How an MS in clinical research management degree can help you advance to a leadership role

May 23, 2019 · 6 min read · By ASU Online
You can enhance your clinical trial management skills and leadership potential with a clinical research master’s degree from ASU Online.

Do you work in health care? Have you considered the clinical research field? For nurses, physicians or other health care professionals who have experience and seek to transition into a new career, clinical research roles can offer the potential for growth and the ability to develop new skills. With leadership opportunities that might not be available in their current roles, moving into or advancing in clinical research may be appealing.

Previous experience is often necessary for positions in clinical research. Your education holds equal value. Earning an online clinical research master’s degree can demonstrate to hiring managers your passion for the industry, technical expertise and willingness to advance in your career or make a career change from your existing role in health care. Not only can an online Master of Science in Clinical Research Management help prepare you for the demands of overseeing and running clinical trials, it can also expose you to ethical and regulatory practices connected with the successful administration of clinical research. Alongside learning the technical aspects connected to roles in clinical research management, expanding your education with a master’s degree can help you build leadership skills to perform better in current and future roles.


Building on your experience to help you advance in the field of clinical research

Clinical research roles require compliance with regulations and laws that govern the conduct of clinical trials. These include the processes for managing or running a clinical trial, safety rules, participant privacy, and subject and materials confidentiality. National standards have been developed to address the competencies necessary for clinical researchers to achieve successful professional outcomes, and they can be mastered through clinical research management degrees.

Topics such as federal regulations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, history and ethics of human subject research, requirements of an Institutional Review Board, professional leadership skills, drug and device development, clinical trial operations and more can be explored. Courses should focus on applying learnings to research situations, scenarios, roles and responsibilities that occur in the industry and aim to enhance your current knowledge, distinguishing you among other applicants when interviewing for opportunities and preparing you to meet the demands and challenges of clinical research.

Properly monitoring clinical trials and collecting data can further include operational tasks, such as managing budgets and contracts. Clinical managers need the business acumen to consider factors like drug and device lifecycle, research and design methods, and more. They determine how these aspects work with program costs and go-to-market strategies once the studied variable receives approval to be a product for commercial sale. An online clinical research master’s degree can teach you about proper clinical research monitoring and operations so you can conduct effective trials.

Four clinical researchers seated at a table listen to a presenter.

Increase your job opportunities and growth potential in clinical research

Management-level opportunities in this field allow you to take on additional responsibilities in clinical research and often require previous experience and continued education. Earning a master’s degree allows you to enhance your existing knowledge and apply that expertise in positions of authority.

Possible leadership careers with a Master of Science in clinical research management online degree include:

  • Clinical research coordinator: Focusing on clinical research project coordination, these professionals manage workers engaged in a trial, monitor for compliance to procedure and protocols, and ensure clinical objectives are maintained.
  • Clinical trial manager: Typical activities for individuals in this role range from managing the clinical trial process to analyzing and interpreting data-based results. They will often assist in interviewing and hiring for their team, conduct performance reviews and mentor junior staff to ensure adherence to acceptable clinical practices. A clinical trial manager may even prepare manuals and present trial conclusions.
  • Research manager or director: Similar to clinical trial managers, these individuals primarily develop processes and protocols for collecting data and monitoring research projects. They may handle tasks associated with organizing a clinical trial, such as ensuring participants are randomly selected.


These are just a few examples of what the clinical research field has to offer those passionate about collecting data to bring the next breakthrough drug or medical device to patients in need. Most of these positions are seeing above-average growth rates when compared to the national average for all occupations and have similar educational requirements, including graduate degrees and additional certification for some roles, making it possible for you to pursue various opportunities.


Demonstrating the skills needed to meet the demands of the ever-changing research field

Learning the protocols and standards to properly administer clinical research is only part of what an online master’s degree in clinical research management can teach you. As you earn your degree, you may also improve other competencies that can contribute to your leadership and clinical trial administration acumen.

JoAnn Pfeiffer, clinical research management program director and associate professor for Arizona State University, highlighted being a good communicator, having knowledge of clinical research operations and current regulations, and being resourceful as skills developed through this type of program.

“Professionals in clinical research should be able to analyze a situation, determine what is happening and make recommendations to move forward, or if there’s an issue or problem, provide recommendations for resolving it,” Pfeiffer said.

Hiring managers may also be looking for other competencies related to time management and productivity. They may seek applicants who exhibit:

  • Strong written and oral communication skills to present protocols or conduct training sessions to prepare colleagues or staff to run a clinical trial
  • Organizational skills with a strong attention to detail that demonstrate the ability to manage all aspects of a clinical trial from preparation to data analysis
  • Experience working as part of and leading teams


Having knowledge of all applicable regulations along with the ability to impart necessary information to subordinates is another essential skill for a successful career in clinical research. Clinical research managers must also remain aware of changing rules. For example, protecting participants in clinical studies continues to be a regulatory focus. In a 2018 briefing, the FDA turned its attention to human subjects in clinical trials to ensure study leaders follow consistent procedures to protect these participants. This effort will affect a large part of the industry, and a clinical research master’s degree can detail steps for addressing such guidelines and responding to future adjustments.


Improve your leadership potential with a clinical research master’s degree from ASU Online

Clinical researchers strive to discover the best medical treatments and health care options while preventing harm to study participants through strict regulations. A graduate education that improves your ability to adhere to and enforce these guidelines while producing meaningful results can offer you opportunities to progress in your career.

The ASU Online Master of Science in clinical research management uniquely integrates principles of innovation and entrepreneurship with clinical research. As a current health care professional, this program can strengthen your abilities to lead people while managing all aspects of running a trial properly. According to Pfeiffer, “application of knowledge builds confidence and leadership skills, allowing students to effectively and successfully manage the various aspects of clinical research and the conduct of clinical trials.”

With a transdisciplinary curriculum that includes regulatory and ethical research approaches, fiscal and commercial considerations, and management best practices, this degree can give you the qualifications to transition into leadership roles in the expanding field of clinical research management.


Average Clinical Trial Manager Salary by PayScale
Summary Report for Clinical Research Coordinators by O*Net OnLine
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Natural Science Managers by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What does a Clinical Research Manager do? by emedcareers  
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
Leadership Strategies for Building and Sustaining Effective Clinical Research teams: A Personal Reflection by ACRP
Pregnant Women: Scientific and Ethical Considerations for Inclusion in Clinical Trials Guidance for Industry by the Food and Drug Administration
FDA In Brief: FDA takes new steps to protect human research subjects in clinical trials by helping to ensure requirements on research institutions are consistently and efficiently applied by the Food and Drug Administration

Three online Master of Science in clinical research management students look at data on a tablet.


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