A clinical research assistant helps collect and organize data procured from studies and trials researching the benefits, risks, effects and efficacies of medical treatments and products. She will spend a good part of the day communicating with and observing volunteers recruited specifically for the studies at hand. Clinical research assistants are generally employed by either a pharmaceutical company, contract research organization, government agency or university.
A clinical trial assistant will spend a majority of her workday gathering data and making observations from the results of experiments and clinical trials. The assistant will analyze and interpret statistics, helping the clinical researchers to form results and conclusions that will then be passed on to the pharmaceutical company, government agency or research institution interested in the further development or release of the product under study. In most cases, a clinical research assistant also works in an administrative capacity, completing paperwork, writing grants, logging data and providing research support. Some might also be expected to perform simple medical duties such as drawing blood or administering trial medication.
Most clinical trial assistant positions require at least a bachelor's degree in a life sciences field -- microbiology or organic chemistry, for example -- though many employers require advanced graduate degrees and additional medical or nursing licensing as well. Additionally, candidates should have a good understanding of medical terminology, clinical practice standards and local regulations. Clinical research organizations especially seek candidates with an educational background in clinical trial administration; the Society of Clinical Research Associates, for example, offers Certified Clinical Research Professional, or CCRP, credentialing. Curriculums specifically designed for clinical research providers are also available at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
It is essential that a clinical trial assistant be highly organized and detail-oriented, a problem-solver with strong analytical and research skills. In addition to health care, she should have an interest in math and statistics. Strong verbal and communication skills are necessary as you'll be in contact with other research and health care professionals as well as the general public, and fluency in more than one language is helpful. Much of the collected data is inputted into spreadsheets and word processing documents, making excellent computer skills and experience with the Microsoft Office suite of products a must.
Clinical trial assistants typically work in a laboratory setting, running or assisting with experiments and clinical trials with physicians, researchers and the general public. A large part of the workday will be spent working on a computer in a quiet setting, inputting data, researching gathered statistics and writing proposals. Some travel might be required if clinical trials are held outside of the home laboratory.
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