The Career Path of a Clinical Research Coordinator

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about the clinical research coordinator role, sometimes called a clinical trials manager. Discover pathways to work in clinical research, salaries, and typical employers.

[Featured Image]:  Clinical Research Coordinators wearing lab coats and gloves, sitting in a lab, working on a desktop computer, and using a microscope, to analyze data conducting a clinical trial.

A clinical research coordinator is an integral part of the research team for medical studies. They conduct and manage clinical trials, providing outcomes that shape medical advances in preventative care, curing diseases, and immunizations, among other areas. With employment options available in hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and private companies, clinical research coordinators can seek various positions, and salary is above average compared to similar professions.

What is a clinical research coordinator?

A clinical research coordinator—sometimes known as a clinical trial manager—supervises clinical research and drug trials, such as interventions involving drugs, devices, or procedures promoting behavior changes. In this position, you would recruit and screen participants, coordinate the day-to-day running of the trials, collect data, and produce reports. 

A clinical research coordinator is also responsible for ensuring a trial's safety and keeping the materials used safe during and after the study. You ensure meeting certain regulations and ethical standards and track patient health and progress. 

Where does a clinical research coordinator sit in a clinical research team?

A clinical research coordinator reports to a principal investigator, who is responsible for the overall design and management of the study. In contrast, a clinical researcher organizes the day-to-day running of the trials. As a clinical research coordinator, you will also work closely with sponsors and staff within their department responsible for finance, personnel, and compliance. You will typically oversee a clinical research team, including doctors, nurses, other medical staff, and assistants.

What are the primary duties and responsibilities of a clinical research coordinator?

Clinical research coordinators work in various workplaces, from hospitals to private businesses, and your duties will vary according to where you work and what you are trialing. However, typical responsibilities include:

  • Coordinating and overseeing the running of clinical trials

  • Recruiting and screening participants for trials

  • Managing documents and records of participants and trials 

  • Ensuring trials are delivered following regulatory, government, and ethical regulations and requirements

  • Ensuring the safety of participants, supplies, and materials

  • Performing cost analysis and preparing budgets

  • Designing and delivering training to staff and participants 

  • Collecting data and maintaining detailed records

  • Acting as a point of contact for study participants to ask any questions or express concerns 

  • Promoting the study through meetings, events, and seminars

  • Overseeing the research team

Career pathway steps

To work in clinical research, you need to hold a degree and have a certain amount of experience. You can pursue certifications and graduate qualifications to further your chances of a position. 

Bachelor's degree

A bachelor’s degree is generally step one for anyone who wants to work as a clinical research coordinator. A Bachelor of Science in a relevant subject, such as clinical research administration or a matter under the umbrella of health sciences, public health, or microbiology, is recommended. 

Read more: Bachelor of Science (BS) Degree: What It Is and How to Earn One

Work experience

Experience in health care or clinical research is essential for most positions. Some professionals come from a background in nursing or health care. If you have limited experience, getting some through an internship, voluntary assignment, or an entry-level role in a hospital or research position is a good idea. Experience is essential to be able to work towards certain industry-specific certifications.

Master's degree or graduate certificate 

All you need to work as a clinical research coordinator is a bachelor’s degree and experience. However, some employers prefer a graduate degree, and having a graduate certificate or a master’s degree will help set you apart from other applicants without this education level. 

You have several options to consider, and there is no set course. Still, it is most advantageous to select a subject like clinical research, clinical administration, or clinical research management to combine the elements of clinical research and a level of leadership. Specializations like medical technology are also options, as are more general course subjects like life sciences or health sciences. 

When choosing a course, essential factors to consider are whether there is a good mix of theory and practical experience and whether the course covers clinical and managerial subjects to give you a broad range of expertise. If you are already working and gaining experience, consider the flexibility of studying part-time or online to achieve your educational goals.

In addition to a master’s degree, you can also study for a graduate certificate in a relevant subject. These courses tend to be part of the curriculum for a master’s degree, and you can transfer credits, so it’s a great way to gain a certificate while building towards a master’s degree.

Read more: How to Get a Master's Degree


It isn’t essential but recommended that you get a clinical research certification if you want to advance your career in clinical research. To become certified, you need to be working in the field. Certification verifies your skills and competence, potentially boosting career prospects and salary. The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP-CP) provides a variety of certifications for clinical research professionals:

  • ACRP Certified Professional (ACRP-CP): To validate your knowledge and skills as a clinical research professional

  • Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC): To validate your knowledge and skills as a clinical research coordinator

  • Clinical Research Associate (CCRA): To validate your knowledge and skills as a clinical research associate

  • Principal Investigator (CPI): To validate your knowledge and skills as a principal investigator

  • ACRP Medical Device Professional Subspecialty (ACRP-MDP): To validate your knowledge of medical device trials

  • ACRP Project Manager Subspecialty: To validate your knowledge of project management within clinical research

The Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) also provides its Certified Clinical Research Professional credential to validate your experience, education, and knowledge as a clinical research professional.

How much do clinical research coordinators get paid?

The average clinical research coordinator's salary is $56,504, according to Glassdoor [1]. This can reach over $89,000 [1] for more senior positions. Salaries vary according to employer, industry, and type of trial. 

Who are typical employers of clinical research coordinators?

A clinical research coordinator can work in various places, including health care organizations, pharmaceutical companies, research hospitals, and government and private companies. You may be employed to research new medicines for market, genetic diseases, illness prevention, and behavioral prevention. 

Next steps

If you’re ready to take your next steps towards a career as a clinical research coordinator, you can start with a short course on Design and Interpretation of Clinical Trials delivered by John Hopkins University on Coursera. This can give you a good grounding in understanding clinical trials and research.

Related articles

Article sources

  1. Glassdoor. “Clinical Research Coordinator Salaries,,2_IN1_KO3,32.htm.” Accessed March 9, 2023.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.