2023 Best Online Clinical Research Certificate Programs [Graduate]

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Discover the benefits of an online clinical research certificate program. Launch your career in clinical research and gain the skills for success in this field.

If you desire to begin or advance a career in researching and testing pharmaceuticals, biologics, medical devices, and more, then a clinical research certificate program may be for you.

Best Online Clinical Research Certificate Programs

Conducting clinical research and being involved in clinical trial design can be a lucrative career path. A graduate certificate program in clinical research can also provide you with graduate-level study without having to complete a full masters program, such as an on-campus or online masters in clinical research.

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This may result in a direct pathway into clinical research, and a number of programs also prepare you for clinical research certification.

Online Clinical Research Certificate Programs

Woman taking Online Clinical Research Certificate

Online clinical research certificate programs aim to prepare students to earn professional certification and to begin or advance their careers in clinical research.

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This program includes a focus on the skills and knowledge required to conduct, implement, and analyze clinical trial research on medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Clinical research is complex. It involves strict governmental regulations and requires knowledge of topics such as:

  • Experimental design
  • Clinical site selection
  • Resources and data management
  • Biostatistics
  • Compliance practices

Because of this, the intensive coursework of a clinical research graduate certificate program may prepare students for entering a number of positions in the medical industry. In this graduate certificate program, you can expect to be exposed to:

  • Data collection and analysis in clinical research
  • Clinical trial design, phases, and procedures
  • Clinical laboratory compliance
  • Best practices and quality control in clinical research
  • Compliance and pharmaceutical law
  • Study and site management

Clinical research certificate programs can also help prepare you to earn a professional certification in clinical research. Holding an industry credential may provide more opportunities for advancement and salary increases.

Many graduates go on to become a clinical research coordinator (CRC) or a clinical research associate (CRA). They may plan clinical operations, assist in surveys and other research, submit materials to the FDA, and more.

Clinical Research Careers & Salaries

Clinical Research Careers & Salaries

A clinical research certificate program is designed to prepare you to plan, conduct, and implement clinical research while also analyzing and interpreting research data.

The knowledge and skills gained through these graduate-level courses can help prepare graduates for roles in the lucrative field of clinical research. Many pursue work as clinical research associates and clinical research coordinators. Graduates may also branch into diverse areas in research and data.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some career paths associated with the field of clinical research.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Natural Sciences Managers $137,900
Managers, All Other (Including Regulatory Affairs Managers) $124,650
Medical and Health Services Managers $101,340
Data Scientists $100,910
Project Management Specialists $94,500
Operations Research Analysts $82,360
Compliance Officers $71,650
Health Education Specialists $60,600
Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians $57,800
Social Science Research Assistants $49,720

The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes clinical research associates in the wider category of clinical lab technologists and technicians. Similarly, clinical research coordinators are put in the wider category of natural sciences managers.

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Salaries in the field of clinical research can vary depending on your position, experience, and industry credentials. Your prior experience and education may also impact the types of positions you can qualify for.

Clinical Research Graduate Certificate Curriculum & Courses

People taking Clinical Research Graduate Certificate

While exact course titles will vary depending on your school, there are many similar core courses in graduate certificate programs in clinical research.

These courses are designed to provide graduates with experience in clinical trial design, research methodology, data collection, analysis, compliance, and more:

  • Ethics and Law: This course provides you with the ethical and legal considerations as well as best practices involved in clinical research and clinical trial design.
  • Biostatistics and Data Management: This course introduces you to data collection methods, processing, and statistical analyses methodologies.
  • Intro to Clinical Trials: This course introduces you to clinical trial design, processes, how medical products are developed, and key roles within clinical trials.
  • Fundamentals of Compliance: This course focuses on the necessary skills for maintaining compliance and best practices in clinical research and trials.
  • Pharmaceutical Law: This course covers governing law within the pharmaceutical research and industry.
  • Study and Site Management: This course overviews how clinical trials and research are managed, from recruitment to data collection and compliance.
  • Data Management and Informatics: This course reviews crucial concepts in the collection, storage, and dissemination of clinical research data.
  • Scientific Concepts and Research Design: This course overviews concepts and terminology in clinical research design and analysis of clinical trials.
  • Clinical Trial Operations and Good Clinical Practices: This course introduces you to the process of clinical trial operations and best practices at the research level.
  • Regulatory Affairs: This course overviews governmental and other regulatory body procedures as well as the process of drug and product review and approval by the FDA.

