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Switching Careers = Frustration

Updated on December 8, 2009

A Daunting Task

 With the economy as bad as it is, it had become a gold mine for all sorts of retooling, re-education, retraining education both traditional and online. Regardless of the field you select to switch careers, it is a daunting task.

It is a hit on the self esteem, cash flow, time spent because at the end of the day, you have to compete with all the others out there doing the same thing or those out of work will the skills and experience already in hand competing for that job. If you are younger, the hit is not as great as for a middle aged whose career took the nose dive and income has vanished. The culture is youth oriented and being 40-60 yrs, trying to retool to stay employed is tough to stay positive.

Take switching to a Clinical Research Associate, or a CRA. The bulk start out making from $45-55K. Sounds good. However, just like in the IT field, nearly all the entry level jobs (after you get the education) require some experience of at least one year. That is one strike against you. Then, strike two is the fact you have very well skilled and experienced people out of work applying for the entry level positions. Chances are you will not even get an interview. If you did, you go up against the "strike two" group. This vicious cycle repeats for those switching to IT jobs like MCSE, MCSA, MCTS. Sure, education opportunities abound, but when you are done, you face starting at the bottom due to lack of experience. Becoming an MCSE (microsoft certified Systems engineer) does not mean you will be hired in that capacity since you lack the experience. Maybe a Help Desk position is more likely.

With a CRA, a bachelor's degree in science or a nursing degree (RN, no less) is an absolute must. you are wasting your time and money without this degree. I would invest in basic nursing skills and go into being a coordinator at a research site or a doctor's office OR if you are better with numbers or paperwork, I would apply for data management positions at a CRO. you cannot jump all the rungs on the ladder and go straight to being a CRA. Every CRA job posting i've ever seen requires at least 1 or 2 years experience in clinical research.Research in the laboratory is NOTHING like clinical research. you would be entering a completely new and different field and that requires starting at the bottom.

Clinical research is done on real, living, breathing human beings with multiple disease processes occurring all at once. lab experience may give you knowledge of diagnostic criteria or the physiologic effects of disease, but the symptomology, face-to-face patient care and treatment options typically are not a focus of someone who works in the lab. To be a CRA you should have comprehensive knowledge of 21 CFR 50, 56, 312, 314, 812, 814, etc. occasionally, some lab workers will have knowledge of 21 CFR 58, but not all will. subject safety is a main focus of most trials and you won't get that working with cells or chemicals in the lab. The data collection processes, entry and handling are completely different. Lab trials are not usually done at 100 different locations all over the country (or continent). The nature of the job is very different as well. most CRA's are out-of-state 4 days a week, every week.

There are thousands of CRA's that are laid off and looking for work and are snapping up those entry-level positions to stay afloat. Now is not the time to change careers when so many experienced workers are out of a job and compete with you for every application you submit.

This is solid advice not just for the CRA field, but the IT field as well. Keep in mind the job competition is horrendous at six applicants to one. People with years of experience and education with multiple degrees that are out of  a job. The key is getting that experience, if you can. If you cannot, then you are only a little better off than before because you have diversified you slim job prospects by retooling for a different career.

Nothing is ever guaranteed in life. Just take your shot and cross your fingers.


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