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What is the difference between a CRA and In-house CRA?

Posting date: 17/02/2023
Author: Inside ICON

A role as a Clinical Research Associate can be fast-paced, challenging and incredibly rewarding. If you have been considering a role in clinical research, you may have come across different terms being used to describe this role - CRA and in-house CRA. This can be a little confusing. But with a little information, the difference and similarities of these roles are easy to understand. In this article, we explore how a role as a CRA and an in-house CRA can differ. We also look at which of these two roles may be best suited for you based on your circumstances, preferences and career goals.

Difference 1: Site visits vs office based working

The biggest and most obvious difference between an in-house CRA and CRA is their physical location. Although an in-house CRA may be able to work from home depending on the business they work for and their individual circumstances, in-house doesn’t actually mean ‘working from home’. Instead, it refers to the fact that those working in this role will primarily be based within an office location. This is in contrast with a CRA, who will typically be on the road or on-site.

The difference in working location can have a big impact on your lifestyle, depending on the role you take on. An in-house role is perfectly suited to those who are not interested in travel or simply have responsibilities which can make travel difficult. On the other hand, those who love being on the road, visiting new places and meeting new people could be well suited to a role as a CRA.

Difference 2: Wide vs narrow focus

So, we can see that in-house CRAs are typically office based, whilst CRAs spend their time visiting sites. This setup translates to a difference in job focus. Where a travelling CRA will tend to focus exclusively on the site they are visiting, an in-house CRA may be working with multiple CRAs across multiple sites, meaning that they need to focus on the wider picture.

This is because in-house CRAs will typically be the right-hand-person for various CRAs. They will take on a position as the main point of contact for sites when a travelling CRA is not at that site. Therefore, an in-house CRA may be contacted by a site or requested to deal with information regarding one of the multiple sites at a moment's notice.

This means that in-house CRAs need excellent self-management skills. Although time management is just one essential skill needed to be successful in all clinical research roles, this

is arguably more important for in-house CRAs who will be expected to focus on multiple sites and interact with multiple project teams at any one time.

Difference 3: Career progression

Although many professionals pick a role as an in-house CRA due to their circumstances and preferences, natural progression will see them moving into a CRA role as they develop skills, build experience and opportunities arise.

Businesses love promoting in-house CRAs into CRA roles because they: 

  1. Will already know the business and industry 
  2. Will already have built relationships with research teams 
  3. Will understand the role of a CRA due to supporting CRAs from an in-office position

This makes a role as an in-house CRA a perfect option for those looking to break into the clinical research space. Once in a CRA role, career progression may see professionals taking on higher levels of responsibility as a senior CRA or lead CRA.

In-house CRA vs CRA: Which role is right for you?

Although similar in many ways, the role of an in-house CRA and CRA differ in some significant ways. Those who are just getting started in clinical research may benefit from an entry-level position as an in-house CRA, offering them the ability to better understand how a CRA works. However, you may also opt for a role as an in-house CRA if consistent travel is not suitable or simply isn’t appealing to you.

Whichever role you think is right for you, we have several great in-house CRA and CRA roles available at ICON. You can browse all our Clinical Research Associate roles and find the perfect one for you.

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