Clinical Research Officer: Graduate Area of Work

Graduates working in clinical research play an important role in saving people’s lives by ensuring drugs are safe for administration.
Carmen Teh
Writer, gradsingapore

Clinical research officers, otherwise known as clinical research associates or clinical research assistants, are responsible in assessing the benefits and risks of using new or current drugs. As such, graduates in this field are required to organise and administer clinical trials of these drugs.

Research officers in clinical operations play a pivotal role in a range of matters, including data collection, trialling, production and marketing of vital new medical products, which are produced to enhance and prolong human life.

Graduates entering this profession would typically be employed by pharmaceutical companies, clinical contract agencies/houses and hospital academic departments.

Career overview

When a pharmaceutical company produces a new medicine, make changes to a drug, or produces a new product, the organisation must carry out the necessary clinical trials.

This is where clinical research officers come in. They are tasked to organise and monitor the different phases of clinical trials of these drugs and products.

They choose trial participants, set schedules and document each case while following strict protocols. This is to ensure that they meet legal and safety standards, as well as ethical, regulatory and compliance standards.

Clinical research officers are also required to communicate trial findings to their peers and colleagues.

Day-to-day tasks of a clinical research officer include:

  • Writing drug trial procedures
  • Identifying and briefing appropriate trial clinicians/investigators
  • Setting up and disbanding trial study centres
  • Coming up with trial materials and supplying study centres with sufficient quantities of those materials
  • Instructing clinicians on how to conduct trials
  • Collecting and authenticating data collection forms or case report forms
  • Monitoring progress throughout different stages of the trial
  • Writing reports

Career flexibility is also a highlight in this area of work. Graduates will find that their job as a clinical research officer a stepping-stone to many related careers. For instance, they can later seek a position as a data manager who designs and monitors clinical trials.

Alternatively, they can specialise to become biostatisticians. They are responsible for the analysis and interpretation of raw data, which is essentially the product of initial trials, to extract the results.

Clinical research officers may also opt to progress into clinical quality assurance as auditors who inspect all documents and processes to ensure that they comply with the clinical guidelines and regulations.

Required skills

An undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in life sciences or medical sciences is a must to enter this area of work. Having a PhD qualification under your belt may also make you more competitive and stand you in good stead for promotional prospects.

Aside from professional qualifications, employers in this industry also look for the following among graduate candidates to fulfil the duties of a clinical research officer:

  • A logical and inquisitive mind
  • Good organisational abilities
  • Excellent numerical, written and verbal communication skills
  • Observational skills
  • Commercial awareness

Pros and cons

Graduates who are looking to enter this area of work should be prepared for the irregular working hours that is part and parcel of this job. As the tasks required of this job can get quite detailed and meticulous, you may have to spend a lot of time in front of a computer or processing paperwork.

However, as a clinical research officer, there is a strong sense of job satisfaction knowing that you are making medicines safe for all consumers. Moreover, graduates in this area of work are tasked with job duties that come with a large degree of autonomy, which allows them to take ownership of their work.