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What Is Clinical Research?

Recently, I was telling a friend that I stumbled into clinical research. When I was school-age, I did not say “I want to grow up to be a Clinical Researcher”. This profession wasn’t on the list of high school careers, nor did I know anyone in the field.

My clinical research journey began once I became curious about disease and genetic predisposition to it.

I think it’s important for young people to know about this very exciting profession, so this post will shed light on what it is and how to get involved. I would like to see more young women recognize this field as a potential career interest.

What is Clinical Research?

Briefly stated, clinical research is the study of health and illness in people.

Clinical research involves a thorough examination of people with a goal of increasing medical knowledge and improving patient care. There are several types of clinical research that can be done, depending on the researcher and their interests.

  • Treatment research

  • Prevention research

  • Diagnostic research

  • Screening research

  • Genetic Studies

  • Quality of Life research

  • Epidemiologic studies

Healthcare professionals, scientists, and researchers perform an investigation to collect and analyze information related to the above areas of interest. Often, these investigations involve regulatory approval, legal and ethical compliance, and protocols.

Clinical research observes the patient, rather than solely laboratory results, to determine the effectiveness of an intervention or treatment, the history of a disease, or the conditions that may lead to disease.

Reasons to Pursue a Career in Clinical Research

This is not an exhaustive list and is written with bias toward the field. However, if the interaction of patient care, scientific discovery, and healthcare interest you, clinical research may be an area to consider.

  1. Participate in Drug Development, Brain Research, Neuroscience, and much more. From breakthrough medications and therapies to working with all manner of research for improving human health, this field can be as wide or deep as you’d like.

  2. No Dead-Ends. We still have much to learn about the human body and disease interaction, making the field full of discovery.

  3. Choose your journey: Whether it’s the lab, the study site, the underlying technology, or the data…from pharmaceutical research to community health, there are several avenues to explore within clinical research.

  4. Work in a Variety of Settings. Clinical researchers work within academic medical institutions, various levels and arms of the government and military, pharmaceutical companies, wellness companies, health and human services organizations, and more.

  5. Make a measurable impact in the lives of others. Even if you don’t see immediate results, you will contribute to a body of knowledge that other scientists and researchers can build upon.

How to Get Started

There is no single or formal education path to become a clinical researcher. Most researchers have at least a four-year, or bachelor’s degree. Begin building foundational knowledge, such as patient safety and ethics, and developing core competencies.

It is also advantageous to get involved in clinical research, either by volunteering or interning at a hospital or pharmaceutical company.


The Association of Clinical Research Professionals has a wealth of information on how to get started, get certified if desired, and connect with a community of clinical researchers.

I find this career extremely rewarding. I hope this has shed some light on what a clinical researcher is and how to pursue this path.

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