Clinical research is a growing career field for students interested in overseeing medical research projects. As the medical industry grows, pharmaceutical and biomedical research are imperative, and graduates who have earned a master's in clinical research online are at the forefront of the research community. The Bureau of Labor statistics projects an 8% increase in demand for medical scientists within the next seven years. Professionals with a clinical research master's online degree earn high salaries due to their extensive education and experience.

What are the best clinical research programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 George Washington University Washington, DC
2 The Ohio State University Columbus, OH
3 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
4 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
5 Loyola University of Chicago Chicago, IL
6 University of North Carolina Wilmington Wilmington, NC
7 Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University Boston, MA
8 Xavier University Cincinnati, OH
9 St. Cloud State University Saint Cloud, MN
10 Campbell University Buies Creek, NC


Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

George Washington University

Washington, DC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

Located in Washington, D.C., George Washington University offers a fully online master of science in health sciences in clinical and translational research. The multidisciplinary curriculum of this program explores topics across biomedical science, clinical administration, and community health and health policy.The MSHS program features simulations of actual translational research activities, providing students with practical experience as they learn remotely. Spanning 36 credits, the program can be completed in 24 months and prepares students for careers with healthcare and research organizations.Students must hold a bachelor's degree and have earned a minimum 3.0 GPA in previous coursework to apply. Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation, a comprehensive statement of purpose, and official transcripts from every college they attended.


The Ohio State University

Columbus, OH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 84%

The online master's in clinical research at The Ohio State University allows learners to choose between two specializations: clinical research management and regulatory affairs. Both specializations require 36 credits, all of which can be completed entirely online.This non-thesis program features a multidisciplinary curriculum, with courses taught across the colleges of pharmacy, medicine, and nursing. Courses include research ethics, pharmacology, statistics, and research methods. All students complete a final master's activity, requiring them to compile an e-portfolio that includes highlights related to each of the eight Joint Task Force for Clinical Trial Competency domains.Graduates of this program acquire the skills needed for careers in research administration, regulatory compliance, and other professional research roles. Online learners can enroll part or full time and typically complete the program in 12-24 months.


Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 50%

Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University hosts an online master of health science with a concentration in clinical research. This program is designed to prepare healthcare professionals for careers in clinical research, but also benefits graduate students looking to go on and pursue their Ph.D.The curriculum comprises 39 credits, with 27 credits earned from practical and specialty courses. Specialty coursework explores topics like qualitative and quantitative research methods and culminates in a developmental research project. Practical courses are dedicated entirely to thesis-related work. NSU's admissions process is based on a holistic assessment, meaning academic performance is not the sole metric for acceptance into this online program. Additional qualifications include prior healthcare experience, letters of evaluation, and personal motivation. All NSU distance learners pay the same per-credit tuition, regardless of their state residency.


Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 74%

Drexel University — located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — offers an online master's in clinical research for health professionals; this program is designed for graduate students and practitioners alike. The non-thesis curriculum consists of 36 credits and can be completed entirely online in 2-3 years.Students explore three introduction courses and have the ability to customize their subsequent coursework by choosing from classes across a variety of fields, such as new product research and development, compliance and safety surveillance, ethics and law, and regulatory affairs. The program also requires students to conduct nine clock hours of supervised research per week (earning three credits each semester).Every student works with a mentor who assists in developing and implementing an original research proposal. This doctoral-level mentor actually conducts the proposed research on-campus with the intent of publishing the findings in a medical journal.


Loyola University of Chicago

Chicago, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 74%

Based in Chicago, Loyola University offers a two-year master of science in clinical research methods and epidemiology that combines traditional classroom instruction with online classes and one-on-one mentoring. This program is exclusive to Loyola employees who have an advanced degree.The program uses a hybrid delivery format, meaning courses are delivered on campus and online. The curriculum comprises 30 credits, including 18 core credits; nine electives credits; and a three-credit, mentor-supervised research project. This mentor also functions as a research partner, helping students craft a proposal and conduct the project.The program prepares healthcare personnel for careers as advanced clinical researchers. Students benefit from Loyola's partnerships with Trinity Health and the Loyola University Health System. Loyola holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.


