i-Market: Clinical Research Associates Market with Ciara Noble

The Clinical Research market is constantly shifting and Ciara Noble is one of our finest consultants working within the industry. So, what's it like to recruit within the market and what are trends shaping the Clinical Research landscape? Lucky for you, we asked her all about it!

May 2019

i-Market: Clinical Research Associates Market with Ciara Noble

How is recruiting within the Clinical Research market?

I have worked within the CRA (Clinical Research Associate) market for 3 years with i-Pharm Consulting and cover all roles from CRA I – CRA Manager/Head of Clinical Operations as well as covering Project management positions. I love working the CRA market and have really built up a great network with both passive and active clinical research professionals. It is great to be able to meet up with CRA’s that I am working with or have placed in the past to get a true understanding of the CRA role and the market landscape.


How is the CRA market now?

The CRA market is continuing to boom and is still very much a candidate driven market within the industry. The biggest issues for CRO/Pharma companies tends to lie within attracting experienced CRA’s to make the move to join their company and being able to retain CRA’s and see them progress long-term within the company. Large CRO’s tend to hold a great deal of appeal for junior CRA’s or CRA’s moving from academia or public health organisations; whereas more experienced CRA’s tend to prefer the opportunity to move to a smaller company, a single sponsor model or directly working with a Pharma/Biotech. In order for companies to continue to be able to meet project timelines it is important to understand why CRA’s look to move companies and to explore the trends in the market at the moment.


Retention remains a struggle for companies that hire Clinical Research Associates, specifically for larger CRO’s and Pharma’s. But what are the primary reasons that CRA’s tend to look for new opportunities?

  • Number of Monitoring Visits: where a candidate is averaging 3-4 visits rather then 2-3 visits per week, they are more likely to engage with an alternative option.  Companies which offer reduced or regional monitoring continue to see great interest from top candidates. This is a crucial factor for experienced/Senior CRA’s who still enjoy the role but after several years of travelling UK wide they require more flexibility in regard to monitor targets  
  • Poor Relationships: Some candidates look to move due to a poor relationship, or a lack of relationship with their line manager.  Moreover, when candidates seek to move from a large CRO to a smaller one, which is a common motivation, they will often state that it is due to problems with communication within the large CRO and lack of progression. 
  • National vs Regional Monitoring: Candidates also often seek to move from CRO to Pharma, although it is rare to find CRA roles directly with pharma’s – hence the popularity of single sponsor CRO models.
  • Career ProgressionSeveral candidates believe that the more you move companies the faster the progression. We often see CRA’s with 2 years’ experience seeking the jump to a Senior CRA and believe that this is more achievable in another company as opposed to waiting internally for this progression
  • Renumeration: Likewise, candidates seem to want to move to Project Management roles after just a few years’ CRA experience or even want to start freelancing early on due to the lucrative rates. 



Over the past 12 months, what have been the recent trends in the CRA Market?

  • Salaries at the upper end of the scale – i.e. for SCRAs – are noticeably higher, with candidates with four/five years of monitoring experience now regularly receiving salaries of between £47,000 - £50,000
  • There is still the increasing difficulty to get CRA’s to move from one large CRO to another large CRO.
  • Perception of the company in the market, especially amongst the larger CRO’s still plays a huge part in the difficulty to attract new, high standard CRA’s.
  • CRAs with one year of monitoring experience a year ago would generally have been content to be CRA I, but now are securing CRA II roles with salaries approaching the mid to late £30,000s.

CRAs are now progressing in terms of both seniority and salary much quicker than ever before, and are reaching higher levels with much fewer years of monitoring experience:

  • As mentioned above, with one year of monitoring experience now, CRAs will generally expect, and will often secure, a role as a CRA II with a salary in the mid £30,000s.
  • With 2.5-3 years’ experience, CRAs seek, and often do secure, SCRA roles
  • Increased salaries for CTA/coordinator roles – sometimes into the early £30,000s – mean entry level CRAs are now seeking salaries at least at this level.
  • CRAs are generally reluctant to spend very many years monitoring – the CRA role is often seen as a stepping stone to PM/other management work and many candidates would rather spend as little time doing it as possible. CRAs seek very fast progression through the rungs of the role.


Perhaps as a result of the trends discussed above, companies seem to be struggling most with filling CRA II/mid-level CRA roles. With CRA’s wanting to progress more quickly to SCRA and then onto PM, it is harder to find candidates interested in a CRA II level or who are happy to commit to monitoring for another couple of years

We are currently partnered with a number of clients that have taking into account the market trends and seek to offer CRA’s a better work-life balance with set progression plans. If you are interested in speaking about opportunities with these clients please do reach out to me! 


Check out Ciara's trend forecast for the Clinical Research market in her infographic below: 




Thanks, Ciara! Contact Ciara to work with her or to find out more about what it is like to work in the Clinical Research market at i-Pharm in our London HQ:


Ciara Noble

+44 (0) 20 3189  0469