How to Become a

Clinical Research Associate (CRA)

The complete career guide to be a Clinical Research Associate (CRA): salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $136,570
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 3.3%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Don't Take Work Home
    Career Attribute

As a clinical research associate (CRA), your chief responsibility is to collect and organize data from research and field-studies. In this role, you would be running clinical trials to ensure the performance and safety of drugs before they are accessible in the market.

Recommended Schools

What is a Clinical Research Associate (CRA)?


There will be several tasks allotted to a CRA depending on the company, but some of them are presented here:

  • Collaborates with investigators and research staff to successfully implement clinical trials in accordance with regulatory requirements and protocols.
  • Evaluates that quality of materials and collected data, including supporting the on-site personnel with internal audits and inspection.
  • Identifying and assessing sites as potential facilities for conducting clinical trials.
  • Verifying the integrity of data entered on case report forms or (CRFs) in comparison with clinical notes of a patient.
  • Preparing reports, research manuscripts for publication and other documents for record filing and collation.

Day In The Life

A day in the life of a CRA can differ greatly. Clinical trials are carried out at various stages and are conducted on healthy humans or patients suffering from a particular disease. Generally, your work schedule revolves around establishing secure trial sites, monitoring each and every trial and maintaining records of the procedure for study documentation.

Once trials are completed, you are also part of the team that closes down the site in compliance with industry standards and ensures that all unused trial supplies are flagged. Further, recruitment of efficient investigators or consultants for conducting clinical trials might be part of your work day.

If you are in a field-based role, you are likely to travel often – 3 to 4 days a week – and be on the road. Your day involves working alongside doctors and research nurses at trial centres or hospitals to supervise and evaluate duties regarding clinical trials. On the other hand, your role can be in-house at an office environment, where you will mostly verify trial correspondence such as reports and manage projects.

Work Schedule And Typical Hours

Work locations for these roles can be few and far between – often located in select areas of the country. This can require extensive commuting and longer hours at work. Working hours can vary, with overtime, weekend and holiday work days being fairly common. There will be many tight deadlines which will result in a fast-paced work environment among teams.

Positions in the field are also an option whereby you are based in a specific area and working at a study centre to compile relevant research. Short-term contracts of 6-12 months with a private company is another flexible work option, rather than becoming a full-time employee. A position with international companies will lead to arranging for clinical trials in other countries, such that overseas travel is required.

Growth Of The Job

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) projects faster than average growth of around 18% for clinical and medical lab technicians.  Working as a clinical research associate leads to career opportunities in a growing sector – pharmaceutical research and development. There is a rise in employment potential of this sector due to companies looking for accurate ways to verify medical products prior to distribution, in order to safeguard against legal proceedings or irregularities.

Typical Employers

Clinical Research Associate positions are frequently offered by research-based medical drug and device companies like Phoenix Medical Systems, Medpace, etc. Clinical research institutes are also interested in recruiting for CRA positions, such as the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, focusing on providing advanced therapies for cancer patients, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, which conducts basic and applied research in biomedical science.

Recommended Schools

How To Become a Clinical Research Associate (CRA)

A relevant college degree is required to find job opportunities in this field. For instance, you could get a college nursing diploma or complete a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science, health science, pharmacology or pharmacy. Some employers also prefer a master’s degree, demonstrating a technical specialty. Having a grasp over multiple languages gives aspiring candidates a competitive edge as they would be comfortable in international positions.

Further, clinical research associates are expected to be very organized and possess superior analytical and statistical skills. They should be great at solving complicated problems with an evidence-based approach and collect accurate data. Part of the job involves coordinating with professionals from various walks of life, including doctors, research nurses, clinical trial sponsors and participants. Thus, you must have solid communication skills to succeed in this demanding field.

Clinical Research Associate (CRA) Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Clinical Research Associate (CRA) salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Clinical Research Associate (CRA)'s can make an average annual salary of $136,570, or $66 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $91,990 or $44 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #20 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Highest Education Among Clinical Research Associate (CRA)s

  • 27.2%   Doctorate
  • 31.4%   Masters
  • 33.2%   Bachelors
  • 2.3%   Associates
  • 4%   College
  • 1.4%   High School
  • 0.6%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Clinical Research Associate (CRA) job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 1,800 jobs for a total of 56,900 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 3.3% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #510 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Clinical Research Associate (CRA)s

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 15,500 1,100 1%
Federal government, excluding postal service 10,600 -1,000 -1%
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 4,800 --- ---

Want To Be a Clinical Research Associate (CRA)? Get Started!

Generate your free SmartPlan™ to identify colleges you like, and potential ways to save on a degree or certification program toward your career with courses, offers, and much more!

Enroll Now and Get Started

or Learn More →