University of North Carolina Wilmington

Wilmington, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

Designed to prepare graduates for research roles in the biopharmaceutical industry, the fully online master of science in clinical research and product development offered by the University of North Carolina Wilmington requires students to complete 36 credits.Featuring a didactic curriculum, the program emphasizes laws, regulations, guidance, and good clinical practices when involving human subjects in clinical research. Students also develop foundations in business, particularly those related to project management and economics.Full-time students can complete the program in two years, though UNCW also offers a curriculum for part-time learners that takes place over 3.5 years. To apply, prospective students must have work experience in biopharmaceuticals (or a related industry), a bachelor's degree, and a minimum 3.0 GPA.


Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University

Boston, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

The fully online master's in clinical research at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences allows students to pursue a patient-based clinical research track or an industry-related track. Both specializations are designed to help students conduct and observe clinical trials.Students learn from experienced industry executives who provide insights into product development, clinical trial management, and bioethics and regulations. Core coursework covers topics like health epidemiology, statistics in clinical research, FDA and regulatory affairs, and research methodology.The 30-credit program can be completed in less than two years through part- or full-time enrollment. Prospective applicants must hold a bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and experience or interest in a research field. All online MCPHS students pay the same per-credit tuition, regardless of their state residency.


Xavier University

Cincinnati, OH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

Xavier University — located in Cincinnati, Ohio — offers a two-year online master of science in health economics and clinical outcomes research. This part-time program includes 39 credit hours and prepares students to conduct comparative research that drives informed healthcare decisions. The curriculum consists of lectures, applied analysis training, peer collaboration, and case studies led by faculty with fieldwork experience. Graduates of the program often pursue careers as healthcare analysts and administrators in the health services industry.Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA in previous statistics, econometrics, or microeconomics courses. Individuals with a lower GPA must submit GRE or GMAT scores. Xavier prefers candidates with at least three years of professional healthcare experience.


St. Cloud State University

Saint Cloud, MN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

Distance learners can complete an online master of science in applied clinical research from Minnesota-based St. Cloud State University. Designed to build skills required for the evolving medtech industry, students in this program learn how medical devices are developed, marketed, and used in practical lab settings.Online learners at SCSU can choose from two tracks, depending on their enrollment type. Part-time students pursue a 34-credit track requiring a capstone project, while full-time students pursue a 37-credit track that requires an industry internship and lab work. Both tracks can be completed in two years.This program delivers all courses synchronously through Adobe Connect, allowing online students to ask questions in real time and feel a greater sense of engagement with their learning. Classes typically take place on weekday evenings and Saturday mornings.


Campbell University

Buies Creek, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

Campbell University — located in Buies Creek, North Carolina — hosts an online master's in clinical research program. Classes are led by expert faculty members who bring a combination of academic theory and practical experience to the coursework.The program requires 38 credit hours, including 24 core credit hours and 14 elective credit hours. Coursework includes principles of clinical research, new product development, and clinical trial operations. Graduates of this program often work at hospitals, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, medical and academic institutions, and government agencies.Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college and a minimum 3.0 GPA. A candidate interview may be conducted at the discretion of the admissions board.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Clinical Research Program?

An online master's in clinical research prepares students to research and develop new products and to manage product data. Each program requires a minimum number of credits, and program details vary based on the school and its master's of clinical research online curriculum.


Although course offerings vary by school, all students learning a master's degree in clinical research online learn core skills and knowledge. Below is a sample curriculum comprising common clinical research classes.

  • Introduction to clinical research: This introductory course provides historical context regarding clinical research, with an overview of key breakthroughs and advancements that shaped the modern research world. Students explore research objectives, classifications, and protocols, while strengthening verbal and written communication skills, learning medical terminology, and collaborating with professionals.
  • Biostatistics: Students in clinical research master's online programs learn to decipher statistical information. This course teaches common applications of biostatistics, such as probability, confidence intervals, and statistical inference. Students use specialized computer software to collect and analyze research data.
  • Epidemiology: This course covers the circulation of diseases and other health-related conditions. Students explore previous studies and learn how to improve future projects. Students are prepared to research acute outbreak investigations, randomized trials, and the interpretation of measures.


