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How to progress your Clinical Operations Career?

What is Clinical Research and Clinical Operations?
Clinical Operations and Study Management are essential components within the drug development lifecycle, which encompass the gathering of data to identify, prevent and treat diseases.  Essentially, when a new drug or device is developed, it is important that they have been thoroughly tested to ensure they are safe and effective. To do this, each product must go through a clinical trial, which consists of four key phases.

If you would like to learn more about each of the different stages of a clinical trial, we recommend looking at this article.  

Typical Clinical Research roles
Typical roles within the Clinical Research sector are:

  • Clinical Trial Administrator
  • Clinical Research Associate (CRA)
  • Senior Clinical Research Associate
  • Lead Clinical Research Associate
  • Junior Study Manager
  • Study Manager
  • Senior Study Manager
  • CRA Line Manager
  • Clinical Research Manager
  • Clinical Operations Director

How can you progress your Clinical Research career?

To progress your Clinical Research career, candidates are required to have high attention to detail, excellent communication skills (verbal and written) and data analysis capabilities.

However, additional elements may help when looking to progress your career, some of which are highlighted below:

  1. Look at all the different companies that you could work for - these include Pharmaceutical companies, Biotech companies, Devices companies and Clinical Research Organisations (CROs)
    All of these types of organisations will offer different elements to your career. Pharma may enable you to see a drug development process or project from start to finish, going in depth into one particular product or therapy area, whereas a CRO may allow you to experience lots of different projects or studies giving you a broad range of experience across multiple projects and products. To really progress in any of the above companies gaining a variety of experience across all types of businesses should really set your career up well. In addition, it will allow you to identify which roles pique your interest and, as a result, you can then map out which career path you want to go down and the necessary steps you need to take to get you there.
  1. Obtain a Life Sciences degree
    Degrees, in general, are hugely beneficial for many reasons. However, for a role within Clinical Research a Life Sciences degree, although not always essential, is certainly beneficial.
  1. Have a willingness to learn
    Having a strong willingness to learn is highly recommended. As you increase your knowledge and experience, you will notice that more career opportunities will become available to you. Furthermore, being committed to your own professional development can place you ahead of other candidates.  
  1. Conduct volunteer work
    Volunteer work can provide candidates with brilliant opportunities to work closely with industry practitioners. As a result, this will lead to an increase in experience, skills and help you gain a better understanding of the requirements of the role.
  1. Do your own research
    Clinical is a hugely competitive area to get into and then to progress within. Do your research into the different phases of Clinical Research, ICH – GCP and the different types of roles available to you. Most companies have clinical research teams, clinical study start up teams, or Patient Recruitment teams to name a few. Try to understand each of these before you apply and certainly before you head to an interview

What are the barriers to a career in Clinical Research?

If you are looking for a role within Clinical Research, you may have to overcome some barriers in order to have a long and prosperous career within the sector.

We have highlighted a few of these below:

  1. A key attribute to have is tenacity to gain an entry role into the industry. It is not easy to progress without experience so having the determination to keep trying is key within this sector, as is industry experience.
  1. As previously mentioned, a PhD or Degree in a Life Sciences degree is of real benefit to progress your career.

Can you transition into the Clinical Research sector without previous experience?

Yes, entry level opportunities do come up. Looking for graduate schemes is a good place to start as well as looking at the possibility of entering via an administration role. Although administration may not be your long-term goal it is a route in that will give you that much needed experience.

Typical Clinical Research career progression options

Typical career progression opportunities within this sector could look like:  

  • Clinical Trial Administrator
  • Clinical Research Associate (CRA)
  • Clinical Research Lead
  • Clinical Research Manager
  • Clinical Project Manager
  • Director

Conclusion

A career in Clinical Research is very diverse and rewarding, but also challenging. In addition, candidates will have a lot of responsibility placed on their shoulders as they will be heavily involved in determining the safety and effectiveness of a drug dealing directly with patients. However, there are brilliant opportunities to progress your career within this sector, which in turn, can lead to great career options.

If you are looking to progress your Clinical Operations career or would like an informal chat to discuss your career progression opportunities, our specialist consultants can help - get in touch with them here. Alternatively, you can view all our current vacancies within this sector on our Clinical Research page.