Online Master's Programs in Clinical Research

Clinical researchers play a crucial role in moving the medical field forward. They help develop treatments and cures for diseases and illnesses through clinical research. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects strong growth in the clinical research field, with a 13% job growth rate for medical scientists from 2016 to 2026. Many schools offer affordable, accredited master of science in clinical research online programs.

Graduates of the best master's in clinical research online programs receive the clinical training necessary to work on experimental therapies and treatments, drug trials, and in other areas of medical research. This page helps prospective clinical research majors understand what to expect while earning their degrees, how to choose the right type of program, and the different career opportunities in this field.

What to Know About Online Master's in Clinical Research Coursework

Master's in clinical research online programs provide the clinical training needed to conduct medical research that can lead to new treatments and drugs that help people deal with different health conditions. Students gain specialized scientific knowledge and analytical, problem-solving, data analysis, observation, and communication skills.

Learners pursuing a clinical research master's degree online usually take two years of full-time study to graduate. Alternatively, part-time programs take three or more years to complete. Most programs require 30-45 credits. Many clinical researchers start their careers as physicians or in another area of the medical field.

Online and on-campus accredited clinical research master's programs typically cover many of the same issues and include many of the same courses. Programs may include in-person requirements like internships and other types of professional training. Students who complete a clinical research master's program online can often complete internships and clinical training within their local communities.

Common Courses

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Clinical Research Program?

Accredited and affordable online master's in clinical research programs offer curricula that prepare students to plan, coordinate, and assess clinical trials. Courses cover issues like research design, social issues in health and medical treatment, and epidemiology. Specific classes differ by school, but the list below describes a few common courses that students may encounter.

  • Advanced Clinical Research Study Design: This course explores the design of interventional and observational studies. Students investigate bias minimization in observational studies, survey research methods, adaptive randomization, cluster randomization, and improving study design. The class builds on skills learned in prior classes, like clinical trial design and epidemiology research.
  • Genetics and Human Disease: Students gain a broad understanding of the role of genetics in human diseases. They learn methods and principles of genetic analysis and explore gene-controlled biochemical, molecular, and morphogenetic processes. The course outlines examples of human genetic diseases, treatment and testing, and personalized medicine.
  • Clinical Trials Design and Management: This class introduces the fundamentals of designing and managing successful clinical trials. Students learn the entire clinical trials process, from start to finish. The course discusses the role of different players, including the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, government agencies, consumers, and scientists.
  • Medical Writing : Students learn to write protocols; final reports; and scientifically sound, clear documentation for clinical trials. They also explore the rules related to effective clinical trial documentation, including industry standards and government requirements. Learners need a basic understanding of medical terminology and the drug development process before taking this class.
  • Financial Management of Clinical Trials: This course covers the financial aspects of clinical trials and discusses topics like spending prioritization, costs of setting up a clinical trial, determining total trial cost, and limiting and controlling cost.
Specializations

What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Clinical Research Program?

In addition to a broad overview of the field, many master's in clinical research online programs offer specializations that let students pursue more specific academic interests. Specializations differ by school, but a few potential choices are discussed below.

  • Epidemiology: An epidemiology concentration gives learners the public health skills needed to protect health at the population level. Students explore topics like measuring determinants of health outcomes across populations and epidemiological methods. Learners who pursue this specialization can work as epidemiologists and in other public health roles.
  • Laboratory Research: Specializing in laboratory research during a clinical research master's program gives students advanced skills in data collection and analysis/report writing. Participants learn to design experiments, document data, and complete other tasks related to lab research.
  • Management: Clinical research master's students who specialize in management can work as clinical research directors or assume other leadership positions in the field. They develop management skills in the context of clinical research and learn to understand the complexities of managing healthcare professionals in laboratory settings.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Requirements for master's in clinical research online degrees typically include other educational experiences, in addition to regular coursework. This may include final master's projects or thesis papers, comprehensive exams, laboratory work, and internships. Specific requirements vary by program.

Many programs require students to pass a comprehensive written exam that demonstrates foundational knowledge of the principles and practices of clinical research. Clinical research majors may also need to complete a master's thesis or final project that contributes original research toward a problem in the field. A final project or thesis can take anywhere from one semester to more than a year to complete.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Clinical Research Program?

Choosing the right master's in clinical research online program requires students to consider many factors to ensure they receive a high-quality education. Any university under consideration should hold regional accreditation, which proves that a school meets minimum academic standards set by an outside organization. Clinical research master's programs do not hold separate programmatic accreditation.

Prospective learners should look for programs that boast highly qualified, experienced faculty members; a strong graduation rate; and course content covering the training and skills necessary to get a clinical research job after graduation. Applicants should also consider a program's job placement rate for graduates. Programs that boast high rates of graduates working in clinical research positions likely teach students the practical skills they need. Red flags to look out for include lack of regional accreditation and an overall dearth of information about the program.