A certificate in clinical research program typically requires the completion of 4 to 6 courses in these areas, with 2 to 3 usually being electives.

Admissions Requirements

Man preparing requirements for Clinical Research Certificate

Since this certificate includes graduate-level coursework but does not grant a master’s degree, admissions requirements may not be as extensive.

While schools can differ in their admissions requirements for graduate certificate in clinical research programs, there are many similar core requirements:

  • Undergraduate minimum GPA of 3.0, on average
  • Bachelors degree
  • Official transcripts from previous institutions
  • Letters of recommendation
  • CV or resume showing work experience

Many universities no longer require GRE or GMAT scores for admissions. You can check with your potential school to determine whether submitting standardized test scores is necessary.


University offering Clinical Research Certificate

Discovering whether or not your college or university is accredited is a strategic step to take before applying. This is because accreditation can impact not only your ability to receive financial aid but also your eligibility for future certification and employment opportunities.

Regional accreditation is considered the most widely-recognized accreditation. This accreditation level ensures your school meets quality standards for higher education. Before applying, you can verify your university’s accreditation status through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website.

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Since there are only a handful of regional accrediting organizations, it’s helpful to verify that your school has been evaluated by one of them.

Clinical Research Licensure and Certifications

Certified Clinical Research Professionals working in the lab

Pursuing a clinical research credential could offer a number of benefits, such as potential career advancement, leadership, and higher salary opportunities.

Below are a few of the varied professional certifications graduates may pursue:

  • Certified Clinical Research Associate (CCRA)
  • Certified Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC)
  • Certified Principal Investigator (CPI)
  • Certified Clinical Research Professional (CRP)
  • Certified Research Administrator (CRA)
  • Certified Financial Research Manager (CFRM)
  • Certified Clinical Data Manager (CCDM)

To sit for certification exams, graduates typically need at least 3,000 hours of work experience related to their desired certification. The ACRP, SOCRA, RACC, and SCDM are the major certifying agencies in clinical research certification.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Clinical Research Certificate Financial Aid

Many students who pursue a clinical research certification online also pursue financial assistance to fund their studies. Luckily, there are several different aid opportunities you can explore. Federal aid often comes in the form of student loans and work-study programs. To apply, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Loans and grants may also be offered at your state level, depending on where you live and where your school is located. You can also see if you’re eligible for private grants and scholarships from various institutions. Grants and scholarships exist for a wide range of situations, so it could be beneficial to thoroughly explore these opportunities.

If you’re currently employed, your employer may also be able to help. Many companies offer employer programs that are designed to allocate a portion of funds to employee education. You could talk to your HR department to learn more.

What Can You Do with a Clinical Research Certificate Program?

Compliance Officers & clinical research coordinator discussing

Earning a clinical research certificate can prepare graduates for a variety of career paths. Many programs focus on clinical research administration, helping prepare professionals for the work of clinical trial management, among other roles.

Many graduates pursue careers as clinical research coordinators (CRCs) and clinical research associates (CRAs). They may help plan clinical operations, oversee quality control, assist in laboratory and survey research, prepare research findings for publication, and more.

Other clinical research professionals may pursue careers as research analysts or regulatory affairs specialists or managers. Some graduate certificate programs also help prepare you for industry certification in clinical research.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Clinical Research Certificate Online?

Man pursuing his Clinical Research Certificate online

The curriculum of a clinical research certificate program typically consists of four to six graduate-level courses. This can equate to around 12 to 15 credit hours.

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On average, these certificate programs take roughly 1 year or less to complete, though some programs allow you to move faster or slower. Many also allow you to complete the certificate program at a part-time pace. Since a clinical research certificate program usually only requires a handful of classes and doesn’t include a thesis, it often takes less time to complete than a masters degree.

What’s the Difference Between a Clinical Research Certificate vs. Certification?

Natural Sciences Manager discussing with scientists

There is a big difference between earning a certificate in clinical research and becoming certified as a clinical researcher.

