Clinical Research Administration Degrees: Master, PhD & Online Course Info

About this article
A master's degree or a Ph.D in clinical research administration may lead to careers in clinical research management and academia. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options. Find out what you can do with your master's or doctorate degree in clinical research administration.
View available schools

Study Clinical Research Administration: Degrees at a Glance

Although there are only a few master's degree and Ph.D programs in clinical research administration, a degree program in clinical research, which is far more common, will provide the necessary knowledge for a career in this field. Clinical research administration is a rapidly growing occupation that offers different types of jobs. However, these advanced degrees aren't necessary for many entry-level positions in the field.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for medical scientists, which includes clinical research administrators, is expected to increase by 36% from 2010-2020 ( This increase is substantially above average. If you want to become a postsecondary professor or researcher, you can expect a job growth of 17% in the same period, according to the BLS. In July, 2012, reported that in the 10-90th percentile range, clinical research coordinators earned between $30,571-and $62,130 a year.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? People interested in a clinical research administration Individuals seeking jobs as professors, researchers or medical science managers
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Clinical research associate (unavailable)
- Clinical research coordinator (unavailable)
- University professor ($72,400)*
- Community college professor ($78,000)*
- Medical scientist ($87,600)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years, full-time 3-5 years
Common Graduation Requirements - About 6-8 graduate level courses
- Master's thesis or a mentored research project
- Master's exams
- Most (or all) of the master's degree requirements
- About 4-6 more graduate level courses
- Ph.D qualifier exams
- Dissertation
- Lab requirements
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in clinical research or a related field Bachelor's or master's degree in clinical research or a related field
Online Availability Yes Unavailable

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Clinical Research Administration

A master's degree in clinical research will generally provide you with graduate-level training in the scientific methods, business, ethics and regulations surrounding clinical trials for new patient care products and drug treatment protocols. Individuals pursuing a master's degree in clinical research administration tend to come from a variety of medical fields. With a master's degree, you can seek employment as a clinical research specialist, a clinical coordinator, a data collection coordinator, a clinical monitor or another position involving the administering and managing of clinical studies. Some jobs, however, may be available with just a bachelor's degree or require a doctorate degree.

In a typical program, you'll find small class sizes, lengthy lab time requirements, one-on-one work with professors and a heavy course load. If your chosen research area is the same as your professors, you may end up acting as a research assistant.

Pros and Cons


  • The medical science industry is growing at a healthy pace, according to the BLS
  • Earn a higher salary than with a bachelor's degree
  • Develop advanced skills in program administration, methodology skills and other clinical skills


  • Many clinical research positions require only a bachelor's degree and certification
  • A majority of medical science jobs require a doctorate degree
  • Some universities don't fund terminal master's degree

Courses and Requirements

While earning your master's degree in clinical research, you'll study the history and methods of clinical research, program management techniques and the legal and ethical considerations of this type of work. A handful of courses you may take are:

  • Bioethics
  • Clinical research methods
  • Clinical study management
  • Drug development and testing
  • Medical devices development and regulation
  • Legal issues and regulatory affairs
  • Grants and contract management
  • Advanced organic chemistry
  • Biostatistics and data analysis
  • Molecular genetics

Also, you'll likely need to research and write a master's thesis on your chosen area of expertise.

Online Degree Options

There are a number of online programs available in clinical research and clinical research administration. However, because this degree tends to be research-intensive, you may need to combine online coursework with on-campus research and real-world lab work.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

There are ways you can get ahead of the job competition while earning your master's degree. For example, obtaining a clinical research certification from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) can help you stand out among job candidates. Staying on top of the latest medical technologies is another way. As an administrator, strong computer literacy is also highly valued by many employers.

Ph.D in Clinical Research Administration

Doctorate programs in clinical research administration are often found in clinical research or clinical and transitional science programs. Your chosen area of expertise will guide the majority of your studies. A Ph.D program will prepare you for work as medical scientist administrator or a postgraduate professor or researcher. Holding a doctorate degree may not automatically grant your tenure at postsecondary institutions. And your doctorate program studies may not give you enough time to work full-time.

Pros and Cons


  • With a Ph.D, you'll be able to pursue higher-level job opportunities in clinical research at universities, government agencies and private companies
  • Your research and projects that you supervise could influence or change medicine
  • You may qualify tenure if you work in academia at a postsecondary school


  • It may be difficult to get into a doctorate program in clinical research
  • Earning your doctorate may not give you enough time to work during your studies
  • Tenure may not be available or guaranteed by your employer

Courses and Requirements

Your specialization will generally determine your coursework. The following are a few courses that you could take:

  • Research development and design
  • Laboratory techniques
  • Biomedical research and ethics application
  • Communities and cultural diversity
  • Research management protocol

Coursework and postgraduate exams are parts of this doctorate program. You may also be required to present and defend a dissertation. This involves researching and writing a dissertation based on your area of expertise.

Online Degree Options

Earning a Ph.D in clinical research requires real-world experience and close one-on-one work with professors, advisers and patients. For this reason, there are a few if any online options at this time.

Stand Out With This Degree

During your Ph.D program, there are actions you can take to stand out in the job market. Some things you can do include:

  • Have your dissertation or papers published in a peer-reviewed academic journal or another official medical publication
  • Volunteer or intern at an accredited research clinic to gain experience
  • Stay current with the newest clinical research and data-collection technology

Degree Alternatives

There is several related degree programs that you may consider. For example, bioethics and nursing are also fields that could lead to academic and medical science administrative positions. Degrees in these fields may allow you to enter a pre-doctorate or post-doctorate clinical research training program.