CJ Anderson Discusses Starting Careers in Clinical Research
CJ Anderson moved five years ago from Omaha, Nebraska to Scottsdale, Arizona. He made the 1,200 mile journey with the mission to fill a void in the medical industry. His company Finding Pharma, a placement agency within the healthcare sector, has discovered that the clinical research industry is in greater demand than he predicted. Listen to him discuss the benefits of the foundation provided by Clinical Research Fastrack:
Read the full interview transcript below:
Question: Why did Finding Pharma choose to heavily focus on the clinical research industry?
CJ: “When Finding Pharma started, the first company that we worked with was a clinical research organization (CRO). We filled roughly 50+ positions for them, and after that we started to go off. We originally thought it [Finding Pharma] was just going to be involved in healthcare in general, but the second company we signed with was another CRO, and they had like 1,100 open positions. So it was at that time that we realized that there was a significant market opportunity to make a difference in research, and there truly was a desperation for good research professionals.
So it made sense at the time to position Finding Pharma to specialize in research. But not only that, we thought at first, ‘is clinical research going to be a small industry?’ And after six months we realized it was bigger than we could’ve imagined. It truly was just a hidden gem.”
Question: Especially for newcomers, what kind of opportunities exist in clinical research?
CJ: “If you’re just jumping into the industry I like to ask the question of, ‘One do you want to be patient facing? Or two, do you want to be more on the back end, whether it’s through regulatory or quality?’ So if you want to be patient facing, the best position to start out is a research assistant or clinical research coordinator (CRC). The reason I say that is because the industry is so fragmented. There’s thousands of these individual sites where physicians have their own practices, and for them to be successful they need to have a clinical research infrastructure with a coordinator.
Right now, there is such a demand for CRC’s to provide that level of care to patients and really oversee the trial. It’s funny, because when I first started Finding Pharma I thought that the majority of a trial was done by a physician, and it turns out that 90 percent is actually done by CRC’s. To be successful in research that coordinator role is important.”
Question: What is the best way for someone to break into this industry?
CJ: “So, to really have a successful transition into research, I say there’s two things.
One, I would say you have to have the personality to provide successful patient care. Two, you have to have some type of relevant education or experience that kind of tells your story that makes it make sense for me [a hiring manager] to move forward with you.”
Question: Why is it hard for newcomers to get into clinical research without any help?
CJ: “I will say that it is difficult to jump into research if you don’t have any background. The reason is, if I’m a physician, hiring manager, or a CRO, and I look at your resumé and I don’t see any relevant experience at all, I may be a little confused as to why you’re applying or think there is going to be a big learning curve.”
Question: What networking tips would you recommend to newcomers?
CJ: “I think the most underutilized tool for networking is LinkedIn. As of right now, LinkedIn has millions of professionals where you’re able to connect with them. Whether that’s the hiring manager, or their clinical research team, or whatever profession you really want to get into. You can actually open up a dialogue fairly quickly.”
Question: What are companies that are hiring, looking for in their desired candidates?
CJ: “The characteristics they are looking for are three things. Passion. You need to have passion for the industry. Passion for what you’re doing. I mean if you’re going to start enrolling patients, and you’re talking with them, and for you to be successful, this is a time where they’re uncertain what the trial is going to consist of, or how the process is going to be. You need to have the passion to make them realize the impact they are going to have on the world, themselves, and this drug. You need all those pieces, and if you don’t have that then patients aren’t going to have a great experience with that clinical research company. Two, the relevant experience/education. Three, the personality to be successful. If you have all three of those pieces, combined with the right network, I think you’ll be successful.”
Question: What are these entry level CRC’s making?
CJ: “It depends on your background, and of course location, but typically between $44,000-$57,000.”
Question: Why do you see clinical research as a great opportunity for an individual?
CJ: “I honestly believe that clinical research truly is a hidden gem. So many people want to make a difference in the world, and so many people want a fulfilling career, and they often times just have never heard of clinical research, or just don’t understand the career path. But clinical research, in itself, I think it is such an incredibly exciting time to join the industry because not only can you have a significant amount of career opportunities, but you have the opportunity to go home every single night and feel like you made a difference in the world.”
Question: How do you see Clinical Research Fastrack properly preparing and benefiting people who want to break into the clinical research field?
CJ: “Since I’ve partnered with Clinical Research Fastrack, it has been, from what I’ve personally seen, one of the best foundations that a person can receive to make a successful leap into clinical research. The reason I say that, is because often times if you get into research and you don’t have an appropriate foundation of knowledge, there is a learning curve, and maybe you realize research isn’t for you.
But I’ve talked to so many different (research) sites who the principal investigator, or the owner of the company, have personally told me that there has been CRC’s who after 12 months of experience and training with their site had less knowledge of the industry and practices than a graduate of Clinical Research Fastrack. I think it really is an incredible opportunity to get a baseline foundation and allowing you to have an accelerated learning curve to have a successful leap into the industry.”