Opportunities With a Master’s in Clinical Research

Rush University’s master’s in clinical research program is tailored to the needs of its students, 90% of whom work full-time

May 4, 2021
A researcher's gloved hand interacts with data on a laptop touch screen

Who gets the call when we want to quickly develop vaccines in response to a pandemic? Clinical researchers have us covered.

Whether you want a hand in finding solutions for COVID-19 and other diseases or you enjoy teaching, or both, you’ll discover endless clinical research career options in this flexible field. Do your research and find out if a degree in clinical research is right for you.

What is clinical research?

Clinical research is the assessment of people and their health. That may include the study of body tissue or behavioral health.

Clinical trials, which are a type of clinical research, focus on finding and developing ways to effectively and efficiently prevent, diagnose or manage diseases. The data from clinical trials is used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve new therapies.

What is a master’s degree in clinical research?

Master’s degree in clinical research training provides graduates with the skills required to design and conduct clinical research, analyze the results, read and critique research articles, and present research findings in peer-reviewed journals. Students generally follow one of three tracks: clinicians interested in adding a research component to their careers, people who want to learn more about research as a stepping stone toward becoming a clinician or students pursuing analytics-based research careers.

Master’s programs in clinical research typically take two years to complete, with a thesis. Core courses include the following:

  • Bioinformatics
  • Biostatistics
  • Clinical research design
  • Epidemiology
  • Ethics
  • Grant writing
  • Health care outcomes

Students also take electives based on their track, including advanced courses in biostatistics, bioinformatics and epidemiology. Other courses may include health inequities, the business of science, neuroscience, immunology or cancer biology, and classes that expand on core coursework.

Why choose a clinical research career?

Choose a career in clinical research if you are interested in applying science as a way to meaningfully improve patient care and health outcomes. Without clinical research, there would be no advancement in understanding, monitoring, detecting and treating disease.

“There is great satisfaction you feel in undertaking something that makes a positive change in the patient care system,” says Meenakshi Jolly, MD, MSCP, director of the master’s in clinical research program at Rush University. “Even if you’re not leading the discovery, you’re part of something that is very meaningful.”

And there are so many career opportunities in clinical research, so there is no shortage of ways to tailor your career to your interests and skills. For example, Jolly is a practicing rheumatologist at Rush University Medical Center who uses her education in clinical research to better understand the biopsychosocial determinants of health outcomes in her patients who have lupus. That’s all in addition to her teaching role in Rush’s clinical research program.

In addition to academic medical centers, clinical researchers often work for pharmaceutical companies, government research agencies or medical research institutes.

“You can define and redefine your career in so many different ways,” Jolly says. “I enjoy each of my roles, and our clinical research graduates have the same opportunity to pick and choose the roles that are fulfilling to them. It’s all open to their imagination.”

What are some career paths for a graduate in clinical research?

Here are a few common clinical research career options along with salary details:

  • Biostatistician: Analyze and interpret data from laboratory testing, and play a role in contributing to the design of clinical trials. Salaries range from $65,000-$86,000.
  • Certified physician investigator: Conduct research in addition to teaching and treating patients. Certified physician investigators hold a medical degree or its equivalent and earn an average of $207,635, according to Hospital Careers.
  • Clinical research associate (CRA): Ensure research projects are meeting regulatory and ethical standards. Salaries range from $58,000-$89,000, according to the North Carolina CRO Collaborative.
  • Clinical research technician: Identify and recruit patients eligible to participate in studies, and prepare patient samples for analysis. Salaries range from $32,000-$58,500 (North Carolina CRO Collaborative).
  • Clinical safety specialist: Ensure all adverse clinical trial events are processed according to guidelines. Protect patient data privacy. Salaries range from $47,500-$73,500.
  • Clinical research data coordinator: Enter research study data into a database and review for discrepancies. Salaries range from $40,000-$60,000 (North Carolina CRO Collaborative).

What is the demand for clinical research professionals?

Demand for clinical research management professionals has increased 9.3% over the past three years, according to the Association of Clinical Research Professionals. More job growth is anticipated as researchers continue to pursue trials related to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

Why Rush University for a master's in clinical research?

Rush University’s master’s in clinical research program is tailored to the needs of its students, 90% of whom work full-time. The majority of the program’s classes are offered online and after 3 p.m., which provides flexibility for those balancing work with education.

Students at Rush also have the opportunity to work with and be mentored by some of the country’s top researchers. Networking opportunities at Rush will also appeal to students pursuing the master’s in clinical research as a way to bolster their credentials for medical school or a residency. As an academic medical center, Rush has a medical college and several residency and fellowship programs.

“They’re right in the center of it all,” Jolly says. “In all respects — from clinical trials and patient care to education and community service initiatives — our students have access to so many resources and opportunities.”

Learn more about the master’s in clinical research program at Rush University.