required to be a clinical researcher. The Association of Clinical Research Professionals offers several credentials, including Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC), Principal Investigator (CPI), and ACRP Certified Professional (ACRP-CP) for those involved in all aspects of clinical studies. Each of these requires the applicant to pass a standardized exam.
Here are some questions to ask when researching clinical research programs:
- Am I eligible for this program? Requirements for these master’s programs in clinical research vary depending on the focus of the program. All of them require you to have a valid bachelor’s degree, preferably in an area of science or mathematics. A few require you to be working as an RN. Undergraduate coursework in cell biology and statistics is desirable, as is a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
- Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? Online programs usually offer one of two delivery methods. Courses may be held synchronously, which means you will attend live classes online at a given time; or asynchronously, which means that courses are pre-recorded and you attend at a time that is convenient for you. The latter option is a good choice if you are continuing to work or have other responsibilities while attending graduate school.
As you research possible programs, be aware of the varying focus of each one. Some master’s programs are geared toward working nurses or other healthcare professionals, while others focus on the business side, training researchers to work with bio-pharmaceutical companies and others involved in the drug industry. Your coursework will vary based on the focus.
When looking for financial support for your education, don’t stop after you’ve applied for school-based assistance. You may be able to find scholarships, loans, or grants through your employer or professional organizations to which you belong.