Career Spotlight: Clinical Research Associate

Recently, Beyond the PhD had the opportunity to sit down with Jason Torres, a Clinical Research Associate (CRA) at Roche, where he shared his background and experiences working in this industry position. Jason discussed his role as a CRA and covered the responsibilities this job entails. CRAs act as a main line of communication between sponsor, in his case Roche, and investigator. They also visit and work with clinical sites on behalf of the sponsor. The CRA performs a variety of clinical operations and monitoring activities to help studies run smoothly and be successful. Other common names for this role are clinical monitor or study monitor. Some additional responsibilities of a CRA include assessing the feasibility of a trial, recruiting investigators, pre-study visits, site initiation visits, routine monitoring visits, and site close out visits. 

Jason went into further detail about day to day responsibilities as a CRA. He discussed how the work load comes in waves, with kicking off a study being the most intensive. There is a large amount of prerequisite work involved including designing the protocol and everything else needed to initiate a large scale study. Day to day he is involved in communicating with the sites that he oversees, having team meetings, and dealing with regulatory documents. It’s a collaborative environment and he learns something new from each trial. He is also involved in contracting with the site, budget negotiation, and working with the warehouse team to provide supplies to the sites. He is currently working with six sites, but this number depends on the scale and magnitude of the trial.  

Jason also described his path to becoming a CRA. He mentioned that he interned at Roche during college and enjoyed the company environment and internship program. He maintained connections at Roche while completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees and later applied to work at the company. The fundamental lab experience that he gained as an undergraduate researcher and master’s student helped him transition into this role and provided a solid foundation for running a trial. Jason started as a contractor for Roche in 2017 and later was brought on full time as a CRA 1. He moved up the ladder and is now a senior CRA. The next step in this career path is becoming a study manager. In this position, you are more involved in managing junior CRA’s, mentoring, and teaching. 

Jason concluded by discussing the education and experience that would make someone well suited for a job as a CRA. He mentioned that many people transition from working on a clinical trial as a study coordinator to working as a CRA. The majority of CRA’s only have bachelor’s degrees. However, at the more senior level, many employees have master’s degrees or PhDs. However, Jason said that getting his master’s allowed him to get a better understanding of scientific experimental design and a solid scientific foundation before transitioning into his role as a CRA.

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