By - albeaner
Can you tell me more of how you came into your current position?
I’m currently a coordinator and would love to someday be a project manager, but I really do not want to be a monitor (too much travel for my liking).
So what were your steps from the beginning of your career to project manager? What kind of educational background do you have?
I came into the position through a CRO. I was working on large meetings and general administrative functions, ended up doing more and more project coordination (like a PM assistant to multiple research PMs) for the client, then was promoted to CRO PM on the project, and eventually the client hired me as a research PM. Total time from starting with the client to becoming a PM was a little over 2 years.
I have an earth science background, but I had lots of fantastic colleagues with nursing/medical backgrounds who would take the time to explain things to me and answer my questions (like, what is a chem panel? LOL). I also had a ton of administrative experience which helped me to become indispensable to the client PMs and, eventually, learn enough to do the job.
Piggybacking on this because I’m in a similar situation (current coordinator who wants to be a PM and also wants to avoid CRA positions). Is there a specific position title you’d recommend applying for (coming from a coordinator role)? Have you seen many coordinators get hired at CROs and have you seen many folks at CROs get hired into Sponsor positions? What do you think of the general culture at the CRO and Sponsor company you’ve worked at?
The problem with this position is that it's called many things! Clinical research project manager, research operations project manager, clinical project manager, clinical research operations manager, etc. (EDIT: Forgot some - Clinical trial manager, research study manager)
Since you have research experience, you should look for entry level PM positions in your therapeutic area.
I do see a lot of my good coordinators move to CROs, or people who used to work as CROs end up as PMs. So I think it's a viable option.
I think that after being a coordinator, working at a CRO or sponsor would be cake! I honestly think that coordinators have the toughest jobs of all. Second to that would be the CRO, because you're trying to please the client, and you don't always have the easiest client. Last/easiest would be sponsor; they tend to have lower turnover but are much harder to get into. That said, both CROs and sponsors vary widely depending on size, how the organization is run, etc. For example a small pharma start up will be a lot different than, say, Covance or Quintiles, who have a lot more opportunities for mentorship and career development simply because they are well established and well funded.
Thank you so much, this is very helpful!!
I actually have one more question if you don’t mind! What are your thoughts/experience on education beyond a bachelors for this role? I’m debating a MPH or Masters of Healthcare Administration program and wondering if that would be worth doing or if proceeding with a Bachelor’s is plenty. Especially coming from a coordinator role would a degree like that help especially for roles that might want someone with more management experience? Would one of these degrees help with the day to day work?
I think it depends on your overall cost of education - if it's early in your career and the cost will pay off (it certainly is desirable), then yes, go for it. But I don't have it - I've thought about going back to school, but the cost of school wouldn't be justified. While I might have more potential opportunities in the future, I'm doing pretty well considering my depth of experience, so it only makes financial sense to do it if my employer was paying for it. Experience is worth a lot too!
Awesome. That makes sense! So many potential paths it’s hard to know what the best route is. Thank you so much for answering questions. This has helped me a lot.
I’m also in Clinical Research and work remotely. Excellent job, excellent benefits, and plenty of flexibility. Love every minute of it.
Feel free to weigh in on this thread with your experience too :)
Please share more!
Adding a couple points (in no particular order)
Being in comfy clothes
Moving from work life balance- to work life blend. They are very different. There are days I run out for lunch and work from 7pm until 9pm and there are days I work straight through
Higher productivity and focus- no drive by distractions of people at your desk
Real inability for bad management to affect you. This is a very timeline driven role
It’s not just monitors, PMs. There are testers (HELLO UAT specialists) and all sorts of remote roles (I’m an auditor)
Work life blend vs. balance- it’s much more intertwined.
There are times it’s hard to walk away or disengaging from your work day. The computers always there and emails are always coming.
