Job descriptions and industry overviews

Clinical researcher

Works directly with or uses data from patients to carry out research on health and disease and to develop new treatments.

woman working on a tablet

Clinical researchers design, implement and monitor clinical studies of compounds designated for clinical development. Clinical research is a vital industry working to translate basic medical discoveries into working treatments.

Clinical research and trials are fundamental tools of modern medicine. Researchers study the effects of new medicines or treatments. They implement safety tests, taking note of any adverse side-effects, and recording the success rate of particular treatment processes. Clinical researchers work closely with doctors and other health professionals to ensure that the drugs meet certain standards, achieve desired results and complement current treatment practices, for the overall benefit of the patient. All drugs are subject to regulation and require stringent tests before they can be given the green light and prescribed to patients.

Work activities

  • Assuring timely completion of studies.
  • Monitoring data for safety and efficacy trends by reviewing clinical data.
  • Writing clinical reports upon completion or termination of studies.
  • Preparing manuscripts for technical journals and making presentations at scientific meetings.
  • Liaising with doctors, scientists and health professionals and meeting with colleagues.

Work conditions

Travel: can involve regular travel including overnight to trial centres, GP practices or hospitals; travel to national and international meetings may be also be required.
Working hours: mainly 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, though extra hours are common.
Location: mainly in urban areas.
Opportunities for self-employment: freelance work is possible.

Typical employers

  • Contract Research Organisations
  • Regulatory affairs industry
  • Irish Medicines Board
  • Universities and research institutions.

Career development

Clinical research companies have defined career development programmes.

Specific degree subjects required

A degree in a life science or medical science subject is normally required for entry.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Biological sciences
  • Biomedical science
  • Dentistry
  • Immunology
  • Medicine
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular biology
  • Nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Toxicology.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement.


Continuous on-the-job training is required.

Tips for applications

Gain work experience in a clinically relevant field.

Skills and qualities

  • Good supervisory and organisational skills.
  • Patience is important, as is the ability to take a long-term view.
  • Ability to think logically and analytically.
  • Skills in data analysis and presentation.
  • Good information management skills.
  • Excellent report writing skills and an eye for detail.
  • Ability to interact and communicate effectively with a wide range of people.
  • Excellent IT skills.

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