GUIDE
June 6, 2022
How to Become a Research Nurse

Research Nurses, also referred to as Clinical Nurse Researchers or Nurse Researchers, develop and implement studies to investigate and provide information on new medications, vaccinations, and medical procedures. They assist in providing evidence-based research that is essential to safe and quality nursing care. This guide will explain what a Research Nurse does, how much they make, how to become one, and more!

Part One What is a Research Nurse?

Research nurses play a pivotal role in developing new and potentially life-saving medical treatments. Typically, clinical research nurses have advanced degrees, assist in the development of studies regarding medications, vaccines, and medical procedures, and also the care of research participants. 

Nurses that know they want to be a clinical research nurse will often work as a research assistant, a clinical data collector, and/or clinical research monitor. It is essential to gain some bedside experience, but not as important as other nursing specialties. 

Clinical research nurses have advanced degrees such as an MSN or Ph.D. This is vital to those that want to conduct independent research. For that reason, most clinical research nurses do not work in this field until they are in their 40s-50s.

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Part Two What Does a Research Nurse Do?

Research Nurses primarily conduct evidence-based research through these two types of research methods:

  • Quantitative: Meaning it’s researched that can be measured via statistical, mathematical, or computational techniques.
  • Qualitative: Qualitative research, however, is primarily exploratory research and relies on non-numerical data. In nursing research, it can include:
    • Phenomenology
    • Grounded Theory
    • Ethnography
    • Narrative Inquiry

Clinical research nurses perform a variety of tasks, all centered around research. These specific job responsibilities include:

  • Collaborating with industry sponsors and other investigators from multi-institutional studies
  • Educating and training of new research staff
  • Overseeing the running of clinical trials
  • Administering questionnaires to clinical trial participants
  • Writing articles and research reports in nursing or medical professional journals or other publications
  • Monitoring research participants to ensure adherence to study rules
  • Adhering to research regulatory standards
  • Writing grant applications to secure funding for studies
  • Reporting findings of research, which may include presenting findings at industry conferences, meetings and other speaking engagements
  • Adhering to ethical standards
  • Maintaining detailed records of studies as per FDA guidelines, including things such as drug dispensation
  • Participating in subject recruitment efforts
  • Ensuring the necessary supplies and equipment for a study are in stock and in working order
  • Engaging with subjects and understanding their concerns
  • Providing patients with thorough explanation of trial prior to obtaining Informed Consent, in collaboration with treating physician and provides patient education on an ongoing basis throughout the patient’s course of trial.

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Part Three Research Nurse Salary

Glassdoor.com states an annual average salary of $99,372 for Research Nurses and Payscale reports that Clinical Research Nurses earn an average annual salary of $72,848 or $35.14/hr

Research Nurse Salary by Years of Experience

Research Nurses can earn a higher annual salary with increased years of experience.

  • 1-4 years of experience earn an average salary of $70,000
  • 5-9 years of experience earns an average salary of $72,000
  • 10-19 years of experience earns an average salary of $77,000
  • 20 years or more of experience earns an average salary of $78,000

Via Payscale

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Part Four How to Become a Research Nurse

To become a Research Nurse, you’ll need to complete the following steps:

Step 1: Attend Nursing School

You’ll need to earn either an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program in order to take the first steps to become a registered nurse. 

Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN

Become a Registered Nurse by passing the NCLEX examination.

Step 3: Gain Experience at the Bedside

Though not as important as in some other nursing careers, gaining experience is still a vital step for those wanting to become Nurse Researchers. 

Step 4: Earn an MSN and/or Ph.D

Research Nurses typically need an advanced degree, so ADN-prepared nurses will need to complete an additional step of either completing their BSN degree or entering into an accelerated RN to MSN program which will let them earn their BSN and MSN at the same time. 

Step 5: Earn Your Certification

There are currently two certifications available for Clinical Research Nurses. They are both offered by the Association of Clinical Research Professionals. 

  1. Clinical Research Association (CCRA)
  2. Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC) 

These certifications are not specific to nurses but rather those that work in the research field. 