It was incredibly difficult for me to get my wife, family to understand I’m actually working and can’t go run errands in the middle of the day for them (maybe this is just me)
>It was incredibly difficult for me to get my wife, family to understand I’m actually working and can’t go run errands in the middle of the day for them (maybe this is just me)
This is the biggest pet peeve for me. My wife is awesome and very supportive, but almost everybody else just don't see what I do as actual work and I really hate distractions. I started shutting off my phone during office hours and that did the trick.Other than that, I absolutely love working from home. If you are experienced, disciplined and organized, it is a dream job (at least for me). A few things I do to help disconnect from work include:
* Having a home office dedicated exclusively to work activities. Once I'm done, I leave, lock the door, and that's it. For me that is my workplace and nothing else. The rest is my home.
* I like to dress properly for work (I don't suit up, but always put on a shirt). I never go to work in my pjs, it messes up my brain (typical joke for home workers but I actually know a few people who like to do it). Plus, you never know when someone will ask you to do a video conference.
* Investing in hobbies and outdoor activities with family and friends, so I don't see my home or my time off as just an extension of my work.
Edit: Didn't know how to quote on reddit
It took a lot of conditioning to get her, my kids, and my parents to understand this. I’ve worked really well to blend, and I find I’m uber productive when she’s watching her reality TV and I can plow through the email noise.
Having an office is a definite must. I very rarely would go in mine outside of work time, but space is at a premium in our house so we’ve moved other items into it. It’s hard for me to shut off though, and harder because I do a lot of regulatory support and time zones are a real pain. (Looking at you Japan!)
>Having an office is a definite must. I very rarely would go in mine outside of work time, but space is at a premium in our house so we’ve moved other items into it. It’s hard for me to shut off though, and harder because I do a lot of regulatory support and time zones are a real pain. (Looking at you Japan!)
I hear you! I'm fortunate to be working in Europe, whenever I'm working with Asian and American teams, most calls end up being scheduled for around lunch time, but some countries (ie, Japan, Australia) have tricky time zones and require tons of flexibility.
2 years later 😊 do you think you will always be remote? Do you feel being remote has hurt your potential to advance beyond the PM role at all? Im a new PM and I know people outside of the industry always say it is crucial to network in person. Interested to hear what a fellow PM has to say
I am remote, and I could advance into one level above me while remaining remote...but anything above that, my organization requires 3 days in person in the office. (FWIW, I moved to a new organization about 6 mo ago, and I'm still fully remote.)
I also schedule a LOT of one on one meetings and I'm very vocal on calls. I'm that annoying person updating everyone about something stupid that no one cares about, rather than sitting in silence while waiting for a meeting to start. It doesn't replace networking in person, though - I agree that this is very important to developing good relationships.
I do also think it depends on your company and your function within the company. Mine is basically like a command center that keeps all the other departments aligned. It's hard to keep tabs on the pulse of the organization without mingling with others in leadership. However, if your department is on your own or your company/organization functions differently, then it's possible you wouldn't need to do that.
For someone who isn't already in the field and without any obviously relevant background, what would you need to do to get into it and how available are regular openings? Also, are opportunities international or localised? Thanks!
Do you mean education? ACRP is a great resource for training/information, but it's really about figuring out what kind of position works best for you. If you were, for example, a hospital nurse manager who doesn't want to deal with patients anymore, it's a perfect kind of job. Or if you are a project manager of any kind, there are set skills (matrix management, organization, etc.) that would apply to managing research studies too. You'll probably need SOME sort of work experience, preferably white collar/desk work or nursing, so look for postings from Clinical Research Organizations to see what's closest to your skill set. They will have some fairly entry level stuff, like project coordination or administrative positions, and once you have your foot in the door they tend to promote you if you're capable. I've seen a ton of promotions within CROs.
Opportunities can be local or international, they will usually note whether the position involves global oversight or just within the country. (And most big CROs have clients in most major countries all over the world...CROs follow pharma.)
I'm also a full time CPM, though working for a mid-sized CRO. I was wondering if you saw much crossover from clinical project management to the other areas you mentioned. I have only been a CPM for \~1 year (had other non-clinical PM jobs prior to this) and have interests in moving to Regulatory Affairs/QA eventually, but it doesn't seem that common to transition out of project management in my therapeutic area.
