A career in clinical research can begin at any of the different stages of clinical research. An aspirant in the clinical research field usually begins as a clinical research associate or as a clinical research scientist or as a clinical research coordinator. There are other entry positions, but these three are the most common entry route to a career in clinical research.
A clinical research associate is the most common position an aspirant can choose to enter the clinical research field. This job required prior experience. Relevant training, being well-educated and hands on experience are important criteria for getting a position as an associate. Previously clinical research associates used to be employed in permanent positions, but the new trend is that companies expect new associates to work without expecting a permanent position. This position also requires frequent traveling.
A clinical research scientist is another entry position that is common. Here travelling is less because the scientist will usually work in an office. Since their work involves offering scientific support to clinical research operations getting a research scientist job will require extensive experience. Aspirants need to have knowledge about regulations, assessments and reporting of adverse events as well prior to applying.
A clinical research coordinator job involves mainly administrative duties in clinical research projects. This includes being stationed at the site of clinical trials and organizing resources to ensure timely and proper completion of trials and other stages. A job seeker for this position needs to have a complete and comprehensive background in academic knowledge, clinical practices, ethics, interactions with sponsors and regulators. Travel is almost non-existent.
Getting an entry into clinical research is difficult in the current scenario due to a catch-22 situation. Aspirants are not employed by clinical research companies or projects due to a lack of relevant experience and aspirants are unable to obtain experience due to a lack of job opportunities. Hence, aspirants need to be realistic about the qualifications and experience they have and their expectations of getting an entry position in clinical research.
Since gaining experience is a difficult task at the entry level itself, aspirants can follow two methods to try to gain experience.
Here, a person still in graduate school can actively seek out training experiences by volunteering to work in clinical trials in any position. Usually it will be a clinical trial assistant. But if one has already graduated, it would be prudent if they sought out entry jobs rather than a volunteer. This approach can take a few years for those who have graduated without experience.
Consider this scenario, where a clinical research job aspirant seeks to be employed by a clinical research organization. Most aspirants create a resume and send it to major clinical research organizations and hope they are called for an interview. This is done because these major organizations are large and visible among the public. But there are many smaller clinical research players who are not as visible public and are actively seeking out relatively inexperienced candidates. It is better to apply to these companies for entry level positions. Once a candidate has worked a few years in these smaller companies, he/she can seek out better offers at larger clinical research companies.