Pillar Page Clinical

The Ultimate Guide to Clinical Research

We work on Clinical Research jobs for top global CROs, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies across the UK and Europe, where we place candidates into roles at all levels.

Find out more about a career in clinical research below, take a look at our jobs or speak with our specialist consultant Nicky Cura for an informal chat: +44 (0)1625 541 047 / nicky@carrotpharma.co.uk


Every new medicine must undergo strict Clinical Research before it can be licensed for use. The evidence collected from Clinical activities is used to determine the safety and effectiveness of the treatment intended for use in humans.

In this guide to Clinical Research, we tell you everything you need to know about the sector.

We’ll discuss what the Clinical industry is all about, what career progression within a Clinical role looks like and why the sector is important to the world of Pharma and Healthcare.

We’ll also offer support and advice for anyone looking to start a career within Clinical, how to identify when it’s time to look for a new opportunity and insights into how to prepare for and complete the interview process.


Clinical Research: Everything you need to know:

What is Clinical Research?

Clinical Research comes after the research and development stage of the product lifecycle but before the product can be used in the wider world. The main purpose of Clinical Research is to keep people safe by using clinical trials to determine the dose and indications of a particular medicine.

To assess how safe each new medicine or product is, it must first pass through the four phases of clinical trials. Each phase sees an increase in participants, as the further along within a trial a product moves, the safer and more effective it is expected to be.

Clinical trial participants are split into two groups and include both patients and healthy volunteer members of the public. One group is given the product whilst the other is given a placebo, to help better assess how effective a treatment will be.

All new treatments must pass through the first three phases of a clinical trial before they are offered a license. Some are required to pass through a fourth stage too.

What are the four phases of a clinical trial and what do they involve?

  • Phase 1 – This is the first time a new treatment or vaccine is tested in humans and will determine whether there are any major safety issues to be aware of. Phase 1 trials usually involve a small group of healthy volunteers (apart from in rare cases where patients might be involved too).
  • Phase 2 – If the first phase is successful, it will move onto a larger trial of participants, some of whom will usually be patients with the condition. The purpose of this stage is to establish how effective the treatment is, how effective it is in preventing the condition and what levels of dose will be required.
  • Phase 3 – Phase 3 trials can start whilst Phase 2 trials are still occurring and are a much larger process involving hundreds, if not thousands, of participants, often across several countries. To pass this phase, a treatment must show that it is not only safe and effective but that it also offers a better prospect to patients than other treatments already available. Upon completion of Phase 3, a medicine or product will be licensed for use.
  • Phase 4 – Not all trials go to Phase 4, but if this stage is involved it will occur after the drug has been shown to work and has been licensed. The aim of a Phase 4 trial is to discover more about the side effects, the long-term risks and benefits, and how well the treatment works when used more widely.

It is the responsibility of the clinical operations team to design, plan and physically deliver the three or four phases of the clinical trial.

A Pharmaceutical company may run trials themselves on their own site, or they may have an agreed partnership with an external Contract Research Organisation (CRO), who conducts the trials on their behalf.

Why is Clinical Research important to the Pharmaceutical industry?

Those working within Clinical Research are often viewed as being at the forefront of where “science becomes medicine” and so it is seen as being a highly rewarding career choice.

As well as helping healthcare professionals discover new treatments and diagnoses for diseases, clinical trials also show what does and doesn’t work in humans, something which is impossible to learn in a laboratory or with animal testing.

The UK remains at the forefront of Clinical Research and is ranked amongst the world’s leaders when it comes to clinical trials. In 2018, the MHRA received 955 requests for clinical trial authorisations (CTA). The UK ranks first in Europe for the number of early clinical trials, with our strengths lying within oncology as well as immune, nervous and cardio-metabolic diseases clinical research.

What does a career within Clinical Research look like?

How to get into Clinical Research

If you have a degree in nursing, life sciences, or medical sciences, and the idea of working within one of the most important aspects of the drug development lifecycle excites you, then a career within Clinical Research could be a rewarding opportunity for you.

Ideally, you’ll have knowledge of at least one of the following subjects:

  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Immunology
  • Physiology

It might be worth considering a post-graduate degree in Clinical Research, which will not only further your knowledge of clinical trials but will give you a competitive edge when it comes to looking for employment.

Unfortunately, without a relevant degree, you’ll find it difficult to begin a career within Clinical Research. An administrative role can sometimes be another way into the sector, but you’ll be expected to undertake specific courses within Clinical Research in order to advance any further.

Clinical Research is a broad field with many different roles in it, so if you’re unsure what avenue you’d want to go down we recommend starting off within Clinical Operations, as this could open the door for wider career options further down the line.


What does a career within Clinical Research entail?