CCRA Certification

In order to be deemed eligible for the CCRA Certification exam, applicants must attest to having earned 3,000 hours of professional experience performing the knowledge and tasks located in the six content areas of the CRA Detailed Content Outline. Any experience older than ten years will not be considered.

What’s on the Exam?

  • Scientific Concepts and Research Design
  • Ethical and Participant Safety Considerations
  • Product Development and Regulation
  • Clinical Trial Operations (GCPs)
  • Study and Site Management
  • Data Management and Informatics

Exam Information

  • Early-Bird Application Dates: May 18 – June 30, 2020
    • Application Fee: $135 Member; $135 Nonmember
    • Exam Fee: $300 Member; $350 Nonmember
    • Total: $435 Member; $485 Nonmember
  • Regular Application Dates: July 1 – September 30, 2020
    • Application Fee: $135 Member; $200 Nonmember
    • Exam Fee: $325 Member; $400 Nonmember
    • Total: $460 Member; $600 Nonmember
  • Multiple choice examination with 125 questions (25 pretest non-graded questions)

CCRC Certification

In order to be deemed eligible for the CCRC Certification exam, applicants must attest to having earned 3,000 hours of professional experience performing the knowledge and tasks located in the six content areas of the CCRC Detailed Content Outline. Any experience older than ten years will not be considered.

What’s on the Exam?

  • Scientific Concepts and Research Design
  • Ethical and Participant Safety Considerations
  • Product Development and Regulation
  • Clinical Trial Operations (GCPs)
  • Study and Site Management
  • Data Management and Informatics

Exam Information

  • Multiple choice examination with 125 questions (25 pretest non-graded questions)
  • Early-Bird Application Dates: May 18 – June 30, 2020
    • Application Fee: $135 Member; $135 Nonmember
    • Exam Fee: $300 Member; $350 Nonmember
    • Total: $435 Member; $485 Nonmember
  • Regular Application Dates: July 1 – September 30, 2020
    • Application Fee: $135 Member; $200 Nonmember
    • Exam Fee: $325 Member; $400 Nonmember
    • Total: $460 Member; $600 Nonmember

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Part Five Where Do Research Nurses Work?

Clinical Research nurses can work in a variety of locations including:

  • Government Agencies
  • Academia
  • Teaching Hospitals
  • Medical Clinics
  • International Review Board
  • Medicine manufacturing 
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Medical research organizations
  • Research Organizations
  • International Health Organizations
  • Private practice
  • Private and public foundations

Part Six What is the Career Outlook for a Research Nurse?

According to the BLS, from 2020 to 2030 there is an expected growth of 9% for registered nurses. With the aging population and nursing shortage, this number is expected to be even higher.

The BLS does identify medical scientists, which includes clinical research nurses, as having a growth potential of 17% between 2020-2030. 

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Part Seven What are the Continuing Education Requirements for a Research Nurse?

Generally, in order for an individual to renew their RN license, they will need to fill out an application, complete a specific number of CEU hours, and pay a nominal fee. Each state has specific requirements and it is important to check with the board of nursing prior to applying for license renewal.

 If the RN license is part of a compact nursing license, the CEU requirement will be for the state of permanent residence. Furthermore, some states require CEUs related to child abuse, narcotics, and/or pain management. 

A detailed look at Continuing Nurse Education hours can be found here.

Part Eight Where Can I Learn More About Becoming a Research Nurse?

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Part Nine Research Nurse FAQs

  • What is the role of a Research Nurse?

    • Research nursing is a nursing practice with a specialty focus on the care of research participants. 
  • What makes a good Research Nurse?

    • Research Nurses should be excellent communicators, have strong attention to detail, be self-assured, have strong clinical abilities, be flexible, autonomous, organized, and eager to learn new information.
  • How much does a Research Nurse make?

    • Research nurses earn an average salary of $99,372 according to Glassdoor.com.
  • What is it like being a Research Nurse?

    • Research Nurses provide and coordinate clinical care. Research Nurses have a central role in ensuring participant safety, maintaining informed consent, the integrity of protocol implementation, and the accuracy of data collection and data recording.

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Doctorate RN $70,000 - $90,000 Masters Research PhD Non-Bedside
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