Clinical Research Roles: How to Become a Clinical Trial Manager

Clinical trial manager job description

Clinical trials are an essential part of the process of bringing new drugs and therapies to patients, and clinical trial managers (CTMs) play a crucial role in ensuring their successful execution. CTMs oversee all aspects of a clinical trial, from planning and implementation to monitoring and reporting results.

Clinical project management involves managing timelines, budgets, and resources, and ensuring that trials are conducted in compliance with regulatory requirements and ethical standards.

Other potential job titles for this position include clinical research project manager, clinical trial project manager, clinical study manager, and clinical operations manager.

The clinical trial manager job description may include some or all of the following responsibilities:

  • Developing and implementing study plans and protocols
  • Managing study budgets
  • Overseeing trial sites and the various teams involved in the clinical trial’s operations
  • Coordinating trial tasks and timelines, ensuring all teams and tasks are on track
  • Ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and ethical standards
  • Monitoring study progress and data quality
  • Analyzing study data and preparing reports
  • Collaborating with cross-functional teams, including clinical operations, data management, regulatory affairs, and medical affairs

Qualifications: What does it take to be a successful clinical trial manager (CTM)?

Clinical trial management positions typically have some common basic requirements, such as having a bachelor's degree in life sciences or a healthcare-related field, for example biology, nursing, or pharmacy. Although not always a condition, a master's degree in a related field can be advantageous, especially for more senior clinical management positions such as director of clinical research or trial director.

In addition to relevant education, a CTM should possess a range of skills, including:

  • Project management skills: A CTM must be skilled in aspects of project management, including planning, scheduling, monitoring progress, identifying and mitigating risks, coordinating teams, and ensuring project objectives are met within the allocated timeline and budget.
  • Communication skills: A CTM must have excellent communication skills to effectively communicate with internal and external stakeholders, including sponsors, study personnel, regulatory authorities, and vendors. Clear and effective communication ensures all parties are on the same page and up-to-date regarding the study's progress and any potential issues or changes. Communication skills are also important for coordinating tasks involving multiple departments/teams.
  • Leadership skills: A CTM needs to be an effective leader, motivating and inspiring the various teams to achieve their goals while maintaining a positive and collaborative work environment.
  • Problem-solving skills: A great CTM will be able to quickly identify problems as well as find effective solutions. They should be able to think critically and make informed decisions to overcome potential challenges that may arise during the trial.
  • Regulatory knowledge: A CTM must be familiar with regulatory requirements and guidelines, including Good Clinical Practice (GCP), FDA regulations, and ICH guidelines.[1],[2],[3] This knowledge is essential to ensure that the study is conducted in compliance with regulatory requirements and ethical standards.

How long does it take to become a clinical trial manager?

A clinical trial manager's (CTM) career path can vary depending on education, work experience, and career goals. As an approximation, it could take around seven years to become a CTM. Various career paths could lead to becoming a CTM.

Many CTMs start their career in clinical research as a clinical research associate (CRA) or study coordinator, through which they gain experience in study implementation, monitoring, and data management. After several years of experience, they may be promoted to more senior roles, such as a lead CRA or project manager, where they would be given increased responsibilities and may oversee multiple studies.

Some CTMs enter the clinical research field with a healthcare-related degree or from other health-related positions, such as nursing or pharmacy, and then gain experience in clinical research through working as a research nurse or pharmacist. Others may come from a life science field, such as biology, and gain clinical research experience through working in a laboratory or by being involved in conducting preclinical research.

Some CTMs pursue a master's degree in a specialized subject, such as clinical research or healthcare administration, to gain additional job-specific knowledge and skills to further advance their career. Pursuing a certification, such as the ACRP’s Clinical Research Associate (CRA) certification or the PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, is another way to gain and demonstrate highly relevant expertise and qualifications.[4],[5]

Overall, a career path in clinical trial management involves gaining experience in clinical research and progressing to more senior roles with increased responsibilities. A combination of education, experience, and certification will help individuals advance their careers in this field.

Clinical trial management certification and courses

Taking a clinical trial management course and getting a recognized certification from a clinical trial management training program/organization can help you get closer to becoming a CTM. One of the most valuable CTM certifications is the Certified Clinical Research Associate (CCRP) certification from the Association for Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP).[4]

Online programs such as those offered by Coursera can also help you build the right knowledge for a CTM job.[6] The University of Delaware offers the Clinical Trials Management Certificate which includes training on clinical trial processes, roles and responsibilities, U.S. regulatory compliance, ethical and safety considerations, data management and coding principles, monitoring and oversight of clinical trials, and new product introduction, branding, and marketing.[7]

Where to look for clinical trial manager jobs

CTMs are commonly employed by clinical research organizations (CROs), pharmaceutical and drug development companies, or research hospitals and universities conducting clinical trials. Some ways to find a clinical trial manager job include:

  • Job boards such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor, have job postings for CTMs. You can search for jobs by location, experience level, and company.
  • Pharmaceutical and biotech companies may advertise job openings for CTMs directly on their websites. Search for companies in your area, or those who may hire remotely, and visit their websites to check for positions. You can also visit their LinkedIn profiles, as job openings may be posted there as well.
  • Clinical research organizations (CROs) provide clinical trial services to pharmaceutical and biotech companies. CROs often have job openings for CTMs, which could be posted on their websites and/or through job boards.
  • Professional organizations such as the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) and the Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) have job boards on their websites where members can search for various jobs in clinical research.
  • Networking with colleagues, mentors, and peers in the clinical research field can be a valuable resource for job seekers. Attend industry conferences and events, join professional organizations, and connect with others on LinkedIn. Personal connections and professional references can go a long way in helping you advance your career.

How much does a clinical trial manager earn? Average clinical trial manager salary

The average clinical trial manager salary in the United States is around $133,121 annually. An entry-level clinical research manager salary can be lower, at approximately $56,000, while a senior clinical trial manager salary could be as high as $193,500.[8]

Clinical trial manager jobs: Future outlook

The demand for clinical trial managers will remain stable as the pharmaceutical and biotech industries continue to grow and develop new drugs and therapies. As more clinical trials are conducted globally, the need for qualified CTMs will likely increase, particularly in emerging markets where clinical research infrastructure is developing rapidly. Further, as new methodologies such as decentralized clinical trials and remote data collection are increasingly adopted, there will be a growing need for trial managers who are adept with modern technologies.[9] Clinical trial manager salaries have seen an average increase of 15% in the last five years, and clinical trial jobs are projected to continue growing through 2028.[10]


Becoming a clinical trial manager (CTM) or clinical trial project manager requires a unique combination of education, experience, and skills. Although there is no strictly defined skill set for CTMs, it is good to have knowledge and skills in diverse aspects of clinical research and project management to stand out from the competition. Amidst growing demand for clinical trials and new drugs and therapies, the role of CTMs will likely remain vital and in high demand in the coming years.