How to become a clinical research coordinator

Clinical Research

For better or worse medical care is big business.

The upside for moms: there are endless employment opportunities to be found in both healthcare, and healthcare administration.

One job that falls on the administrative side is the career of a clinical research coordinator. These workers can easily earn more than $100,000, and perform the bulk of administrative and organizational tasks within any medical and clinical research team. And while they can work in hospitals and clinics, many employers hire clinical research coordinators who perform their tasks at home.

If you’re looking for a job you can complete at home that lets you use your organizational and leadership skills, a career in clinical research coordination could be for you. Keep reading to learn more about this job, who it’s best for, and how you can get started.

What is a clinical research coordinator?

A clinical research coordinator is an important part of a medical research team who is charged with overseeing and assisting with a wide range of experiments and clinical trials. These workers may only deal with the administrative side of the equation, however, performing administrative tasks like data entry and documentation.

Many clinical research coordinators also take on a research role when it comes to preparing for clinical trials. For example, they may research potential experiments, study the history of similar experiments or trials, and conduct interviews to determine the feasibility of pending projects.

These professionals also focus a great deal of effort on evaluating the end result of an experiment. Did it work? Or, do researchers need to try another strategy to discover the data they need? Most of the time, it’s the clinical research coordinators job to find out.

What kind of tasks do clinical research coordinators do?

Before you decide whether this career is for you, it helps to know what these professionals do all day. While job duties can vary depending on the position, main tasks performed by clinical research coordinators can include:

  • Work with a team to evaluate research protocols
  • Prepare for clinical trials and experiments
  • File paperwork that grants approval from regulatory and ethics committees
  • Keep laboratories stocked with equipment and supplies
  • Oversee experiments and clinical trials
  • Collect data
  • Supervise analysts on their team
  • Communicate with researchers and other specialists
  • Document data and information

The online nature of many laboratories and hospital systems have made it so many administrative tasks don’t require a physical presence in an office. Many clinical research coordinators who work from home can do all or most of their work on a computer with special software systems and an internet connection, which makes this a solid career option for those seeking remote work.

What skills do you need to be a clinical research coordinator?

You do need to have a bachelor’s degree to find work as a clinical research coordinator. While several different degree types can work in this field, the most popular degree options include medical technology, microbiology, and public health. Some advanced positions may also require a master’s degree.

Courses that can help your career include but aren’t limited to, biochemistry, epidemiology, anatomy, public health, healthcare management, and advanced mathematics. Some states may require certain clinical research coordinators to become licensed depending on their specific role.

On a soft skills level, clinical research coordinators need to have excellent communication skills so they can interact with analysts and other researchers effectively. They need excellent managerial skills as well since they are often charged with supervising other workers.

Clinical research coordinators who work from home also need to have excellent work ethic and the ability to stay on task without direct oversight. Those in this role also need to be able to multi-task since they’ll encounter a wide range of tasks that need to be completed for various projects and the timeline for those tasks may overlap.

Determine if a career in clinical research could be suitable for you>>

How much do clinical research coordinators earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, natural science managers (the official term for this career chosen by the BLS) make an annual median wage of $118,970 in 2017. That sum is significantly higher than the average salary for all jobs nationally that year ($37,690), and even a high salary for those with a bachelor’s degree.

You may earn more or less depending on the exact position you end up in and the industry that hires you. For example, BLS notes that clinical research coordinators in research and development in physical, engineering, and life sciences earned $147,030 in 2017. However, professionals who worked for their state government earned only $78,360.

Pros and cons of being a clinical research coordinator

If you’re considering a career as a clinical research coordinator or have worked in this job before, you already know that no career is perfect. This job definitely has its benefits, but there are drawbacks as well. Here are some upsides and downsides to consider.

Advantages of becoming a clinical research coordinator:

  • You have the potential to earn a stellar income
  • You may be able to work at home
  • The benefits of this job can be substantial if you’re interested in clinical research that could lead to improvements in human health
  • Growth within the field of healthcare means jobs may be readily available in your area
  • Many positions are for hospitals, clinics, and labs and come with a full, cushy benefits package
  • If you find a position that lets you work at home, you may be able to create your own schedule

Disadvantages of becoming a clinical research coordinator:

  • Some industries pay these professionals a lot less than others
  • Many employers may not want to hire a remote worker
  • You need to have a bachelor’s degree and may even need to earn a master’s degree
  • Competition for jobs in this field tends to be high due to the high salary
  • You will likely need to work in an entry-level position before you can get hired for this career

How do you find clinical research coordinator jobs?

Clinical research coordinator may sound like a dream position, but that doesn’t mean these jobs are easy to find. You may need to do some research to find out which employers are hiring in the medical field, including those who might be willing to hire remote workers.

One of your best bets is filling out a profile on FlexJobs.com. This website collects data about your skills and connects you with employers in your field who are looking for online workers.

In addition to setting up an account with FlexJobs.com, you should also consider the following moves:

  • Check websites of major hospital systems in your area. Look for clinical research coordinator positions and apply to any you find.
  • Ask for a referral or job ideas if you know other professionals who work in this field.
  • Check online job boards like Indeed.com
  • Search LinkedIn.com for clinical research coordinator positions or similar jobs

Find clinical research jobs >>

How do you learn to become a clinical research coordinator?

If you’ve decided this job is for you, don’t forget that you need a bachelor’s degree in a related field and that you may also need a master’s degree. Beyond those educational requirements, it’s also possible you’ll need a state license depending on your position.

If you don’t have the educational requirements in place for this career, you’ll want to start researching colleges right away. Fortunately, the internet has ushered in an easier way to earn a degree from home with online education. Just like you can work as a clinical research coordinator from home, you can also earn the degree you’ll need to get the job online and from the comfort of your home.

According to Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, there are a handful of steps you can take to prepare for a position if you have a degree in this field already. You can volunteer in a doctor’s office, hospital, or research center to get clinical experience, for example. You can also lean on social networks like LinkedIn to find networking opportunities in the medical research field.

Finally, you can even reach out to small, stand-alone clinics and doctor’s offices that may want to conduct research on their own. These opportunities may not come easy, but they often come with the most flexibility since you could potentially “create your own job.” Working as a freelance clinical research coordinator also makes it more likely you’ll be able to work from home and on your own terms.

The Bottom Line

Thanks to the Internet, work-at-home jobs are a lot more diverse than they used to be. Where you once had to visit a physical office to do most types of work, you can now perform a wide range of tasks on a computer without ever leaving your home.

If you’re interested in medical research, an online position as a clinical research coordinator could be ideal for your lifestyle and goals. Make sure to set up a profile with FlexJobs.com and start networking if you’re interested in finding an open position. The best jobs will go to those who focus on meeting others in the field of medical research and positioning themselves for this lucrative career.

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holly johnson money writer
Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson is a financial expert, award-winning writer, and Indiana mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting and travel. Her personal finance articles have been published in the U. S. News, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, and Life Hacker. Holly is founder of of the family finance resource, ClubThrifty.com, and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love. Learn more about Holly here.

About Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson is a financial expert, award-winning writer, and Indiana mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting and travel. Her personal finance articles have been published in the U. S. News, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, and Life Hacker. Holly is founder of of the family finance resource, ClubThrifty.com, and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love. Learn more about Holly here.

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