There are several roles within Clinical Research, which all offer something different. Below, we look at the most common of these and uncover what the job involves.  

Clinical Research Associate

The role of a Clinical Research Associate would suit someone who enjoys working with documents. This is an important role, as you’ll be managing the process of clinical trials and organising all the information that comes out of them.

Your responsibilities within this role may include:

  • Writing clinical trial protocols
  • Ensuring clinical trials are run in an ethical manner
  • Setting up the trial sites as per relevant regulations
  • Educating patients and doctors with regards to the trial

If you want a role where you’ll work across various locations or departments, this is the job for you.

Clinical Research Nurse

As a Clinical Research Nurse, you’ll play an important part in ensuring the Clinical Research can occur. From supporting a patient through their clinical trial to studying diseases and submitting study proposals for regulatory approval, no two days will be the same.

To become a Clinical Research Nurse, you’ll need to have a degree in nursing – and ideally a master’s too. You’ll also need to have excellent communication skills, as you’ll be regularly liaising with patients, scientists, researchers, and physicians.

Clinical Data Team Lead

As a Clinical Data Team Lead, you’ll be responsible for managing the end-to-end delivery of data management services for single or multi-service projects. You’ll manage and clean the data collected in a clinical trial, including the design and build of the database. You'll work closely with project teams and clients to ensure everything is delivered on time, within budget, and to a high standard.

This role would suit someone who loves data as well as people.


Career progression within Clinical Research 

From a junior level role, you’ll quickly find yourself moving up the ranks until you reach Clinical Director / Clinical Operations Lead level. By the time you reach this top level, you’ll be responsible for the overall running of a trial. Roles within Clinical Research often come with an excellent pay package and benefits.

A typical career progression path within Clinical Research may look like this:

  • Clinical Trial Administrator - £30k-£35k, need to be doing for around 2 years.
  • Clinical Research Associate (CRA) - £30k-£35k, need to be doing this for around 2-4 years before moving to SCRA.
  • Senior Clinical Research Associate (SCRA) - £45k-£55k, would ideally need to be doing this around 2 years, as with combined experience wouldn’t take long to move into a CPM role.
  • Clinical Project Manager (CPM) - £45k-£60k, 4+ years experience in the role before progressing.
  • Director - £60k and up.

What to expect from an interview within Clinical Research

If you’re thinking about changing jobs within the clinical sector, it’s useful to know what the interview process might entail

How to look for your next role within Clinical

There are several reasons why you might be thinking about a career change. You might feel you’re ready for the next stage up the progression ladder but there are no opportunities at your current company, you could be relocating and therefore looking elsewhere, or you may have been with a business for several years and feel it’s now time for a change. Whatever your reasons, there are several ways to go about looking for a new job.


LinkedIn recently released a feature allowing you to state on your profile that you’re ‘open to opportunities’. This might not be suitable for everyone, but if you’re happy updating your profile with this, it will help recruiters find you.

You can also use LinkedIn to search for live jobs and to connect with people who may be able to support you with your job hunt. There are a number of LinkedIn groups and pages out there too, which are relevant to the Clinical industry.

Job boards

As well as LinkedIn jobs, you’ll find roles advertised across Google and various job boards. Many of these boards will allow you to upload your CV to the database or to set up alerts specific to the Clinical job role you’re looking for. Some job boards, such as Reed and Indeed, are very generic whilst others are more specialist to the Pharma and Healthcare industries, such as Emed or NextPharmaJobs. We’d recommend registering with at least one generic and one specialist job board, so you’ve got all avenues covered.

 Looking for your next Clinical Research job? Check out our current vacancies here!


There’s an abundance of job boards out there, but not all companies will use these. It’s therefore worthwhile also connecting with a recruiter, as they’ll likely be working on a number of Clinical roles that you won’t find on any job boards. They’ll also be able to spec your profile into suitable companies who might not necessarily be advertising for new hires, but who would create a role for an ideal candidate.

You’ll want to ensure you’re working with a recruiter who specialises within the Clinical industry. They’ll be knowledgeable within your sector and will know which companies are hiring and what they’re looking for specifically.

Here at Carrot Recruitment, we have a team dedicated to Clinical Research recruitment. Get in touch today to find out more.


As the saying goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. When looking for a new Clinical Research job, those within your network could really help. Try asking friends or colleagues if they know anyone who is hiring. Perhaps you made some new contacts at a previous networking event or conference. If they work for a company you’re interested in joining there’s no harm in reaching out and asking if they know of any opportunities going.

We offer a fantastic referrals scheme at Carrot Recruitment, so if you know anyone who might be looking for a new opportunity within Clinical Research, pass on their details and we could be sending you a thank you gift in return.

