Clinical Trials Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is a Clinical Trial?

A clinical trial is a research study conducted using human volunteers with the goal of answering specific questions about new therapies, vaccines or diagnostic procedures, or new ways of using known treatments.

Clinical trials are used to determine whether new drugs, diagnostics or treatments are both safe and effective. Carefully conducted clinical trials are the fastest and safest way to find treatments that help people.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering courses in Clinical Trials in the following subject areas:

  • Online Graduate Certificate in Clinical Trials – Learn how to implement clinical research programmes to the highest ethical, regulatory and scientific standards.
  • Clinical Research – The study of clinical trials in the pharmaceutical, medical device or academic sectors.
  • Graduate Certificate in Clinical Research – Gain the skills and knowledge to pursue a career in industry-led Clinical Research.
  • Research Programmes – Gain the knowledge and skills of innovative research and its facilitation to applications in business and industry.
  • Certificate Critical Research – An overview of the empirical research process, theories and methods.
  • Designing Healthcare Research – The study of the early stages of research design and premises about science, research and health care.
  • MSc in Clinical and Translational Research – The study of cutting edge clinical research techniques.
  • Conducting Healthcare Research – Learn how to transform a preliminary research proposal into a comprehensive research project plan for ethical and effective healthcare research.

Studying Clinical Trials in college

There are many courses in Clinical Trials that may take place over a few days, weeks or even 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials and taught modules. Assessments will take place on a continuous basis with written examinations and practical assignments combined in order to achieve a qualification. You could also consider work experience or a work shadow in the industry. Relevant work experience is a good way of demonstrating a genuine interest in the field and is regarded favourably by employers.

Work Experience will not only give you the opportunity to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a Clinical Trials course you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of medical and life sciences.

As a clinical research associate you will run clinical trials to test drugs for their effectiveness, risks and benefits to ensure that they are safe to allow on to the market. You may on new and existing drugs and will usually be employed by either a pharmaceutical company or a contract research organisation, which works on behalf of pharmaceutical companies.

Clinical trials may be carried out at various stages or phases and include trials on healthy humans, trials on patients with a disease, and studies conducted after the launch of a new drug to monitor safety and side effects. Clinical studies can take place in many locations, including hospitals, universities, doctors’ offices, and community clinics. The location depends on who is conducting the study.

Working hours will depend on whether you are employed by a facility with set business hours or if you are contracted to various businesses or companies. Working conditions vary between companies, although the hours are usually full time, Monday to Friday. You should expect to work some evenings, although weekend or shift work is uncommon.

Related jobs include:

  • Clinical Research Associate
  • Clinical Research Coordinator
  • Bio Statistician
  • Clinical Research Analyst
  • Clinical Research Manager
  • Doctor
  • Nurse
  • Social Worker

Further study

After completing a course in Clinical Trials, you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skill set. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practise in certain career areas such as Anatomy, biochemistry, biology, biomedical science, chemistry, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, pharmacology or pharmacy, physiology and toxicology.


What are some reasons for conducting a Clinical Trial?

In general, clinical studies are designed to add to medical knowledge related to the treatment, diagnosis, and prevention of diseases or conditions. Some common reasons for conducting clinical studies include:

  • Evaluating one or more interventions (for example, drugs, medical devices, approaches to surgery or radiation therapy) for treating a disease, syndrome, or condition
  • Finding ways to prevent the initial development or recurrence of a disease or condition. These can include medicines, vaccines, or lifestyle changes, among other approaches.
  • Evaluating one or more interventions aimed at identifying or diagnosing a particular disease or condition
  • Examining methods for identifying a condition or the risk factors for that condition
  • Exploring and measuring ways to improve the comfort and quality of life through supportive care for people with a chronic illness

What are the five most common types of clinical trials?

There are several types of clinical trials, including treatment trials, prevention trials, screening trials, supportive and palliative care trials, and natural history studies.

Where can I study Clinical Trials?

Explore your options here

 Did You Know?

  • The first reference to a clinical trial is recorded in the Book of Daniel in the Bible. King Nebuchadnezzar II ordered his people to eat and drink only meat and wine, a diet he believed would keep them fit. But several who preferred a vegetarian diet refused the king’s decree. The king, his curiosity piqued, permitted the dissenters to instead follow a diet of legumes and water – but only for 10 days, after which he would assess their health. When the experiment ended, the king saw that those who ate the diet of beans and water were fitter than those who ate the diet of meat and wine, so he allowed them to continue their chosen diet.
  • In 1747, Dr James Lind tested several scurvy treatments on crew members of the British naval ship Salisbury and discovered that lemons and oranges were the most effective in treating the condition. Lind is considered the first physician to have conducted a controlled clinical trial of the modern era. May 20 is known as International Clinical Trials Day, because Lind’s celebrated controlled trial began on that day in 1747.
  • Today, the cost of developing a successful medicine can exceed, according to some studies, $2.6 billion, compared to $179 million in the 1970s.
  • One of the first drugs to come into common use is aspirin. It is still one of the most researched drugs in the world, with an estimated 700 to 1,000 clinical trials conducted each year. Aspirin’s use can be traced back to when the Sumerians and Egyptians used Willow as a medicine circa 3000 BC. Aspirin was termed such in 1899 by Bayer and has been researched heavily ever since.
  • The FDA approved the world’s first genetically engineered drug, human insulin (Humulin), in 1982. The drug was developed by Eli Lilly & Company and Genentech. It was made by inserting human genes responsible for insulin production into E. coli bacteria, thus stimulating the bacteria to synthesize insulin.

Mariza Halliday

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