Pros and Cons of a Clinical Program Manager Career
Clinical operations managers, more commonly called clinical program managers, coordinate medical services in hospitals and clinics. Read on to learn more of the positive and negative aspects of this field in order to make a more informed decision about becoming a clinical program manager.
|Pros of Being a Clinical Program Manager|
|Better than average pay (around $103,000 in 2014)*|
|Involvement in exciting research projects*|
|Work in a leadership role*|
|Stay engaged with novel developments*|
|Cons of Being a Clinical Program Manager|
|Formal education required*|
|Slower than average employment growth*|
|Work in a very controlled environment*|
|Lots of work experience may be needed*|
Source: *Occupational Information Network.
Essential Career Information
Job Description and Duties
Clinical program managers plan, coordinate and direct clinical research operations and projects. They review study protocols to evaluate data management plans, sample collection processes and identify potential risks. They monitor study activities to ensure that all objectives and protocols have been met, and that the research complies with relevant federal, state and local regulatory policies. Clinical program managers oversee subjects, ensuring that informed consent is obtained. This can include meeting with physicians and reviewing medical records. They may also handle duties like preparing documentation related to clinical research and maintaining records.
Job Growth and Salary
According to the Occupational Information Network (O*Net Online), in 2014 the median annual wage of a clinical research coordinator was $120,050 and the median hourly wage was $57.71. From 2014 to 2024, employment is expected to grow between 2% and 4%, slower than the average for all occupations. As of 2014, this field had 55,000 employees and the top industries were professional, scientific, and technical services, and the government (www.onetonline.org).
Education and Training Requirements
While there are no uniform educational requirements for this field, clinical program managers will almost always need a background in healthcare; some positions may also require an acquaintance with business practices and a sound background in management. O*Net Online states that 56% of these professionals held bachelor's degrees and 12% had a master's. The following skills may help you become a successful clinical program manager:
- A solid background in medicine
- Administration and management skills
- The ability to collect and report data
- The ability to lead and monitor the activities of others
- Familiarity with mathematics and computer technology
Job Postings from Real Employers
While there are some commonalities, every research environment is different in both subject matter and purpose. Employers generally value individuals who have solid backgrounds in healthcare with work experience relevant to clinical research. Many also prefer candidates who are registered nurses (RNs) or who have certifications through organizations such as the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP). The following job postings were listed during April 2012:
- A clinical research company in Massachusetts was looking for a director of clinical research with experience in the medical device field. This job required the equivalent of an M.S. or a Ph.D. in health science or in a related medical field and at least ten years of experience in clinical research. Job duties included project management, medical writing, site monitoring and supervising staff members.
- A cancer center in Colorado was seeking a clinical research coordinator. This employer accepted applications from individuals with associate's degrees, but preferred candidates with bachelor's degrees. This job required three years of nursing experience. Job duties included screening patients, collecting data, overseeing the preparation of orders by physicians and coordinating patient care in compliance with protocol.
- A university medical center in Ohio was seeking a clinical research coordinator. This job required a bachelor's degree in nursing or medical science or an equivalent combination of work and educational experience. This employer preferred candidates to have an M.S. in public health or in a similar area, experience of neuromuscular diseases and excellent communication skills. Job duties included managing the daily research activities, ensuring compliance with all local and national regulations, as well as collecting and summarizing research data.
- A cancer specialty company in Virginia was seeking a clinical research coordinator. This employer required three years of relevant work experience and a bachelor's degree, and preferred candidates who were RNs. Job duties included maintaining, enlisting and complying with protocol for patients on clinical trials, collaborating with physicians, collecting data and maintaining documents.
How to Stand Out in the Field
While many workers in this field hold bachelor's degrees, individuals with graduate degrees are less common. By earning a master's degree in health science or health informatics, you can augment your skills and enhance your potential to acquire jobs with more responsibilities and higher wages. While earning your graduate degree, you may stay involved in medical research and participate in clinical activities.
There are many certifications relevant to this field, and some employers highly value individuals with certifications. The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) grants a number of certifications for professionals involved in clinical research. The Society of Clinical Research Associates (SoCRA) grants the Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP) certification for clinical researchers, research nurses, administrators and coordinators. Other certifications related to healthcare may also be important, such as the Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification.
Alternative Career Paths
If you are primarily interested in caring for patients as opposed to being involved in medical research, you may consider becoming a RN. RNs assist with examinations and treatments. They record, report and monitor patients and create detailed status reports of symptoms and vital signs. A bachelor's degree and licensure are typically required for this field. In May 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that median annual salary for an RN was $66,000 (www.bls.gov). The BLS indicates that from 2010 and 2020, employment is expected to grow 26%, faster than average.
Medical Service Manager
If you are more interested in the business end of the medical field, you may wish to work in a managerial position. Medical service managers administer and conduct fiscal operations like accounting, budget planning and coordinating financial reporting. They supervise and direct nursing, clerical, technical and maintenance personnel. They also monitor the use of facilities, inpatient beds and diagnostic services to ensure the effective use of resources. In May 2011, the BLS reported that the median annual wage of a medical service manager was $86,000. The BLS also stated that employment opportunities for this field were projected to grow 22% from 2010-2020.