  • Clinical research certificate: A clinical research certificate is evidence of completion of graduate-level coursework and education in clinical research.
  • Clinical research certification: Clinical research certification is a formal, professional credential given to clinical researchers who have demonstrated proficiency in the field by passing a standardized exam, such as the ACRP Certification exam.

While certification is typically not required to work in clinical research, industry credentials may assist with career advancement.

What’s the Difference Between a Clinical Trial vs. Clinical Research Certificate Program?

While these two certificate programs may appear similar, they do vary in their focuses.

  • Clinical trial certificate: This certificate program prepares students to manage the development and implementation of clinical study designs. This includes monitoring clinical trials and directing clinical trial operations.
  • Clinical research certificate: This certificate program prepares students to conduct, interpret, and implement clinical research. It does include elements of trial design, but it’s focused on clinical research practices and research evaluation.

All in all, clinical trial certificate programs highlight trial design, while clinical research certificate programs highlight practicing and evaluating clinical research.

Is a Certificate Program in Clinical Research Worth It?

Project Management Specialist & Health Education Specialists discussing

Yes, a certificate program in clinical research is worth it for many students. As trials and research on novel therapies and pharmaceuticals expands, the demand for experienced clinical researchers will likely continue to rise.

Gaining the necessary skills to conduct clinical research and trials also provides graduates with a diverse skill set that may lead to many opportunities in science, research, and even healthcare administration. In fact, a growing number of universities offer on-campus or online degree programs for healthcare administration.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, natural science managers are expected to see 6% job growth over the next ten years. Similarly, 7% job growth is expected for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians over the same period.

Universities Offering Online Graduate Certificates in Clinical Research Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Boston University

Boston University campus

Boston University offers a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Research. The program requires the completion of 16 credits, which can typically be done in 8 to 12 months. The curriculum consists of courses like Regulatory and Compliance Issues, Good Clinical Practices in Clinical Research, and Critical Evaluation of Medical Literature.

Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

George Washington University

George Washington University campus

George Washington University offers a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Research Practice that can be earned 100% online. The certificate requires the completion of 15 credits and can typically be completed in just 1 year. Courses are asynchronous. The curriculum consists of courses such as Clinical Investigation, Epidemiology Translational Research, and Biostatistics for Clinical and Translational Research.

George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University campus

To earn Northwestern University’s Clinical Research Certificate, students must complete 4 courses. The curriculum consists of courses like Essentials of Initiating Clinical Research, Responsible Conduct of Research, and Clinical Research Design and Methodology. Courses are taught in an online, synchronous format. Northwestern uses a quarterly academic calendar, and accepted students can start any quarter.

Northwestern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Hawai’i – Manoa

University of Hawaii - Manoa campus

The University of Hawai’i—Manoa offers an online program for a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Research that can typically be completed in 9 months of full-time study. To earn the certificate, students must complete 3 required courses and 7 credits of electives. The curriculum consists of courses like Introduction to Clinical Research, Biostatistics Concepts for Clinical Researchers, and Fundamentals of Biostatistics.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is accredited by the Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

University of Missouri – Kansas City

University of Missouri – Kansas City campus

The University of Missouri—Kansas City offers a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Research that can be earned 100% online. Missouri uses a semester-based calendar, and students typically take 2 or 3 courses at a time. Students can usually finish the program in 8 months to 1 year. Credits for the program may be able to be transferred into an MS in Bioinformatics with an emphasis in Clinical Research.

The University of Missouri – Kansas City is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Clinical Research Certificate Online

Woman taking Clinical Research Certificate

Completing a clinical research certificate program online may provide you with the flexibility, knowledge, and skills to begin or advance a career in clinical research.

Not only can this program lead to work in clinical research, but it may also set the stage for earning professional certification in the field. For instance, many graduates pursue credentials to become a certified clinical research associate (CCRA), certified clinical research coordinator (CCRC), and more.

Professionals in this field often find it fulfilling to research products that impact lives and healthcare systems. You could start exploring accredited schools today to check out your options for online graduate certificate programs in clinical research.

Ready to start your journey?
Megan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Southern New Hampshire University, is a certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner with the Academy for Modern Applied Psychology, and is a published author. Her areas of research and interests include behavioral psychology, mental health, and publishing.