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Clinical research associate: Salary and conditions

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  • Range of typical starting salaries: £18,000-£22,000.
  • Salaries with five years' or more experience: £25,000-£40,000.
  • Salaries vary from company to company. Those working freelance could earn up to £50,000. Benefits, which may include a car, are generally provided and bonuses may be paid.
  • Working conditions vary between companies, although the hours worked are usually Monday to Friday. Extra hours are worked regularly in the evenings, although weekend or shift work is uncommon.
  • Field-based clinical research associates (CRAs) are mainly on the road, dealing with doctors and research nurses in trial centres, GP practices or hospitals. Some companies have in-house, office-based CRA roles with virtually no site visit responsibilities; these CRAs focus on document review and management.
  • CRAs may work in teams or individually.
  • Part-time work is possible as are career breaks. Short term contracts of 6-12 months with a company are common, meaning CRAs may be more like contractors than permanent employers.
  • Self-employment or freelance work is possible with experience (usually four years or more).
  • Most UK pharmaceutical companies are located in the south of England. Field-based positions are generally found in key locations throughout the UK. Some jobs, for example in a company laboratory, can be found locally while others are regionally based.
  • Work requires a smart dress code.
  • Time deadlines can make the work stressful.
  • The job can involve a lot of travelling, especially if working in a field-based role. You may be out of the office three or four days a week, possibly including overnight stays. Some companies operate a system whereby the CRA specialises in a specific disease area and covers the whole of the UK. Others operate their CRAs on a regional basis.
  • Working for an international company may involve coordinating trials abroad, in which case a considerable amount of overseas travel would be necessary.

Salary figures are intended as a guide only.

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Written by AGCAS editors
September 2012

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