Best Jobs in America

CNNMoney/PayScale's top 100 careers with big growth, great pay and satisfying work.

9. Clinical Research Associate
Clinical Research Associate
9
"Being a CRA is exciting because no two days are alike," says Lee Steen, a CRA in Raleigh, N.C., with PRA International. "I also love the flexibility. I can set my own travel schedule, and when I'm not on the road, I'm able to work from home."
Median pay: $95,100
Top pay: $127,000
10-year job growth: 36.4%
Total jobs*: 100,000

What they do all day? To see if a new drug really works, researchers need to test if they perform better than placebos or existing treatments. Clinical research associates, or CRAs, monitor these trials to make sure they're conducted according to regulatory standards. They may develop research protocols, verify data, and write reports on the results.

How to get the job? Having a bachelor's in life science or nursing helps, as does experience with clinical trials -- like one might get as a nurse or other health-care professional. Many universities also now offer master's programs in clinical research management.

What's great? What's not? It's meaningful work to help protect study subjects and make it possible to evaluate new treatments. But CRAs must go where the research is being done, so many of them spend 60 to 80 percent of their time on the road, which isn't everyone's dream schedule. --K.A.

What they do all day? To see if a new drug really works, researchers need to test if they perform better than placebos or existing treatments. Clinical research associates, or CRAs, monitor these trials to make sure they're conducted according to regulatory standards. They may develop research protocols, verify data, and write reports on the results. --K.A.

Quality of life ratings:
  • Personal satisfaction: B
  • Benefit to society: A
  • Flexibility: A
  • Low stress: B
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*Total jobs is estimated number of people working in broader BLS 'job family.'

Sources: PayScale.com, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and CNNMoney research

Do Clinical Research Associates have great jobs, or what? Are these great jobs, or what?
It's still a tough job market, so when CNNMoney, in partnership with data from PayScale.com, set out to find America's Best Jobs this year, first and foremost we looked for professions that offer great growth opportunities.

Other big factors: pay (how strong it is now, and how fast it's growing), overall job satisfaction, and how many jobs are in the field overall.
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