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What my career as a clinical data manager could look like

Information technology opportunities are available in nearly every industry as companies are implementing new tools to manage data and improve operational efficiency. If you have a passion for health care or experience in a clinical field that you’d like to combine with an IT-centered role, you may want to consider a clinical data manager position.

Often connected to the successful implementation of clinical trials, which evaluate the safety and effectiveness of pharmaceuticals, medical devices or in-vitro diagnostic devices, clinical data managers are responsible for all aspects of data collection and dissemination. These professionals commonly lead the decision-making processes to determine which data collection methods and tools should be utilized in clinical trials.

While this position can include a large number of technical tasks, project management may also be a sizable component of this role, which is why interested individuals should ensure they have the right combination of education, experience and practical skills before applying for clinical data manager jobs.

Offering a varied curriculum that touches on many of the important proficiencies a clinical data manager should possess, an online Master of Science in Information Technology may begin with core courses that cover advanced IT principles followed by an elective area of focus. For those thinking about a career as a clinical data manager, elective courses in information systems management and systems development may help to improve students’ relevant technical skills while increasing their expertise in today’s cyber system infrastructure.

A typical day in the life of a clinical data manager

The tasks a clinical data manager may have to accomplish on an average day depend on the current stage of a clinical trial, whether it be before, during or after.

A lot of preparation can go into ensuring clinical trials are properly set up to collect, organize and manage incoming data, and a clinical data manager is responsible for overseeing and coordinating these processes. Before a specific strategy can be designed, it’s important that these professionals understand the relevant systems to implement best practices and utilize new IT developments. Several specific tasks may be necessary to prepare for a clinical trial, including:

  • Designing and validating clinical databases
  • Resolving problems with databases
  • Developing data management plans in areas such as coding, reporting, workflow or data transfer
  • Creating technical specifications for data management programs to share with IT staff and involved departments
  • Selecting which, if any, electronic data capture system to use to make long-term data collection more efficient
  • Training participating staff on technical procedures or software usage

During a trial, clinical data managers can be responsible for leading the team that manages how data is collected and validated. They must ensure the trial meets all requirements throughout this stage and adheres to protocols established by institutional review boards or regulatory agencies if applicable. They may also have to troubleshoot system installation issues or ongoing system maintenance as data collection happens.

If you are working as a clinical data manager at a large organization, the typical tasks you’d be in charge of after a clinical study may stop once you’ve delivered the data to a statistical team for analysis. However, if you’re working at a smaller company, you might need to conduct the data analysis yourself. If that’s the case, some tasks you may encounter at this stage include identifying and reporting on data trends and sharing results with key stakeholders.

A closer look at the professional landscape of a clinical data manager

The median clinical manager salary for 2017 was $84,000, according to O*Net OnLine, but many factors can contribute to your earnings potential, from the skills you demonstrate to previous work experience to your education and certifications.

Job growth of 15 percent is expected for this position, a much higher rate than the national average for all occupations, according to O*Net OnLine. The projected expansion will stem from a rise in IT usage throughout the health care industry, especially in the area of clinical trials. In fact, the need for professionals who can use and maintain advanced, computerized data management systems directly increases opportunities for clinical data managers.

Becoming a clinical data manager

Because this role combines technical expertise with management responsibilities, an array of skills outside of building or managing databases and processing data may be necessary for success. Leadership is at the top of the list of additional traits you should possess to become a clinical data manager. Throughout the clinical trial process, you may need to train team members, evaluate staff performance and find solutions to any issues that arise. Other important competencies include:

Being detail-oriented to accurately and effectively collect data
Thinking critically to address surprise situations that may come up while a clinical trial is in progress
Managing time and working efficiently to handle incoming data from more than one clinical study at a time

When applying for clinical data manager jobs, you may find that most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, many individuals in this role have a graduate education in computer science, engineering or information technology. Earning an advanced degree may be an effective way to stand out from other candidates in this field.

Certifications can further show hiring managers that you are a trained and qualified professional. The Society of Clinical Data Managers offers the Certified Clinical Data Manager program. Eligibility requirements give applicants multiple options to pursue, which require varying levels of education and work experience.

Additionally, Usha Jagannathan, chair of the Arizona State University graduate information technology program, says you need to have health care knowledge to succeed in this position. In order to obtain relevant insight, she recommends volunteering for IT projects at health care companies, noting that such opportunities have the potential to turn into paid employment.

Most important to the clinical data manager role, Jagannathan goes on to highlight, is that, “you're actually doing something that's going to improve people's lives.”

Learn more about your potential career as a clinical data manager

If you are seeking an IT career that allows you to work directly in the health care industry, you may want to consider a job as a clinical data manager. Individuals in this position need the right combination of relevant skills and subject matter expertise that a graduate degree may be able to provide. The ASU Online Master of Science in Information Technology can help students gain a more in-depth understanding of information systems and develop the ability to conceptualize, organize and manage professional projects. The MS in Information Technology aims to prepare graduates for increased responsibilities and leadership demands to advance their IT careers.

Sources:
ASU Online – Master of Science in Information Technology
O*Net OnLine – Clinical Data Managers
PayScale – Clinical Data Manager Salary
ProClinical – How to get a clinical data manager job
Society for Clinical Data Management – Get Certified

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