You can also use LinkedIn to help you grow your network (it is, after all, the number one social platform for networking). Send connection requests to recruiters specialising in Clinical Research and ask for an initial call to discuss your requirements and experience.


How to prepare for a Clinical interview

Now that you know where to look to find your next role within Clinical Research, it’s time to understand how the interview process works and what to expect.

Interview preparation

As with any job interview, you’ll want to leave yourself plenty of time beforehand to read up on the company, the role, and who will be interviewing you. Take a look at their company website, as well as social media channels and LinkedIn profiles.

An interview for a Clinical job is as much about you gaining a better awareness of the company as it is for them to decide if you’d be a good fit for the role. Formulate a handful of questions that would help you make an informed decision on whether you’d want to take the role if offered. These could include:

  • What the growth plans are for the company?
  • What learning and development opportunities there might be?
  • What the career progression for your role might look like?
  • How they’ve kept employees engaged and motivated during Covid-19?
  • What their office/working plans are post-Covid?
  • Do they run socials or partake in charity work?
  • For those interviewing you, how long have they been with the company, and what made them decide to work there in the first place?

If the interview is taking place virtually, do a test run of the software and your background environment to ensure everything works and is set up correctly. If you’re attending an interview in person, plan your route ahead of time and if possible, do a dummy run to the interview site so you’ll know exactly where you’re going on the day. For both a virtual and physical interview, dress smartly and turn up ahead of time.

How Carrot Recruitment can support you throughout your Clinical Research career

If this is the first time you’ve come across Carrot Recruitment, we’d like to tell you a little bit about ourselves

Established over 15 years ago by industry professionals, we operate solely within the Pharma and Life Science industries. Our specialist consultants cover permanent and contract vacancies across the full product lifecycle for a range of clients, from blue-chip Pharma and Biotech firms to boutique consultancies.

We’re renowned for offering a different approach to recruitment, genuinely taking the time to get to know our clients, candidates, and the roles we’re working on, so we can find the perfect fit for those we work with time and time again. It’s for these reasons that we’ve been voted ‘world class’ in customer service. 

Find out more about our Net Promoter Score here.


The Clinical Research team

Here at Carrot, we’ve been working roles across the Clinical sector for 10 years. Our Clinical team is currently led by Nicky Cura.

Nicky recruits for some of the top CROs, Pharma, and Biotechnology companies – take a look at our current Clinical jobs here.


Contract Clinical jobs

If you're a contractor looking for your next opportunity within Clinical Research, we can help. Our specialist consultants offer a knowledgeable, friendly, and efficient service throughout the entire contract process; from helping you find a new Clinical interim or freelance opportunity, to helping you prepare for an interview and negotiating the end of your current contract role. 

We can help you with your payroll - either setting you up as a limited company or with our partner umbrella company - and will be there to support you with timesheet submittals and any other contracting queries. 

Click here to find out more about contracting with Carrot Recruitment.


How we can support your Clinical career

If you’re looking for your next opportunity within Clinical Research and you’re not already registered with Carrot Recruitment we’d love to speak with you.

Get in touch with Nicky today to find out about registering with Carrot Recruitment.

Once registered, we’ll keep you in the loop with relevant new opportunities across Clinical Research we think you might be interested in hearing about, which match your skills, experience, and location. After an initial discussion about the role, we’ll send your application to the client company (don’t worry, we’d never send your CV to a company without your prior consent).

If the company is interested in finding out more, we’ll help to arrange an initial call or interview between you. In fact, we’ll be there for every step of the process, from interview preparation and presentation guidance to salary negotiations and help to hand in your notice. Once you accept a new Clinical role, we’ll keep in touch regularly to ensure you’re settling in ok and to be on hand for any questions you might have.

If you’ve been impressed with the service you’ve received from Carrot, we’d love you to leave us a Google review. Or why not make the most of our referrals scheme and help a friend or colleague find a job in Clinical they love too!


A few final words on Clinical Research

We hope this guide has helped you to gain a deeper understanding of the world of Clinical Research and what a career within the sector could involve. If you’re still gathering your thoughts, let’s quickly recap:

  • Clinical Research is a vital part of getting a new drug to market. All medicines must go through at least three phases of clinical trials before they can be approved.
  • A career within Clinical Research is highly rewarding and would suit someone who likes working with data whilst getting involved with new people and places.
  • If you’re unsure where you want your clinical career to go, we recommend starting within clinical operations, as this will give you more options further down the line. 

If you’re looking for further information on the world of Clinical, want to register your details with ourselves, or are interested in discussing any of our roles in more detail, please get in touch today!

Contact Us

To find out about current job opportunities within Clinical Research, call Nicky Cura on +44 (0)1625 541 047 or email nicky@carrotpharma.co.uk

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