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Clinical Research Coordinator Jobs: How to Start a Rewarding Career

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The fight against cancer needs foot soldiers — lots and lots of them. Heck, it needs warriors.

Cancer research in the U.S. is continuing to drive growth in the need for clinical trials. That’s why there’s such a high demand for clinical research coordinators (CRCs) to run the clinical trials that test new drugs, treatments and medical devices.

If you’re interested in becoming a research coordinator, there are plenty of jobs out there for you. You can work with innovative technology and use the job as a stepping stone to even bigger career opportunities.

“If I were to pick a second career, it would definitely be in clinical research. That’s because of the opportunities that are out there right now — not to mention the cool technology and the cures that they’re coming up with,” said Michael Mazza, an Aerotek divisional practice lead based in the Philadelphia area. “Just in our office, we consistently have anywhere from three to eight openings for research coordinators at any given time.”

We asked Mazza and Lacy Preddie an account recruiting manager, more questions about this hot career path.

What does a research coordinator do?

CRCs recruit patients and conduct the day-to-day operations for clinical trials. Most coordinators work in research hospitals.

“They are very hands-on, literally enrolling the patients who are going to be in the trial,” Preddie said.

Do you need a college degree?

Although it varies by employer, applicants are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in clinical research management, medical technology, public health or nursing.

“Most frequently, candidates have either a science-based background or a background in public health,” Preddie said.

How much do clinical research coordinators earn?

In the Philadelphia area, if you’re right out of college (with a science-based degree), an entry-level job might pay $18 to $21 an hour. A higher-level coordinator can earn “probably upwards of $65K” annually, Mazza said. Project managers can earn up to $80,000 a year.

Do many people start their careers as clinical research coordinators?

Yes! “This is usually a stepping-stone into clinical research,” Preddie explained.

Preddie works with a lot of research coordinators who view the gig as a gateway to a rewarding career. She helps them get on the right path.

“Nobody just falls into coordinating,” she said. “They usually have some type of plan in place for where they want to go, or where their interests lie.”

Three career paths for CRCs:

1. Become a Clinical Research Associate (CRA)

CRAs fly in to monitor and review how the clinical trial is going, to check the medical data, and to judge the research coordinator’s work. And they get paid more.

“They make the big bucks,” Mazza said of CRAs. “They’re making $70, $80 an hour.”

Starting as a coordinator can be a good way to climb into a CRA role. Also, a lot of the larger employers in the clinical research field offer training programs that groom coordinators to take that next step.

2. Go to medical school

“For candidates who might be looking to go to medical school down the road, this is a really good opportunity for them to interact with patients and to get exposure to research,” Preddie said.

3. Stay on the job

With time and a good track record, you could become a high-level research coordinator or project manager. Many coordinators find the work meaningful.

“For a majority of these people, their main motivation is getting to work directly with patients and making a direct impact on them,” Preddie said. “I think everyone has had a family member who’s been really, really sick or who’s had cancer. You want to make that direct impact.”

Check back next week for a follow-up: Career options for experienced clinical research coordinators.

Looking to take the next step in your career? Visit our job board to search job postings and connect with clinical CRCs. Create a free career account today to customize your search based on your skills and interests. Our recruiters are available to provide advice that you can use and direct you to the right opportunity for you, including those not posted publicly.