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How to Become a Clinical Research Scientist: Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a clinical research scientist. Research the education requirements, training and experience you need to start a career as a clinical research scientist.
Do I Want to Be a Clinical Research Scientist?
Clinical research scientists conduct research and clinical investigations of diseases and conditions to determine accurate diagnoses and effective treatments. They work in a variety of employment settings, including hospitals, universities and pharmaceutical labs. Safety precautions must be followed and protective gear used when dealing with potentially infectious samples.

Job Requirements

An individual wishing to become a clinical research scientist must have at least a master’s degree in science or medicine and several years of experience working in the field. Some positions may require a Ph.D. The following table describes the basic skills and requirements that are necessary for a career as a clinical research scientist.
Common Requirements
Degree LevelAt least a master’s degree, but some positions require a Ph.D.*
Degree FieldsThe biological sciences or medicine*
Licensure and CertificationLicensure is not required; optional certification is available from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP)**
Experience2 – 5 years***
Key SkillsScientific knowledge, critical thinking, active listening, reading comprehension, writing, complex problem solving, active learning, judgement, decision making and monitoring skills****
Computer SkillsAble to use analytical, scientific, database user interface and graphics software, extensive knowledge of circuit boards, computer processors, chips and other hardware, knowledge of other electronic equipment that may be necessary for the specific position held****
Technical SkillsKnowledge of how to use centrifuges, chromatography tubing, laboratory flasks, petri plates, spectrophotometers and other technical devices for specimen analysis****
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Association of Clinical Research Professionals, ***Survey of job postings from October 2012, ****O*Net Online.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in the Science Field

Although there are several different pathways to enter the clinical research profession, all prospective research scientists must possess a bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences or a related field. Some institutions offer a degree specifically designed to prepare students to work in clinical research. This type of degree program includes courses in biochemistry, pharmacology, effective research techniques, scientific writing and data management. Regardless of major, undergraduate students intending to enter the field of clinical research should take courses in physics, mathematics, the biological sciences and chemistry.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in an internship. Clinical research scientist positions typically require experience. Completing an internship, which some programs may include as part of their bachelor’s degree program curriculum, can provide this experience. Usually, during an internship, students are mentored by a qualified physician or scientific research specialist while they work on a research project.

Step 2: Complete an Advanced Degree Program in Science or Medicine

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most clinical research scientist positions require either an advanced degree in the biological sciences or a medical degree. Graduate degree programs in biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, microbiology or neuroscience often satisfy this requirement. However, some universities offer master’s degree programs in clinical research. Students in these programs learn about research procedures, scholarly publication practices, biostatistics, professional ethics and clinical trial practices. Alternatively, obtaining a Medical Doctor (M.D.) or nursing degree may qualify individuals to work in the field.

Success Tip:

  • Consider completing a dual degree. The BLS states that many clinical research scientists choose to complete a dual degree program with majors in medicine and science. In fact, some job postings found in October 2012 required that candidates possess dual degrees. Students in these dual degree programs learn about medical practices and advanced research methodology. Possessing two graduate degrees may make students eligible for more job positions after graduation.

Step 3: Work as a Clinical Research Associate

The ACRP states that aspiring clinical research scientists typically begin their careers in entry-level positions, possibly as a clinical research associate. These associates typically assist research scientists in designing and administrating clinical trials. They also help evaluate gathered data and monitor the procedures to assure that the methodology complies with professional protocol.

Success Tip:

  • Earn a certificate. The ACRP currently offers three certificates to clinical research professionals: the Certified Clinical Research Associate, Certified Clinical Research Coordinator and Physician Investigator. Earning any of these certifications requires passing an exam. These certifications are recognized in the industry as indicating verifiable job skills and, therefore, may help individuals advance in their careers.

Step 4: Work as a Clinical Research Scientist

Clinical research scientists may work at universities, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies or for the federal government. These scientists typically perform analysis on cells, tissue and organs to identify bacteria and toxins with the goal of understanding the causes of diseases and being able to develop vaccines or medicines for treatment. However, some clinical research scientists may work directly with patients in health settings by administering clinical trial drugs and therapies, while others may instruct physicians, resident and technicians about medical laboratory procedures.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in continuing education. The body of knowledge in scientific fields changes radically and rapidly. Clinical research scientist may find it advantageous to participate in continuing education courses offered by the ACRP or another professional organization. Such training may come in the form of webinars, conferences, online classes or in-person courses.


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Hi,I,m Basim from Canada I,m physician and I,m interested in clinical research feild and web development.you are more welcome in our professional website.all contact forwarded to basimibrahim772@yahoo.com.

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