Becoming a Clinical Data Manager: Job Description & Salary Info

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A clinical data manager's mean annual salary is around $84,010, but is it worth the educational requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a clinical data manager is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Clinical Data Management Career

A clinical data managers use database management skills and their knowledge of health care to collect and help analyze the results of medical research studies. Weigh the below pros and cons for a career as a clinical data manager to decide if this is the right career for you.

Pros of a Clinical Data Manager Career
Opportunity to help others through medical research**
Regular hours*
Higher than average wages ($84,010 mean annual salary)*
Job growth expected (34% between 2014-2024)*

Cons of a Clinical Data Manager Career
Work requires a high level of precision (including checking data, and quality control often for other team members)****
More education/certification required to advance*
Clinical research is highly regulated. Many laws and guidelines that must be understood and adhered to***
Much time spent in finding and resolving problems****

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Society of Clinical Research Associates, ***Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ****O*NET OnLine.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Clinical data mangers collect and analyze clinical data. Activities might include designing a database for a clinical trial or designing forms to track data on each study participant. Making sure data is received, verified and filed, writing standard operating procedures (SOPs) and organizing the data for computer analysis may also be required.

Clinical data managers may supervise other members of the study team. They should be committed to maintaining the confidentiality of all study participants, and the proprietary information that belongs to the pharmaceutical company or research organization involved. They must keep open communication with members of the research team and abide by any federal, state or local regulations concerning clinical research. Clinical data managers generally work in offices, and keep regular hours. Examples of places a clinical data manager may work are pharmaceutical companies, research and development companies and university research institutes.

Job Prospects and Salary

According to the BLS, statistician jobs are expected to increase 34% from 2014 to 2024. Growth may be slightly higher for clinical data managers given the growth in the pharmaceutical industry. The mean salary for persons in the statistician group was $84,010 in May 2014, reports the BLS.

Career Skills and Requirements

O*NET OnLine reports that 91% of all clinical data managers held a bachelor's degree, although some positions may request a graduate degree. Because of the emphasis on medical studies, programs in a science or health-related field will likely be the most beneficial. You can find specific courses in clinical research management, which can prepare you for data management.

Some schools even offer a graduate clinical data management certificate program. You will learn how to use data management software and manage clinical trials.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Candidates need a strong background in computer skills, and should be familiar with data management software. Companies may prefer candidates who already have a number of years experience working with clinical trial data. Here are a few examples of job posted in March 2012:

  • A university research institute in Massachusetts is looking to hire a clinical data manger with at least two years experience working with clinical trial data. You'll need a bachelor's degree in computer science, nursing or health science. Candidates should be aware of data management for new drugs development and familiar with data management software.
  • A clinical research company in Tennessee is hiring a lead clinical data manger. A graduate degree in pharmacy, project management or life sciences is required. Candidates must have six years related experience. The employer is looking for someone with strong knowledge of drug development, experience with the Oracle Clinical database and who is able to lead and mentor team members.
  • A university-affiliated biomedical research company in Louisiana is hiring a clinical data manager to work in their preventive medicine department. A bachelor's degree is required, although a master's is preferred. You'll need strong computer skills, preferably with Microsoft data management, word processing and spreadsheet software.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Get Certified

Becoming certified is a way to stand out as a clinical data manager. The Society of Clinical Data Management (SCDM) offers certification. To qualify to take the certification exam, candidates must have a bachelor's degree and two years experience, an associate degree and three years experience or have four years of full-time work experience (or equivalent part time) as a clinical data manager.

The Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) also offers certification (Certified Clinical Research Professional) that can help you stand out in the field of clinical research as someone with knowledge and experience. Eligibility for the exam includes two years of full-time work (or part-time equivalent), a degree in clinical research or a degree in a health-related field plus a certificate in clinical research and one year of experience.

Continuing Education

SOCRA offers a number of continuing educational courses, including a five-day introductory course that may be worth the expense to someone who is really interested in a clinical research career. SCDM offers online courses, webinars and conference sessions for continuing education and certification preparation.

Additionally, some colleges offer continuing education courses in clinical data management, either individually or as a part of a program in biotechnology that confers a certificate.

Other Fields to Consider

Clinical Research Coordinator

If you want to play a major role in clinical research but are less interested in data management, becoming a clinical research coordinator may be more to your liking. Clinical research coordinators monitor research projects from beginning to end to make sure the study is in compliance with all federal, state and local regulations. They keep track of all patients who enroll and/or drop out of the study, review the study protocol and monitor participants for adverse events.

Job postings in March 2012 add that the research coordinator stays in communication with the lead investigator, and creates and works with study-related documents. Most research coordinators have at least a bachelor's degree, and jobs are expected to increase 9% between 2010-2020, reports the BLS.

Financial Analyst

If you like the idea of working with computers and data, but are not as interested in health or science, you might consider becoming a financial analyst. Individuals in this career follow stocks and other investments in order to help businesses and individuals make wise investment choices. Financial analysts need at least a bachelor's degree but you'll need a master's degree to advance in the field. Financial analysts need strong math and computer skills, and getting certified will improve your chances of employment and advancement. Jobs in this field are expected to grow 23% from 2010 to 2020 and the median annual wage was $76,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS.

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