Carly Benford never dreamed she would become a Clinical Research Coordinator. She sips on a glass of Pinot Noir after her day’s work at TGen, a genomics research institute in Phoenix, Arizona, reminiscing about how she stumbled into this career. “I played softball in high school and college,” she says, “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after school and I sort of just fell into this.” She happened to do an internship at TGen while in college because a family friend knew of the job. Now Carly is coordinating trials on cancer treatments that could save lives and further our quest to find a cure.
A Secret “Career of Careers”
Carly is not alone. The majority of Clinical Research Coordinators we interviewed ended up in falling into this amazing profession without any prior knowledge or training. Often Clinical Research Coordinators discover this role when they are recruited to start working. Nurses are recruited by physicians. Lab assistants are recruited by Principal Investigators running studies. Some coordinators have family members in the field and follow in their footsteps. The fact that that young people are not specifically training in this profession and the field is not a “popular” career path has led to shortages in the industry. How many young people are telling you they want to be a Clinical Research Coordinator when they graduate from college?
Booming Multi-Billion Dollar Industry
The field of clinical research is a massive industry fueled by government spending on research, private investment and our entrepreneurial drive to find cures to diseases and solve the healthcare problems of our era. Experts have estimated the global reach of healthcare research to be in excess of $150 billion. The pharmaceutical industry alone spends more than $51 billion dollars a year on research and development. The government, universities, and private companies including pharma, biotech, and medical device companies are all investing in research and conducting clinical trials. The sheer volume of studies taking place has created a significant number of jobs openings and the industry can’t hire fast enough.
Shortages Driving Up Salaries
With so much investment it is no wonder that we are seeing shortages at research facilities. A recent report by the Brookings institution outlined the paradox that even at a time when a lot of people are looking for work there are still an abundance of openings in certain professions. Clinical Research Associate positions have 10,000 unfilled positions according to a report by ACRP and that number is not likely to subside. The shortages are creating a lot of mobility. Clinical Research Coordinators are leveraging their experience on the job and after a few years transitioning to Clinical Research Associates (CRAs).
Great Pay and Rewarding Work
While the starting salary for a Clinical Research Coordinator may be $36 to $44,000 per year, this is only the beginning. The entry level pay for Clinical Research Associates is about $75,000 per year and median salaries are $95,000 annually. According to Money magazine, Clinical Research Associate was listed as one of the top ten jobs in 2012 and 2013. Great positions are not limited to Clinical Research Associates, however. Clinical Research Coordinator positions are exciting roles for individuals interested in the health care field and want to pursue a rewarding line of work. The coordinators work on the front lines of the studies, enrolling patients and collecting the data to determine a treatments effectiveness. Coordinators are working directly with the patients and helping this industry find live saving cures to disease.
Now is the Time to Enter this Field
The healthcare industry is entering a golden era where new research in bio-technology, genomic health and “personalized medicine” are finding new cures. With strong investment in R&D and lots of job availability, now is a great time for new candidates to train to become coordinators and enter the field when it is “hot”. Like any profession, it is not all fun and games. Research organizations are running multiple studies and enrolling patients in a variety of different trials looking for cures to diseases. But the hard work pays off. “Knowing that my work could be changing peoples lives for the better makes it very worthwhile”, says Carly.
The Future is Exciting!
After a just a few years in the industry Carly’s future looks bright. She has started teaching at Clinical Research Fastrack to train new coordinators entering the field, while at the same time still working at Tgen. After stumbling into this career after college, Carly is finding out that the opportunities in clinical research are bountiful and this industry is poised to improve our lives with amazing new discoveries.