Clinical research is the study of disease and wellness. At its core, it’s about creating a higher quality of healthcare and a higher quality of life.
In practice, clinical research is an intersection of a number of different, sometimes opposing, fields: medicine, business, law, and ethics. A graduate degree can give you the tools you need to contribute to this dynamic and rapidly changing industry.
What kind of master’s degree in clinical research should you get?
On-campus programs offer several advantages: structured schedules, plenty of face time with professors and peers, and more opportunity to work in campus research centers or labs.
But online degree programs have their own set of benefits: flexible scheduling, round-the-clock access to learning material, and the ability to study with top institutions from anywhere in the country. For this ranking, we focus exclusively on online programs.
Of course, this list represents a small fraction of all the schools that offer distance learning. Stop by our ranking of the Best Online Colleges to get a broader view of all your options.
How much money do people make with a master’s degree in clinical research?
Clinical research can be a highly lucrative field. In fact, CNN ranked Clinical Research Associate fourth on its list of the Best Jobs in America. The median pay for these jobs is $90,700.
With a master’s degree, you could qualify for leadership positions within clinical research teams. These managerial roles come with more responsibility, higher minimum qualifications, and bigger paychecks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for Medical and Health Services Managers is $98,350 per year.
What can you do with a master’s degree in clinical research?
Here are some common job titles within the clinical research field:
- Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist
- Medical Scientist
- Medical and Health Services Manager
- Clinical Research Associate
- Biological Technician
It’s important to consider your professional goals before you begin your academic program. Graduate degrees often give you an opportunity to specialize in a particular phase of clinical research, such as clinical trial design, product development, or regulatory compliance. Deciding which aspect of clinical research most intrigues you will help you choose the right program.
What are the requirements for a master’s degree in clinical research?
At the very least, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. Some schools will only consider applicants with a Bachelor of Science in a health care or bioscience discipline. Other programs will accept students with more widely varying educational backgrounds, particularly if they have relevant professional experience.
In order to graduate with a master’s degree in clinical research, expect to complete a major research project as your capstone experience. These research projects, which may take the form of a practicum or thesis, typically last two or more semesters.
What are the best online master’s degrees in clinical research?
We analyze data from other reputable ranking publications, such as U.S. News & World Report, as well as student review sites, like Cappex and RateMyProfessor. We also examine information from the National Center for Educational Statistics, PayScale, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This wide variety of data points allows us to create a list that’s thorough, accurate, and comprehensive. We hope our ranking of the Best Online Master’s in Clinical Research Degrees puts you one step closer to your ideal career.
See our rankings methodology page.
George Washington University
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $39,562
Chartered in 1821, George Washington University is a private research institution at the forefront of scholarship and experiential learning. GW Online offers world-class programs in a variety of fields, including business, physical sciences, and public health. The faculty of the clinical research master’s degree program is composed of leading experts in health care, biomedical research, and health policy.
GW’s online Master of Science in Health Sciences for Clinical and Translational Research requires 36 credit-hours. This will include 27 credit-hours of core coursework and nine credit-hours of elective coursework. Electives may be taken in topics such as community health research, basic and biomedical sciences, clinical research and administration, and health services research and policy. Required coursework includes:
- Biostatistics for Clinical and Translational Research
- Grantsmanship in Translational Research
- Transdisciplinary Research Proposal
- Collaboration and Team Science in Practice and Research
GW Health Sciences also offers a graduate certificate in Clinical and Translational Research (which requires 21 credit-hours) and in Clinical Research Practice (which requires 18 credit-hours). Other degree options include Master of Science in Health Sciences degrees in Integrative Medicine, Health Care Quality, Laboratory Medicine, and many related areas. These degrees and certificates are all offered fully online.
The Ohio State University
College Choice Score: 97.24
Average Net Price: $17,971
With campuses and research centers throughout the state, the Ohio State University is a land-grant institution serving over 66,000 students. In a 2018 ranking, U.S. News & World Report named the OSU to sixteenth place among the nation’s top public universities. The OSU’s clinical research program is a collaborative effort of the Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy, and Medicine.
