Pros and Cons of Becoming a Clinical Coordinator
The role of a clinical coordinator varies depending what kind of organization is using the job title, but in general it's an administrative career path for scientists, nurses and other medical professionals to direct the activities of personnel and the use of resources. Learn more about the pros and cons of becoming a clinical coordinator to see if it's the right career path for you.
|Pros of a Clinical Coordinator Career|
|Excellent earnings potential for certain types of clinical coordinators ($120,000 median salary for clinical research coordinators in 2014)**|
|Projected employment growth of 23% between 2012-2022 for all medical and health services managers*|
|Can work in a variety of settings (hospitals, medical facilities, research labs, universities, etc.)*|
|Research and development work can lead to scientific discoveries, which can be rewarding*|
|Cons of a Clinical Coordinator Career|
|Often requires significant prior work experience*|
|Advanced education may be necessary for some positions (41% of coordinators and managers in healthcare facilities have a master's degree)**|
|Slow employment growth for clinical research coordinators (6% between 2012-2022 for all natural science managers)*|
|Meeting clinical research goals can be frustrating and stressful*|
|May be exposed to potentially hazardous or infectious environments (hospitals, clinical settings, labs, etc.)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine.
Clinical coordinators in medical and scientific fields are primarily project managers who direct the activities of personnel and the use of resources. Clinical coordinators working at colleges and universities are in charge of facilitating internship and clinical experience placements for students in nursing and medical education programs.
In hospitals, group medical practices and other healthcare facilities, a clinical coordinator is an administrator in charge of a particular practice area or even an entire facility. These health services managers may handle staffing, budget allocation, supervisory duties, case management, procurement of supplies and overseeing patient records. Another type of clinical coordinator is a clinical research coordinator, who directs research efforts in hospitals, labs or other facilities. They may be involved in biomedical or pharmaceutical research using clinical trials, human subjects or a variety of other methods.
Although specific salary data for clinical coordinators in education settings was unavailable, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and PayScale.com reported earnings data for other types of clinical coordinators. According to the BLS, clinical coordinators acting as medical and health services managers had an average annual salary around $104,000 in 2014 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that natural science managers, a general category that included clinical research coordinators, had a mean annual salary around $136,000 in 2014, while O*Net OnLine reported that clinical research coordinators earned a median salary of about $120,000 in 2014.
Clinical coordinators working as medical and health services managers had excellent career prospects, with the BLS projecting employment growth of 23% between 2012 and 2022. Natural science managers, a group that includes clinical research coordinators, had a less favorable career outlook, with only an 6% increase in employment for the decade through 2022. Specific information for clinical coordinators in education institutions was not available.
What Are the Requirements?
The combination of education, skills and prior experience needed to become a clinical coordinator depends on the type of employer, the size of the organization and the responsibilities included in the position. Clinical coordinators working as health services managers in hospitals and other clinical facilities often have a bachelor's degree in health administration or nursing. Having a master's degree in health administration, public health, nursing or business administration could also lead to a clinical coordinator position, depending on the balance of administrative and clinical duties required by the job. O*Net OnLine reported that in 2011, 52% of medical and health services managers held bachelor's degrees, while 41% held master's degrees (www.onetonline.org).
Clinical research coordinators held associate's degrees (9%), bachelor's degrees (56%), master's degrees (12%) or even doctoral degrees, often in a specific scientific discipline related to their area of research. Nursing or medical degrees might also lead to a clinical research coordinator position. For those who coordinate clinical experiences at colleges and universities, required education ranged from associate's to master's degrees, with accompanying experience in a particular area of medical practice, such as emergency medicine, physician assisting or nursing. Teaching experience was also a common requirement, since these coordinators monitor and evaluate student work.
Certification and Licensing
Many employers prefer to hire clinical coordinators and clinical research coordinators with professional certifications related to their area of responsibility. Clinical research coordinators can earn the Certified Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC) designation through the Academy of Clinical Research Professionals (www.acrpnet.org) or the Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP) credential through the Society of Clinical Research Associates (www.socra.org). Clinical coordinators and clinical research coordinators with a nursing background are usually required to have a valid state nursing license, especially if they have clinical duties in addition to administrative ones.
Useful Job Skills
Since clinical coordinators oversee staff and manage the work of others, they need to have leadership skills and well-developed written and verbal communication skills. As administrators, they are often called upon to solve problems and make decisions regarding personnel, budget, research activities and other areas, which requires analytical thinking. Clinical coordinators who are also engaged in scientific research, patient care, teaching or supervisory roles must have the technical skill to assist and instruct those they oversee, and current knowledge of scientific or technological advances in their field can be invaluable.
Job Postings from Real Employers
If you want to work as a clinical coordinator, you'll generally need anywhere from one to five years of related job experience and should be comfortable with occupying a supervisory role. Below is a sampling of various clinical coordinator positions listed on university websites and CareerBuilder.com available during May 2012:
- A community college in Colorado advertised for a clinical coordinator to set up and monitor students placed in clinical experiences in their emergency medical program. In addition to evaluating student progress, the coordinator needed to develop relationships with contacts in area medical facilities to create field experience opportunities. Minimum qualifications for candidates included a bachelor's degree or the equivalent professional experience, as well as basic computer skills.
- A California nursing facility wanted a skilled nursing clinical coordinator to oversee staffing, monitor care plans and provide direct care to patients. Applicants were required to be licensed nurses, and a bachelor's degree in nursing was preferred.
- A home healthcare provider in Las Vegas looked for a clinical coordinator to direct nursing assignments and educate staff in regulatory compliance and care. In addition to having at least three years of experience in home healthcare, candidates were expected to be registered nurses.
How to Make Your Skills Stand out
If you have a scientific, nursing or medical background but want to take on a supervisory or administrative role with additional business responsibilities, a master's degree in health services administration or business administration could give you an edge. The ability to make well-informed business and management decisions could help save your employer money in the long run, and an advanced degree with a business focus can enhance your skills in those areas.
If you see yourself working in a clinical setting, but would rather provide care than serve in an administrative capacity, you might want to consider becoming a registered nurse. There are a multitude of specialties open to nurses based on facility type, patient type or area of care, such as oncology or neonatology. Paths to becoming a registered nurse include completing a diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree program; O*Net reported that 64% of registered nurses had associate's degrees and 29% had completed bachelor's degrees as of 2011. Additionally, nurses must become licensed by passing the NCLEX-RN exam. The BLS projected registered nursing job growth of 26% through 2020, and the average salary in 2011 was around $69,000 per year.
If you want to dedicate all of your efforts to advancing medical knowledge, you could think about becoming a medical scientist. In this field, you can be employed by a university, private corporation, government agency or other entity to conduct disease research or complete clinical trials. Most medical scientists (81%) hold a doctoral degree, according to O*Net reports; depending on your area of research, you might also need to be a licensed physician. Average compensation for medical scientists was around $88,000 per year in 2011, and the BLS estimated employment growth of 36% for medical scientists between 2010 and 2020.