Career Opportunities With a Master's in Clinical Research Degree

Students who earn a master's in clinical research online can pursue many career paths in the medical field, helping to diagnose and treat health conditions. Most graduates of clinical research master's programs work in laboratories for hospitals, private companies, government agencies, or universities. Many individuals who pursue clinical research careers are physicians who have already completed medical school. Some potential careers include medical scientist, epidemiologist, and clinical research director.

Career Profiles


Medical Scientists

Medical scientists conduct medical research that aims to improve human health. They may design and coordinate studies, analyze data, create and test medical devices, write grant proposals, and create programs to improve health outcomes. They often coordinate clinical trials and lead teams of technicians. Many of these scientists specialize in a specific area of research.

  • Median Salary: $84,810 per year
  • Currently Employed: 120,000
  • Expected Job Growth From 2016-2026: +13%

Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists study causes and patterns of disease in human populations. They promote public health and try to reduce negative health outcomes by influencing policy, educating communities, and conducting research. They need at least a master's degree and usually specialize in an area like environmental health, maternal and child health, or infectious disease.

  • Median Salary: $69,660 per year
  • Currently Employed: 6,100
  • Expected Job Growth From 2016-2026: +9%

Clinical Research Directors

Clinical research directors coordinate all activity related to clinical research at their organizations. They create and enforce safety standards, manage staff, and guide research strategy. They need excellent communication skills and advanced technical knowledge of the clinical research field. These professionals should hold at least a master's degree.

  • Median Salary: $110,000 per year

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians perform medical tests and procedures. They collect and analyze data and work primarily in hospital labs. In large laboratories, they may specialize in areas like immunohematology, microbiology, or clinical chemistry. In some states, these professionals require a license to work.

  • Median Salary: $52,330 per year
  • Currently Employed: 335,700
  • Expected Job Growth From 2016-2026: +13%

Clinical Research Scientists

Clinical research scientists typically work for pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, or universities. They conduct clinical investigations into diseases and help physicians make diagnoses. They need analytical, communication, and data analysis skills and must follow strict health and safety regulations. These workers typically need at least a master's degree.

  • Median Salary: $97,000 per year

What's the Expected Job Growth for Clinical Research Careers?

Graduates of master's in clinical research online programs can expect strong job growth in this field. Highly educated and experienced clinical research professionals are in demand. As scientific knowledge continues to grow, more people can seek out sophisticated, effective treatments for a variety of health conditions and illnesses. The BLS projects faster-than-average job growth for medical scientists due to increasing rates of chronic diseases, a growing population of elderly people, and the increased use of pharmaceutical drugs.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Clinical Research

Joining a professional organization in the clinical research field can provide many opportunities for recent graduates and current students. Members receive access to job boards and other career services, discounted rates for annual conferences and other continuing education events, and networking opportunities.

  • Association of Clinical Research Professionals: ACRP boasts 13,000 members around the world. The association advocates for the clinical research profession and offers a job center, local chapters for networking, certifications, continuing education opportunities, and an annual conference.
  • Society of Clinical Research Associates: A membership organization for clinical researchers in government, industry, and academia, SOCRA organizes an annual conference, coordinates a certification program, and offers a clinical research job board.
  • Society for Clinical Trials: A multidisciplinary organization focused on clinical trials, SCT represents members from academia, government, and nonprofit and advocacy groups. The society publishes a journal, coordinates an annual conference, and runs a job board.
  • International Epidemiological Association: IEA connects epidemiology professionals from around the world. The association publishes a journal, offers networking opportunities, hosts regional meetings and events, and offers opportunities for students and early-career epidemiologists.
  • American Public Health Association: APHA advocates for healthy people and communities. The association offers webinars, public health resources, continuing education opportunities, a job board, and publications.

How to Pay for a Master's in Clinical Research Degree

Students earning a master's in clinical research can find many resources to help pay for their degrees. Most learners receive some type of financial aid to offset tuition costs. Ways to pay for a master's in clinical research include student loans, grants, work study, scholarships, and assistantship/fellowship/research positions.

Federal Financial Aid

Many students receive federal financial aid to help pay for their master's in clinical research. Federal aid includes federal student loans, grants, and work-study programs. Students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine their eligibility for these programs.

Program Scholarships

Online master's in clinical research programs may offer their own scholarships in support of graduate students. For example, Loyola University Chicago's School of Health Sciences and Public Health offers scholarships to help students pursuing an MS in clinical research methods and epidemiology.

Scholarships from Professional Organizations

Another promising financial resource for clinical research master's students includes scholarships from professional organizations. For example, SCT offers three annual Thomas C. Chalmers student scholarships. Applicants with the best essays receive $500 and travel/lodging support to attend SCT's annual conference.

Assistantships/Research Positions/Fellowships

Many clinical research master's students help pay for their degrees by landing a graduate assistantship, fellowship, or research position. Students can apply for a variety of clinical research fellowships, including ones offered by the University of California, San Diego; the Mayo Clinic; and Cincinnati Children's Hospital.