The Master of Applied Clinical and Preclinical Research prepares graduates to serve as regulatory specialists, clinical and safety pharmacology professionals, and in numerous related roles. Students may choose a concentration in Clinical Research Management, which is directed by the College of Nursing, or a concentration in Regulatory Affairs, which is directed by the College of Pharmacy. For both concentration tracks, the following coursework is required:
- Fundamentals of Pathophysiology
- Biomedical Research Ethics
- Organ System Toxicology
- Applied Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics
All candidates for this degree will complete a three credit-hour culminating activity. This will take the form of either a research practicum or project. Additionally, degree candidates must pass a comprehensive exam during their final semester in the program. This degree path is ideal for mid-career health care practitioners and for recent graduates with a bachelor’s or graduate degree in a bioscience-related field.
Arizona State University
College Choice Score: 89.17
Average Net Price: $13,007
Times Higher Education ranks Arizona State University among the top 1 percent of the most prestigious universities in the world. This ranking is based on ASU’s outstanding performance in teaching, research, and international engagement. The master’s degree programs at ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation are ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the top 11 percent nationwide.
The College of Nursing and Health Innovation presents a flexible, transdisciplinary program leading to a Master of Science in Clinical Research Management. This online degree requires 11 classes for a total of 33 credit-hours. Each of these classes lasts seven and a half weeks. The degree features a 15 credit-hour core, which includes the following required courses:
- Clinical Research Monitoring
- Responsible Conduct of Clinical Research
- Fundamentals of Regulatory Affairs
- Scientific and Research Review Boards
Students applying to this program must have a GPA of at least 3.0 on the last 60 credit-hours of undergraduate coursework (or a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in an applicable master’s degree program). Once accepted, degree candidates may choose to enroll on either a full-time or part-time basis. The curriculum for this degree features a required six credit-hour clinical research project as the capstone experience.
University of North Carolina Wilmington
College Choice Score: 88.44
Average Net Price: $16,218
The University of North Carolina Wilmington is a public institution enrolling approximately 14,500 undergraduate students and 1,900 graduate students. The Princeton Review featured UNCW in its 2018 ranking of the Best Southeastern Schools. UNCW’s clinical research program will prepare students to collaborate with health care providers and regulatory agencies in the development of biopharmaceutical products and strategies.
The online Master of Science in Clinical Research and Product Development requires a minimum of 36 credit-hours. This degree emphasizes clinical research in terms of biopharmaceutical and device development. Students in the program will choose a concentration in either Clinical Research Management or in Regulatory Affairs and Compliance. For all students pursuing this degree, the following coursework is required:
- Advanced Scientific Writing and Interpreting Medical Literature
- Regulatory Affairs and Project Management
- Clinical Research Monitoring and Ethics
- Clinical Research Trial Design and Data Management
Applicants must submit scores for either the GRE (Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing) or the Miller Analogies Test. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to hold a bachelor’s degree in a life science or health care discipline. At the conclusion of their program, all degree candidates will complete a master’s project or thesis worth three or six credit-hours.
College Choice Score: 86.84
Average Net Price: $25,483
Founded in 1887, Campbell University is a private Christian institution located in Buies Creek, NC. U.S. News & World Report ranks Campbell at number 27 among the best regional universities in the South. Graduates of the clinical research program at Campbell will be qualified to serve as clinical research associates, data managers, and biostatisticians.
Campbell’s online Master of Science in Clinical Research will prepare students to produce and interpret medical evidence in a number of settings. Full-time students can complete the program in as little as two years. Candidates for this degree will take four credit-hours (two classes) in elective coursework. The remaining credits will be earned through required courses such as:
- Managing and Monitoring Clinical Trials
- Advanced Study Design and Analysis
- Physical and Clinical Assessment with Lab
- New Product Development
Through this flexible program, students have the option of enrolling on a part-time basis and earning their degree over the span of several years. The curriculum includes seven credit-hours in a sequence of research project courses. Campbell also offers a number of dual degree programs. Through these programs, students can concurrently pursue an MS in Clinical Research and a Master of Business Administration, or an MS in Clinical Research and a Doctor of Pharmacy.