How to Get a Job Working with the TMF: Part Two

In working with those interested in starting a TMF career, one of the most common questions we get asked is “How do I get a job working with the TMF without much (or any) industry experience?” At LMK it’s not just our mission to be the best TMF professionals we can be, it’s our mission to give you the tools to become your own successful TMF professional, whether you’re just starting out with the TMF or are managing several TMFs across the globe. While it is challenging to break into any new career, the right knowledge can help efficiently direct your effort and land you the TMF job you’ve been dreaming of.

LMK’s desire to make sure you have everything you need to launch your TMF career inspired this blog series: How to Get a Job Working with the TMF. In the first post , we discussed the role of the TMF professional and the unprecedented opportunity available to those looking to join the industry. In this post, we’ll consider the education, experience, and skills necessary to become a TMF professional.

What Formal Education Do I Need?

To attain an entry-level TMF job, most positions require at least an associate’s degree. Those applying to a TMF role with an associate’s degree will likely require significant TMF experience to be considered a competitive applicant. Having a bachelor’s degree is preferred. A bachelor’s degree in a scientific field would make an application very competitive, but many non-scientific degrees related to healthcare or degrees that demonstrate critical thinking and language skills are also desirable to hiring managers. Overall, any bachelor’s degree will meet or exceed the minimum requirement to secure your first TMF job. A degree in the sciences, healthcare, or related fields will make getting that first job much easier and may open the door to more specialized and/or senior roles in the future.

What Experience Do I Need?

As discussed in the last post, many of these supposedly entry-level positions ask for prior related experience. This is because managers want candidates who understand the objectives of clinical research, appreciate the responsibility of working within a heavily regulated environment, and don’t need to learn all the industry jargon as part of onboarding. Junior-level positions (which could still be an entry-level position for more competitive candidates) may ask for one year of experience and prior exposure to TMF documents. It is frustrating when an entry-level role asks for prior experience, but if you haven’t previously worked in clinical research, there are still plenty of opportunities available for those willing to use some of the strategies discussed below.

How Do I Get More Experience?

Because of the current shortage of skilled TMF professionals, hiring managers might not be able to find enough candidates with the preferred qualifications to meet business needs. This means that entry-level TMF applicants should view entry-level TMF job posting experience requirements as desirable but not essential. It is, however, vital to have a plan of what you can offer the hiring manager instead of prior clinical research experience. Here are some strategies that can lead to success:

Transferable Skills: Even if you don’t have prior experience in the clinical research industry, take the time to inventory the skills you’ve gained through your other professional and educational experiences. After creating this inventory, map how your skills are directly transferable to the role you are applying to. Be as specific as possible on your resume about how your skills are relevant. If you are invited to interview, understanding the full value of your skills ensures you aren’t caught off guard when asked about prior industry experience.

Speak the Language: As discussed above, prior experience in a regulated environment is a huge competitive advantage. If you don’t have prior experience, do some reach to familiarize yourself with the basics of GCP and the TMF. Listen to some industry podcasts and learn common TMF issues and the acronyms used when talking about the TMF. Use these acronyms on your resume correctly and appropriately. Being able to talk like someone who has industry experience in the interview may be enough to convince a hiring manager you are the right fit for the role.

The Right Coursework: If you are still in school, pay close attention to how your coursework could prepare you for working with the TMF. Some schools might even offer courses or programs that specifically cover clinical research design, the principles of ethical research, or GCP regulation. The right coursework could set you on the path towards a great career from the day you graduate.

Bridge Programs: Many CROs (contract research organizations) offer bridge programs that help recent college graduates or individuals in other related industries secure their first job in clinical research. It may take some careful research and effort to find and apply to these programs. However, if you meet the requirements, these programs can advance your TMF career more quickly than if you were hired through normal channels.

Certifications and Training Programs: Considering pursuing an advanced degree to get into clinical research? Make sure you consider other, often more cost-effective options—professional certifications and training programs. Many industry groups and organizations within clinical research offer professional certifications and training programs that can be completed or earned by taking classes, passing tests, completing practical hours, or some combination of these. While the scope of a certification or training program is usually narrow within a subspecialty, many certifications are well known and respected by hiring managers, and in the right circumstances, could be seen as more relevant and desirable than some much more expensive and time-consuming degrees.

Of note, LMK proudly offers TMF University, the first and only internationally and independently accredited training program developed specifically for TMF professionals. Cohort space is limited and fills quickly. Click here to register.

We hope this blog series has inspired you to take the first steps towards becoming a TMF professional. In some ways landing your first TMF role can be the most difficult step, but with the right knowledge, education, experience, and the willingness to take creative initiative, we’re confident your early success as a TMF professional is just within reach.