So you have a degree in a life science related field. You’ve read several cra job descriptions and you think that clinical research sounds very interesting. Although it’s not the best paid job there’s certainly room for getting promoted and getting a decent salary. Before you make your final decision, be sure to consider the following:
How much do you want to travel as a CRA?
Most CRAs travel a lot, at least during their first years. In the beginning it can be fun and exciting to see new airports, hotels and clinics every week. You also get to meet a lot of new people. However, most senior CRAs sooner or later prefer to travel less. In the long run it can be difficult to be away from your loved ones most of the time.
Do you have an eye for detail and appreciate strict guidelines?
One of the beauties about clinical research is that the trial process is extremely well documented. Years after a trial is closed, it should be possible to track all data collected and every decision that has been made.
If you need a document during or after the trial it’s usually not very difficult to find it.
However, to keep everything that well organized, the CRA needs to do a lot of filing and archiving. Every single document needs to be filled. All correspondence with trial sites needs to be clearly documented. Even if a decision wasn’t made you need to document what was discussed, because you never know when information can become important. All trial documents are filed in the TMF and ICF’s, and may be audited at any time.
Do you like to work alone?
If you’ve read some of the job ads at our job board, you have probably noted that most companies seek candidates that are “good team players”.
The truth is that all companies, not even within clinical research, like to use this commonly used term. No employer appreciates a person that can’t work together with others. However, for the work as a CRA, you may get the wrong impression here.
To be honest, most of the work as a CRA is very solitary. A normal week you would wake up, head for the airport to go for a monitor visit, all alone. Once you’ve arrived, usually you would get to meet with some of the study staff for half an hour to discuss eventual issues. Then they usually leave you alone for two or three hours so you can go through informed consents, perform SDV, check drug accountability and lots of other duties you’re doing on your own. You then head for lunch, most likely alone. Later you meet the principal investigator to discuss some more issues. If it is a visit that requires a lot of work you usually have to stay for more than a day and then you would stay at a hotel. Once you’re back at the office you will discuss issues and findings with the project manager or other relevant people. After that you have to start writing monitoring reports, follow up letters etc, as you would guess, all on your own.
We don’t want to sound pessimistic, most people that get into clinical research continue their career for many years. But don’t expect that working as a CRA always involves a lot of team work.
The good news – not all CRA jobs are them same!
What if I can’t really travel that much? Or what if I don’t want to work that much alone?
The daily job as a CRA can vary much from company to company. In the next post we will describe how work duties may differ between different kind of companies and between different CRA positions. Be sure to check back soon!