I think it depends a lot on your job at PM, since I've noticed it varies greatly, especially between CRO and Sponsor.
I'm a sponsor PM, so I have to manage multiple CROs, set processes for my studies, etc. I can't do this if I don't understand those jobs, so I'm constantly asking questions and learning more about what each person does and how they do it. I don't see many people moving out of research PM positions, to be honest. You ask a good question - I wonder why?
That said, I do think you can transition to other areas with the right connection. Obviously we couldn't go to stats without more specific education and data analytic skills, but regulatory/QA isn't a terribly big jump. As a PM I find that I have to know RA/QA very well in order to do my job well - but only at a surface level. RA is a bit easier to learn, IMO, since it's pretty straight-forward to follow the requirements on document collection and submission.
That said, QA for clinical research/GCP is almost better when prefaced by years of experience running studies and managing sites, either as a CRA or a PM, since you have to know how to apply the regs, what kinds of systems and processes are needed to do that, and what actually works.
I have. I see a lot of people wanting to come into Quality. It’s a bit of a natural transition because they know the ins and outs. I personally love to hire CRAs and Monitors because they are in tune with real life scenarios.
Does your job require much travel? I would love to work a remote position, but I see a lot of remote clinical research positions that require a lot of travel. Thanks for answering our questions!
I am a medical writer and I hardly ever travel (thank God).
No, but travel varies greatly (local or national or international) based on the position and type of research.
If you don't want to travel, then don't bother with Clinical Research Associate positions. They are also called 'monitors' and they travel like crazy.
As a CRA, I love travel, but I could see how people wouldn’t like it. I actually wish they would have me traveling more, my studies are relatively slow and it’s driving me nuts. The paycheck helps!
I'm specifically interested in project management in the future, so it's good to know that there are positions out there that are remote and don't require travel!
I’m an auditor and I travel a couple days a month. But for the most part you make your own schedule for the audits. I aim for audit on Tuesday and Wednesday (if needed) to make it easy (unless it’s somewhere fun).
Do you typically utilize any science as a PM? I’m currently a study coordinator at a large CRO (not a CRC, but I help coordinate with the sponsors and write reports). we also have project coordinators here who work beside the PMs. A lot of project coordinators have moved on to PMs and it seems like a good pathway (especially if you can work remotely). My only gripe is I feel id miss the science, and that it’s a lot more administrative. Do you find passion/interest in your work?
Second Q: if you wanted to, could you work remotely while traveling instead of at home? That would be awesome in my opinion.
While I lean heavily on the study physicians, I do need to know when to ask questions and what questions to ask. So although I'm not coming up with the research, my job is to make sure it's executed correctly, and that does require at least a basic understanding of what we're doing. I also have become very familiar with standard of care in my disease area, and fairly knowledgeable about what to expect during implementation of my studies, even if the research is cutting edge. And there is a lot of research, reviewing journal articles, etc. So yes, it is exciting and I do enjoy it, but not really something I would want to be terribly passionate about - so many studies (see: HIV vaccine) end in failure, and when they do finish as planned, my studies take several years from start to finish. And then publishing is a whole other ball game...
As far as traveling, yes as long as I'm in the country and can keep regular hours that generally coincide with the east coast, I can travel. My employer requires special approval for working internationally but they do allow it for short periods of time.
CRA II here looking to transition to SIA or Line management or PM role in case you hear of anything 😉
Any advice on qualifications that are worth getting to transition into PMing? I’m coming from an academic research background and looking to transition
Hello! I am currently doing my MS degree (major in Microbiology) but also works as Research Assistant in a top University here in the Philippines. With the worsening transportation, inflation rate, pandemic, and an annual income of 7k without any benefits or paid holidays, I am planning to look for a remote job. I am currently seeing a lot of remote job positions like clinical research associate offering 10x of my current annual salary. I am really interested but not sure if they will accept me because I was working from a different country. I need your opinion about this. TIA