By Claire Craig, Clinical Research Consultant
Interested in a career in Clinical Research but unsure if it’s right for you?
I regularly speak with candidates who have a degree in a Life Science and are considering a career in Clinical Research. For many reasons the Clinical sector isn’t for everyone, therefore I suggest you have a keen interest in medical sciences and research the different roles available to you before setting out for a career in it. This could be laboratory work, regulatory affairs, drug safety or clinical operations to name a few. You don’t need to have comprehensive knowledge of a specialty, but you will benefit from having good knowledge about the functional area you are working in.
And as silly as it sounds, you do need to understand how clinical trials work and the objectives of the research, as well as how a study will benefit the patients who are the subject of that study. Research around the phases of clinical research, ICH-GCP and Regulatory Affairs within clinical research are all great areas to look into.
Some key skills employers will be looking for are your ability to plan your work well and how organised you are. Many Clinical Research roles look for candidates who have a great eye for detail.
Clinical Research is more often than not extremely safe. Clinicians involved take many steps to ensure patients are given the correct dose of the drug being trialled and that they have the correct health screenings to ensure they are safe throughout a trial, however as someone involved in Clinical Research, regardless of the area you specifically work in you will have to take a methodical, disciplined approach and meet all regulations to ensure patients’ safety and rights are protected. (As you’d probably imagine the Clinical field is highly regulated!)
In addition to having a high attention to detail, being well planned and efficient another key element to working within Clinical Research is having great interpersonal skills. The ability to build relationships with patients, investigators, site staff and colleagues is paramount in ensuring a clinical trial runs smoothly and hits key milestones within given timeframes.
I should also mention that many of these roles are field-based, meaning you’ll be predominantly working from home. This is a great benefit if you enjoy this style of working but make sure this is something you’d be comfortable with before applying for such positions.
I'm interested in a job in Clinical Research, but what will it involve?
A career in Clinical Research is very popular and rewarding, mainly as it revolves working around people and their wellbeing, often working on new drug treatments that are implemented to improve patients’ health. This means the industry consists of skilled professionals who have a strong background in science who are ethical in their approach to discovering new drug treatments.
It can sometimes be the case that after a new drug has been successful during clinical trials it is still declined for approval by government bodies (such as NICE in England). These bodies approve a drug based on how it will predominantly benefit the NHS – they investigate the price of the drug versus the effectiveness.
This can sometimes leave those working on the clinical trials side of things frustrated that the drug hasn’t been approved, but unfortunately it is all part of the role. On the flip side, some fantastic discoveries and treatments have come out of clinical trials, such as treatments for cancer and heart diseases, as well as vaccines for global killers such as malaria and Ebola.
Which company should I choose?
There is no set size or structure for organisations within the Clinical Research industry. They can range from small start-up companies to large global organisations. The organisations that conduct clinical trials consist of pharmaceutical companies, contract research organisations (CROs) and academic institutes such as hospitals.
All clinical trials conducted for research are predominantly set up, managed and financed by specialist companies known as sponsors. There are many types of these, including pharmaceutical companies and biotechs, and academic institutions such as universities, hospitals and clinics. Sponsors will often delegate their clinical trial tasks to companies known as CROs - this seems to be a quite popular practice in the industry.
How do I begin a career in Clinical Research?
Depending on where you are in the world will influence the factors you may face trying to begin a career in Clinical Research. It isn’t easy to find your first role as many employers require you to have at least two years’ previous experience already.
My advice would be deciding on your long-term goal within your career and thinking strongly how you would get into that role. For example, if you are interested in becoming a CRA (Clinical Research Associate) these vacancies require you to have experience, unless you start at an entry level – but these are rarely advertised. The best route is to find a role where you can easily move into without experience, such as a CTA (Clinical Trial Administrator) role.
If you are a graduate, another option for you would be to look at the larger organisations who run graduate programmes, especially if you are quite open to what you want to move into.
Lastly, I highly recommend you research each role in detail to find out what really interests you.
If you think this could be the right career for you take a look at all our current Clinical Research jobs here.