How to Land an Entry-Level Clinical Research Job

clinical research job
clinical research job

The clinical trials market is expected to hit $68.9 billion by 2026. As a result, the number of job opportunities is growing. Couple that with the work being both intriguing and rewarding, allowing you to be at the forefront of clinical advancements, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that many people imagine exciting careers in the field of clinical research.

However, even if they know it’s the right industry for them, many aspiring candidates aren’t sure how to get their careers off of the ground. Fortunately, the path to your dream job isn’t as challenging as it may initially seem. Here’s a look at the steps required to land your first job in clinical research.

Know Your Career Goals

While you may envision yourself working in clinical research, it’s wise to spend time mapping out your ideal career. Some may have their sights set on becoming a clinical research associate (CRA). Others may want to work as a clinical research coordinator (CRC), clinical trial manager, or principal investigator.

Each career path is nuanced, so it’s wise to drill down and determine where you’d like your career to go. Begin by asking yourself a few key questions. What do you consider to be the best role in clinical research? Which tasks or responsibilities appeal to you most? Do you have any salary-oriented needs or expectations?

By asking those questions, you can determine which position is the best choice for you. That makes it easier to craft your ideal career, giving you a clear target to pursue.

Begin with Education

As with most scientific careers, you need the right education to work in clinical research. Commonly, that means getting a Bachelor’s degree at a minimum in a major like clinical research management, public health, biology, chemistry, or a similar field.

In some cases, you may even need a Master’s in an allied field. If you aren’t sure what education level is right for you, research the jobs you hope to land during your career and review the requirements. Often, they’ll list any educational expectations, giving you insights into what option is best for your dream career.

Don’t Overlook Soft Skills

When many professionals prepare to launch exciting careers, they focus on hard skills – the technical expertise they need to perform well in the job. While those are undoubtedly crucial, you also need the proper soft skills for the industry.

Since you’ll be working directly with patients and doctors to gather information on a variety of health topics – including safety, effectiveness, and adverse events – you need specific capabilities. Soft skills like communication, organization, and attention to detail are vital parts of the equation.

Make sure to spend time honing your soft skills. Additionally, discuss them on your resume. That ensures hiring managers are aware of what you bring to the table in that arena.

Gain Experience Whenever Possible

Even if you’re preparing to seek out your first entry-level job, that doesn’t mean you can’t gain some experience beforehand. There are several options available that can help you hone your expertise outside of a formal position.

One simple place to begin is internships during your time in college. With an internship, you get real-world experience through a learning-oriented program. Companies understand that students don’t know it all, and they’re willing to work with them to develop critical skills along the way.

You can also look for mentorship opportunities. Those will also provide you with insights and experience, all with a one-on-one connection to a professional working in the field.

Finally, there are volunteer opportunities. Many hospitals and clinics that conduct clinical trials are open to bringing on suitable volunteers, allowing you to take part in relevant work activities and gain experience.

Build Your Professional Network

Building a strong professional network reaps dividends. Often, by tapping into your professional network, you can find new opportunities quickly and climb the ladder faster. Plus, the quality of your job matches may be higher. Ultimately, your connections know what you bring to the table and what you need from a workplace culture, so their recommendations will often include workplaces where you’ll thrive.

Networking isn’t about simply finding your next job; it’s about building relationships with professionals that can offer guidance, provide support, and otherwise help you excel. But developing a reliable doesn’t have to be a challenge.

Start by strengthening connections with professionals you already know. Professors, other students, and mentors are all great examples. Additionally, attend networking events hosted by industry-related organizations, like the Association of Clinical Research Professionals and the Society of Clinical Research Associates.

Focus on relationship-building as you meet new people by asking each person questions about themselves and finding ways to provide them with value. Then, when you need assistance one day, they’ll be there for you.

Target Your Resume and Interview Answers

Once it’s time to start applying to open positions, you need to spend time targeting your resume and interview answers. That allows you to speak to a hiring manager’s specific needs, making your application and responses more compelling.

Begin by reviewing the job description to find keywords related to must-have skills, required experience, and associated duties. Check the company’s mission and values statements to learn about the culture and any hiring priorities, as well as more keywords.

Then, integrate keywords relating to capabilities and characteristics you possess into your resume. As you prepare interview answers, reference the skills and experience that allow you to address any needs or preferences you discovered during your research.

Ultimately, securing a new job is about positioning yourself as a solution to the problem the hiring manager is facing. By orienting your approach to them and the company, you’ll have a higher chance of coming across as an exceptional match.


For many people, working in clinical research would be a dream come true. Fortunately, by following the tips above, it isn’t a difficult path to work. Build a foundation with your education, seize opportunities to hone skills and gain experience, network to forge lasting connections, and target your resume and interview answers. That ensures you can showcase yourself as an exceptional candidate, increasing the odds that you’ll land interviews and secure job offers.

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