CRA Job Landscape: Fewer, Tougher Jobs

Today’s clinical research associates (CRAs) have some justification if they feel like superstar college athletes nailing down big signing bonuses. They should enjoy it while they can. The job landscape of the future could be quite a bit different, says Jeff Kasher, president of Patients Can’t Wait LLC.

Thanks to risk-based monitoring (RBM) (see the October 2015 Clinical Researcher) and recruitment technology such as the Apple ResearchKit™ (see the June 2015 Clinical Researcher), the job market for CRAs could shrink in half over the next five to 10 years, he says. However, the remaining jobs will be tougher and demand more experience.

His advice? Seek out new skill sets, for instance by focusing on project management or specializing in a particular therapeutic area. Tomorrow’s CRAs will be expected to understand the big picture “connectivity of actions” in a clinical trial, Kasher says. That includes resource management and being able to drill down to face tough questions from sponsors or physicians.

Centralized monitoring also demands strong data analytics skills and the ability to spot red flags in data remotely. There will be fewer onsite visits in the clinical trial landscape of the future, Kasher says. The upside: less travel. The downside: CRAs will need a deeper understanding of trial protocols so they can identify study issues that cannot be addressed from afar and merit an onsite visit.

In terms of a career path, Kasher suggests following the areas with the largest unmet medical needs. For example, while there already many good medicines out there for diabetes and cardiovascular issues, there are needs for large advances and improved outcomes in cancer treatment, autoimmune diseases, and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, among others. In other words, the demand for clinical trials will be stronger in the latter cluster of diseases.