According to clinicaltrials.gov, there are over 443,000 registered trials as of February 2023 and over 64,000 of those are recruiting. It is safe to say that clinical trials are not slowing down, and many people with different skills and talents are needed to execute them safely and successfully. Even if you currently have a role in the clinical trials industry, you may not be aware of the many professional clinical research certifications that are available or the wide variety of opportunities for practitioners who have additional training. Acquiring certification is a great step in advancing your career in clinical research. My certification increased my knowledge and confidence and opened the door to new employment opportunities. I would like to share my experience, so you can decide if seeking a certification is the right path for you.
My Journey Began with Wanting to Learn More
I am a clinical research pharmacy technician. I started out in behavioral research pharmacology, focusing on investigator-initiated and sponsored substance abuse research. I then moved into a wider scope of clinical research for a different academic organization where we accepted and managed trials for a variety of disease states and endpoints.
I decided a few years ago that I loved the clinical research process and wanted to stand out, make connections, and further my knowledge by gaining a professional clinical research certification. So, I decided to research my options, and that is how I began my certification journey.
Do Your Research and Explore Where You Want Your Career to Go
Given my background and position at the time, I noticed I qualified to sit for the Academy of Clinical Research Professionals – Certified Professional (ACRP-CP) exam. When exploring certifications, you will find that there are different requirements to sit for each exam. Some of these requirements include previous experience in clinical research and degree level. There are two major certifying organizations:
- – Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP). ACRP has different types of certifications, for example, certifications specifically for CRAs, Primary Investigators, or Research Coordinators.
- – The Society of Clinical Research Associates, Inc (SOCRA). SOCRA offers one certification that is more general (CCRP – Certified Clinical Research Professional).
Additionally, there are other online certificate programs through universities that you might find beneficial, for example, the Drexel University’s online certificate program, as well as UC Berkeley’s online certificate program.
As you review the course content and requirements for each certification, remember to consider your career goals. Perhaps you would like to be more patient-facing or enhance your patient-facing research career. If this is the case, check out ACRP’s Certified Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC) certification where the content includes an emphasis on reporting standards and a special section on the pediatric population clinical research. If you are more interested in a general certification that would cover many different aspects of clinical research careers, consider SOCRA’s CCRP certification or ACRP’s CP certification. Both certifications have a strong focus on Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines that could be advantageous in multiple career paths.
Preparing for the Exam: Transforming Gaps in Knowledge into Opportunities for Success
The organization I was working for required Miami CITI training. This program provided an excellent knowledge base, in addition to my background, to prep for the exam. I visited the website for ACRP and looked at the exam outline. I then spent several weeks comparing my knowledge with the outline, looking for any gaps, redoing some of my CITI training, and exploring online resources like “The International Council for Harmonization (ICH)” to brush up on good clinical practice topics.
If you are considering gaining a certification, depending on your current knowledge base and experience, expect to spend several weeks at a minimum preparing for your exam. You will want to give yourself enough time to identify any areas for improvement and to reinforce the knowledge you already do have. The certifications are typically designed for professionals already working within the clinical trial community who have some experience in the field.
While I paid out-of-pocket for my exam and was given a one-time bonus for completing the extra non-required certification, some employers may cover the cost of the exam and/or the cost to renew.
Testing and Recertification – No Need to Stress
When I sat for the exam, testing was only offered twice a year, in-person, at a testing center. Remote testing and in-person testing are both now available for ACRP. It is offered twice a year (once in the fall and then again in the spring) for four month-long time blocks. Likewise, SOCRA offers in-person testing a few times throughout the year as well as at-home computer-based testing.
For my exam, the in-person testing center allowed very minimal items to be taken in. After checking me in, they explained the expectations during the examination. They provided me with headphones for better noise cancellation and concentration. Overall, the testing accommodations were comfortable, and the staff was very friendly and knowledgeable. Per ACRP’s website, there will be system requirements for remote testing. Some of those requirements include webcam and microphone requirements and downloading the application to your computer. They have a great video that will walk you through the process. On SOCRA’s website, they also list the minimal acceptable items, as well as required items to bring, including test acceptance verification, to the test center. They also provide a link to their home proctor website that will help you determine if you meet the technical requirements to test at home.
I have had to recertify once and found the handbook on the ACRP website to be a useful resource. They do require an assortment of continuing education in varying topics. Most often these requirements are easy to obtain. I found that most of my CEs, current job duty experiences, and required knowledge for other certifications applied to this certification as well.
Results: More Knowledge and Opportunities
Not only have I gained new connections due to having this certification, but I am also able to highlight this skill set on my CV. This tells prospective employers that I have gone above and beyond to validate my skills and knowledge. I think most employers that are hiring for a position in clinical research would be pleased to see that a candidate has taken those extra steps in their career.
I recently started a new position at McCreadie Group. As a Customer Success Specialist, I train pharmacy practitioners at IDS sites on how to use Vestigo to successfully manage their day-to-day workflows. Having my ACRP-CP certification has helped me to provide better comprehensive knowledge to my clients. I like to think that clients feel more comfortable in their journey with implementing their new software decision knowing that I have taken the time to solidify that experience and knowledge in the form of a certification. I am exploring the Project Management subspecialty next from ACRP. As my career grows and changes, I find myself needing and wanting to learn new things, and I think this additional certification will help me in assisting my clients.
A Little Research to Help You on Your Journey
The clinical research world is diverse, innovative, exciting and can be competitive when you are looking for your next role. Why not take the next step, shine a bit brighter, and gain some of those sought-after connections in the clinical research community? I would urge you to consider obtaining a certification. During my research, I compared some of the major certifying organizations for clinical research, and I’d like to share that information with you. Good luck on your journey!
- – ACRP-CP (Certified Professional)
– CCRA (Certified Clinical Research Associate)
– CCRC (Certified Clinical Research Coordinator)
– CPI (Certified Primary Investigator)
Cost (2022-2023): Exam: $435-$600 and Recertification every 2 years: $225-325
- – Scientific Concepts and Research Design
- – Ethical and Participant Safety Considerations
- – Product Development and Regulation
- – Clinical Trial Operations (GCPs) Study and Site Management
- – Data Management and Informatics
Eligibility and Recertification Requirements: Each of these certifications has their own handbook on the ACRP website that will list the requirements to sit for the exam. These requirements typically will include two different pathways for eligibility. Those pathways are experience hours alone (more hours required), and then experience hours (less hours required) plus education level.
These are subspecialities that can be added onto an existing ACRP certification and do not need recertification. The cost is $250-300. For eligibility, you must hold one of these ACRP Certifications: Certified Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC®), Certified Principal Investigator (CPI®), ACRP Certified Professional (ACRP-CP®), or ACRP Certified Clinical Research Associate (CCRA®).
Certification: CCRP (Certified Clinical Research Professional)
Cost (2022-2023): Exam: $398-$565 and Recertification every 3 years: $350
Areas of Focus
- – Research Study Start-Up
- – Research Study Implementation
- – Research Study Closure
Eligibility and Recertification Requirements: Three pathways with varying levels of experience hours and educational requirements.
Join me for more meaningful discussions on career growth and professional opportunities at the 2023 Research Pharmacy Summit.