Clinical Research Associate Salary:

Clinical Research Associate Salary

What is the Current Clinical Research Associate Salary?

Today’s market is extremely volatile…at least in our industry. The current clinical research associate salary is considerably higher than what we saw this time last year. It would be accurate to state the base rate for a Senior CRA is 30% higher than last fall.  

I would love to tell you what the current clinical research associate salary is. However, I thought it would be smarter (and safer) to show you how to determine the compensation range instead. Regardless of whether you are a job seeker or a hiring manager, knowing the current range is critically important when it comes to negotiating a job offer. 

The best way to determine what compensation range to expect (or negotiate) is simply to research it.  There are a number of ways you can easily do this research and gain a solid understanding of what typical CRA jobs or contracts are offering in terms of compensation.

Don’t believe everything your colleagues tell you.

People lie about their compensation. It is estimated that between 15-20% of individuals will lie about their salary and that number will be higher for males. I once had a CRA call me to demand a raise. She told me that she had been talking to another CRA on the same project and he had told her he was making $10 more dollars an hour than her. 

She was livid and he was not being truthful. While I explained that everyone on the project was at the same rate, her head was already set on obtaining an increase. Unfortunately, when the increase didn’t happen, she quit. 

Because he lied about his rate (and because she believed him), she behaved in a way that damaged her relationship with us as well as with the sponsor. You certainly want to do your homework, but I highly recommend you steer clear of asking your peers how much they are being paid.  But if you do ask, only consider what they tell you as a single point of reference. And remember, the dollar amount may be 15-20% inflated.  

Instead… start your research online. 

The World Wide Web is a great place to start your research.  The web has several free resources that will allow you to sift through compensation information. Being able to compare different rates for different roles or jobs is extremely helpful.  I benchmark positions using,,, and  

And yes, I use all of them. Why? Rates vary by company. Additionally, titles vary by company. Since the reported compensation will therefore also vary, I am always sure to capture multiple data points from each resource and then come up with an average.  

You can also search job boards for postings similar to your desired position. Often companies will list compensation ranges within their job listings and you can use this information as additional data points. In our industry, I like to use a blend of data from both CROs and sponsors.  Likewise, I also gather data points from both large and small companies so I can ensure proper sampling of data.  

Speak to an industry recruiter.

Recruiters who are experts in this industry are very likely to know the current clinical research associate salary range. By talking with these recruiters, you can then be armed with the current industry rate. Knowing what the market is offering will better prepare you for upcoming salary negotiations.

But be careful, if the recruiter isn’t an expert in our field, their data may not be accurate. Seek out a clinical research recruiter who specializes in the placement of CRAs so that you can feel confident in the data you obtain. As a side note, CRA recruiters can also provide a plethora of other resources and information that you may not have thought of. And bonus, usually this advice will be at no cost to you.

Consider the benefits.

Don’t forget that the clinical research associate salary is only a portion of the overall CRA compensation package. When you are determining what your expected compensation range should be, make sure that you are taking the entire compensation package into account.  

For example, we often see high-paying positions that are balanced with a benefits package that isn’t as attractive.  Alternatively, companies may offer a generous sign-on bonus but a lower base salary. Other companies offer a 401(k) contribution plan, while still others an attractive paid-time-off (PTO) allotment. Know what is important to you and your family before you start negotiations. 

Most Importantly, Don’t Wait

Know what compensation you are looking for before you receive an offer. Actually, understanding what is important to you in the overall compensation package before you even start the job search is critically important. 

Knowing what you want along with being armed with the benchmarking data we describe above will enable you to make better decisions regarding which positions you want to apply to. It will also enable you to be clear and confident when you state your expectations.