The number of required credits and a student's enrollment status affect the completion time for an online master's in clinical research. Each program comprises core courses, electives, and a capstone. Students may enroll full- or part-time, but some schools require students to take at least one to two classes per semester. On average, master's of clinical research online programs require 36 credits.

Distance learners may choose individually paced or cohort-based programs. Individually paced programs are best for students who work well alone; students complete projects and assignments individually and interact through message boards and discussion forums. In cohort-based programs, groups of students complete projects and assignments together, over the duration of the program.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Clinical Research Degrees

Accredited schools are periodically evaluated to ensure adherence to rigorous standards. The two most common forms of accreditation are regional and national. Six regional accreditation agencies serve each U.S. region. All state universities and colleges are regionally accredited. Credits from regionally accredited schools are easily transferable, and degrees from these programs are held in high regard. National accreditation is reserved for technical and vocational schools, and regionally accredited institutions typically do not accept transfer credits from nationally accredited schools. The Accreditation Council for Clinical Research and Education is a specialized accreditation association that evaluates online master's in clinical research programs.

The United States Department of Education (ED) oversees all private and public colleges, universities, and distance learning programs. The ED allocates federal funds to students and schools, while ensuring programs adhere to federal guidelines. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) maintains a database of accredited institutions. Visit the ED or CHEA websites for lists of accredited schools.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Clinical Research Graduates

Earning a master's degree in clinical research online prepares students for careers in pharmaceutical, defense, biomedical, and diagnostics industries. Graduates lead clinical trials, testing, product research, and product development that can change the medical industry. Master's students work with the latest technology and up-to-date legal guidelines to prepare them to enter professional roles in the clinical research industry.

Clinical research associate (CRA)

Sponsors hire CRAs to supervise clinical trials. CRAs work closely with other administrators to monitor progress and ensure the participants are treated ethically. CRAs monitor every aspect of the clinical trial, including the physical site, trial activities, and reports. They work either for sponsors or as independent contractors.

Clinical research coordinator (CRC)

CRCs perform clinical trials, following the guidelines of good clinical practice, which are internationally recognized ethical guidelines for clinical trials. CRCs work under the supervision of the principal investigator, processing feasibility questionnaires from sponsors to determine whether the site may administer the clinical trial.

Principal investigator

Principal investigators oversee clinical trials, working with CRAs to ensure adherence to guidelines. CRCs report to investigators, and they work together to conduct research and write reports. Principal investigators receive grants from universities, agencies, or pharmaceutical companies to administer clinical trials.

Clinical research pharmacist

Clinical research pharmacists oversee the pharmacy operations of a clinical drug trial. They dispense drugs to human subjects, supervise trials, conduct research, write reports, and perform administrative duties. Pharmacists work with CRCs and principal investigators to ensure that good clinical practice guidelines are followed.

Pharmacy technician

Pharmacy technicians work at pharmacies, where they dispense medication to clients. During a clinical trial, a pharmacy tech may administer drugs to subjects under the supervision of a clinical research pharmacist. Pharmacy techs receive on-the-job training, but many pursue professional degrees and become licensed pharmacists.


Salaries of graduates with an online master's in clinical research vary based on experience, career choice, and geographic location. Clinical researchers work for private and public companies, which impacts salary potential. Researchers who work for universities often apply for grants to fund research, and clinical research coordinators may be independent contractors or may work with sponsors. Entry-level professionals make less than those with at least five years of clinical research experience; experience and skillsets help candidates negotiate higher salaries. The table below shows median salaries for common careers of professionals with a master's of clinical research online degree.

Median Salary by Experience Level

Occupation Entry Level Mid-Level Late Career
Clinical research associate $59,000 $70,000 $84,000
Clinical research coordinator $43,000 $51,000 $62,000
Principal investigator $73,000 $105,000 $128,000
Clinical research pharmacist $100,000 $110,000 $140,000

Source: Payscale

Financing Your Online Master's in Clinical Research Program

Students have several options for financing a master's degree in clinical research online program. Begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine which grants, loans, and scholarships you qualify for. Explore private loan options from banking institutions, and consider a work-study program at a university or college that offers tuition assistance. For clinical research students, the American Academy of Neurology offers clinical research fellowships and scholarships.


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