Navigating your Path to a Clinical Operations Career

navigating the path to clinical operations career

Transitioning into a Career in Clinical Trial Management (Sponsor)

Before I started my career in clinical operations, I was a technician on a production floor manufacturing oncology drugs. I had an unrelated job, and I eventually was able to transition into a clinical operations career at a pharmaceutical company.

I needed to identify whether I had transferable skills for navigating a path into a clinical operations career.

I would like to share my experience and offer suggestions for anyone who is transitioning from a different field.

Navigating your path to a clinical operations career is achievable for you, too!

Education / Training:

Consider completing a certificate in Clinical Research/Clinical Trial Management

  • While these certificate programs do not guarantee a job afterwards, the classrooms are very good places to network. These courses are often taught by professionals from the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. Additionally, classmates you meet in these programs could already be in a clinops role. This is a great place to network!
  • These programs teach you the fundamentals of clinical research, such as Good Clinical Practices (GCP), trial design, terminology, and the history of clinical trials. Knowing more about clinical research can help with your interviews.


  • LinkedIn: Check your network, see if anyone you know is in the industry and can introduce you or refer you.
  • Join a Clinical Research network, such as ClinOps Toolkit!
  • Conduct Informational Interviews to learn more about the field, and expand your network.
  • Reach out to people in the ClinOps department at your current company. See if there are opportunities to transition internally.

Other Suggestions:

  • Become a Clinical Research Coordinator at a site to gain clinical research knowledge before you later transition into a career in clinical operations. This can be a good stepping stone to gain experience to move into industry.
  • Become a Clinical Research Associate (CRA) for a Contract Research Organization (CRO). Some of the larger CROs even offer entry level CRA trainings. However, if you do not like travelling, this is probably not the best option.
  • Consider relocating for a job if you are not located in an area with many biotech or Pharma companies. I personally looked at the entire Bay Area, as well as San Diego, and Boston.
  • Highlight transferrable skills on your resume. Look at job descriptions and look for keywords to enter into your resume. If you don’t have much transferrable skills, ask your current manager for more work to develop relatable skills.

Remember, that there are lots of different ways to navigate from another discipline into clinical operations. Read our founder’s “How I got here” story and stay hopeful that you can get there, too.

My last word of advice is to keep applying and don’t give up! If you are interested in speaking to me for an informational interview, feel free to reach out to [email protected].

Learn More abut Clinical Operations

Join a group of your peer clinical researchers on facebook. As you grow your career in clinical trials, we invite you to follow along with this blog.  We would be delighted to hear about your experiences and insights. Please join our Clinical Research Insider’s Exchange group today!



About The Author

Herman Liu

Herman Liu is a Clinical Trial Management Associate at Gilead Sciences Inc. Herman completed his undergraduate studies in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University California, Davis. Herman also holds a professional certificate in Clinical Research Conduct and Management from UC Berkeley Extension. He started in the biotechnology industry in production, and is now in clinical operations overseeing various aspects of clinical trials. Herman is motivated by his impact on his community and beyond. Outside of work, Herman is a photography enthusiast, and an aspiring cook. Herman has been a member of ClinOps Toolkit since July 2015.

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