Clinical research professionals in demand

Advances in research and the growing needs of an aging population continue to push the demand for new pharmaceutical products. In turn, that’s creating a healthy demand for qualified professionals able to translate clinical knowledge into practice to deliver and manage clinical trials.

“Canada’s pharmaceutical industry is the fourth fastest growing in the world,” says Olena Rodina, co-ordinator of Seneca College’s new clinical research certificate program.

Hospitals, medical research centres and pharmaceutical firms have been increasing their research activities and their use of clinical trials, creating increased opportunities for qualified professionals, including clinical research associates, co-ordinators, managers and investigators.

Ontario is home to a large number of public research facilities, including hospitals and pharmaceutical companies that conduct clinical trials. The Ontario Institute of Cancer Research, for example, invested $11 million in 2008 to build a network of 30 clinical trial sites throughout the province.

“A new drug cannot be approved until it passes clinical trial and proves to regulatory bodies that it is a safe and effective drug that works as promised,” Rodina says.

The clinical research program has been developed to meet the needs of professionals with a background in health-related disciplines wanting to change careers and those with a background in science-related disciplines wanting to embark on a career in clinical research.

“This means that not only students with a degree but also those with work experience will be accepted to this program,” Rodina says.

Student Kathy Wdowiak has a pharmacy technician diploma and a pharmacy technology diploma. When she was laid off from her position at a pharmaceutical company last year, she decided to get into regulatory affairs or clinical trials. She appreciates the diversity of class members, which includes a pharmacist, bio-technologist, nurse and optometrist.

The program, now in its first semester, is made up of seven credits that can be completed within a year. Graduates can expect to find employment in positions such as clinical research associate and may work as freelancers, for contract research organizations or as employees of hospitals or pharmaceutical companies.

They can expect to earn from $42,000 to $65,000 or more, reports Rodina. “The program is focused on acceptance and requirements for clinical trials in Canada as well as the United States and Europe,” she says. “Subsequently, our graduates could apply for job positions in Canada and other countries …This makes our program unique.”

Where the jobs are

Graduates of Toronto’s Seneca College clinical research program may find work in entry-level positions performing the following tasks:

• Provide administrative support to clinical trials
• Participate in the preparation and presentation of clinical trial protocols
• Ensure compliance with clinical trial protocols
• Manage data about trial participants and the investigational product using forms or databases provided
• Prepare reports and summaries of data obtained
• Perform all duties in accordance with Good Clinical Practice Guidelines