They may not be the queens of the lab, but clinical research assistants perform an essential role in clinical laboratories. These assistants provide a helping hand to lab techs, scientists and other lab professionals and fulfill administrative duties like answering phones and making appointments. A clinical research assistant also helps with routine testing, specimen gathering and other lab duties. Women greatly outnumber men in the clinical laboratory industry, making up nearly 73 percent of all laboratory workers in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Clinical research assistants have two choices when it comes to obtaining certification. Two industry associations, the Society of Clinical Research Associates and the Association of Clinical Research Professionals, offer the only certification programs for clinical research assistants. SoCRA sponsors one certification, the Clinical Research Professionals designation. ACRP oversees two certification programs for laboratory professionals: Certified Clinical Research Associate and Certified Clinical Research Coordinator.
Candidates for the SoCRA designation can opt for one of three eligibility paths. The first path is a minimum of two years of full-time experience as a clinical research professional. The second requires a degree in clinical research and one year of professional experience. Candidates opting for the third path need a degree in science or health, a certificate in clinical research and at least one year of professional experience. The ACRP requires applicants for both the CCRA and CCRC designations to show documented proof of professional experience through a resume or curriculum vitae. The exact number of professional hours needed for ACRP certification depends on the level of education attained. For example, candidates with an associate or bachelor degree need 3,000 hours for the CCRA and 4,500 for the CCRC.
After clearing the eligibility hurdles, candidates must take a certification exam. Each certification exam is multiple choice and takes place at computer testing centers located across the country. Both organizations require an application process that includes paying an application and exam fee. SoCRA requires membership to earn certification and ACRP offers discounts on the fees for its members. ACRP requires a candidate to show she has performed certain essential duties, like verifying data, maintaining documents and overseeing protocols, as part of her professional hours.
Certification requires maintenance work, too. SoCRA certification holders must keep up their membership every year and renew their certifications every three years. During each three-year certification period, SoCRA certification holders must complete at least 45 continuing education credits. Recertification with ACRP occurs every two years. The organization offers three ways to recertify. Candidates can complete continuing education credits, participate in industry-related events or retake the certification exam.
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