Online Master’s Degrees in Clinical and Translational Research

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) defines translational research as the “process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic, and community into interventions that improve the health of individuals and the public.” Colloquially, this process is known as “bench-to-bedside” or “laboratory-to-humans” research. Translational research differs from other areas of scientific inquiry. Clinical translational researchers apply what they learn to a specified patient or group of patients. Observation of patients also serves to influence the research being conducted.

A master’s in clinical and translational research can empower aspiring professionals to adapt advances in healthcare from the laboratory into real life. Graduates may choose to become researchers in pharmaceutical and biomedical device industries, or their work can involve developing and testing new drugs. Universities, foundations, or institutions hire graduates for scientific research and development, and graduates may have the opportunity to join faculties as educators, oversight managers, and administrators. Graduates of clinical and translational research programs may also opt for dual degrees such as MSCTR/MD or MSCTR/PhD.

To be successful in the field, individuals must develop skills in communication, critical thinking, data analysis, decision making, and observation. These skills are necessary to develop research questions, design studies and experiments, observe and analyze results, and communicate data to colleagues. Many online and on-campus master’s programs in clinical and translational research help students to develop or improve these skills.

This guide explores the wealth of online clinical and translational master’s programs, including examinations of curricula and noteworthy professors.

Featured Online Master’s Programs in Clinical and Translational Research

Please note that due to the hands-on nature of clinical and translational research, a majority of programs are campus-based.

George Washington University, School of Medicine & Health Sciences

Located in Washington DC, George Washington University offers two graduate certificate programs and one master of science in health science in clinical and translational research. Drawn from the core program of study of the master’s program, prospective students can choose between two 21 credit-hour certificate programs focusing on clinical and translational research (or clinical research practice). The fully online MS in health science in clinical and translational research is a 36 credit-hour program, and is a comprehensive combination of courses offered in both certificate programs. Courses offered include critical analysis of clinical research, biostatistics for clinical and translational research, and collaboration and team science in practice and research. All courses from the certificate program are transferable into the MSHS program.

All of the courses for the three programs may be completed on campus or online. The 2017-18 tuition was $1,190 per credit-hour. Books, supplies, and fees are extra. George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The School of Medicine and Health Sciences has approval by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, sponsored jointly by the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges. Also, the medical laboratory science program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science.

Ohio State University

Located in Columbus, Ohio, OSU offers an online master of applied clinical and preclinical research (MACPR). Students can complete the 36-credit-hour program in one-to-two years, and are expected to choose a specialization. Students can choose between four specializations: clinical research management, regulatory affairs, safety pharmacology, or clinical pharmacology. Coursework in the master’s program includes scientific concepts and research design, medicines (medical product) development and regulation, leadership and professionalism, and communication and teamwork. Students interested in clinical and translational pharmacology can earn a master’s in pharmacology at the completion of 33 credit-hours. Prerequisites include coursework in pharmacology and pathophysiology.

The 2017 tuition was $359.25 per credit-hour. Ohio State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). The MACPR program meets the competencies developed by the Consortium of Academic Programs in Clinical Research.

University of North Carolina–Wilmington

Located in Wilmington, NC, UNCW offers an online master of science in clinical research and product development program. The 36-credit-hour program includes coursework in clinical research monitoring and ethics, clinical research trial design and data management, current issues in global regulatory development, and innovative product development and strategic planning. A post-baccalaureate certificate in clinical research operations (MCCRO) is also available. Students complete 18 hours of coursework designed for those wishing to enter the clinical research field.

The 2017-18 tuition for online courses was $252.46 per credit-hour. Books, supplies, and other fees are extra. The University of North Carolina Wilmington is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Medical College of Wisconsin Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Hybrid)

Located in Milwaukee, WI, the MCW CTSI offers a blended master of science in clinical and translational science. The master’s degree requires the completion of 33 credit-hours, and students move from completion of core courses to studying a specific area of concentration. Core coursework includes translational research, study design, clinical trials, biostatistics, and bioethics. Concentrations include epidemiology and outcomes research, translational research, or commercial development. Students may also earn a graduate certificate in clinical and translational science. The program requires completion of 12 credit-hours, and students may transfer credits to the master’s program. The certificate program focuses on translational research and commercial development. Please note that while the schedule is designed to accommodate working professionals and most classes are offered in the afternoons or evenings, only a few of the courses are offered fully online.

The 2017-18 tuition was $1,010 per credit-hour. Books, fees, and supplies are extra. The Medical College of Wisconsin is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

Tufts University Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences (On-Campus Degree; Online Certificate)

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Tufts offers a PhD program, a master’s program, and two certificate options in clinical and translational science. The curriculum prepares graduates for a career in academic medicine with a focus on translational research. Core courses include principles of epidemiology, study design, scientific and grant writing, and biostatistics. Students also have the possibility to choose a concentration in clinical discovery and investigation, clinical effectiveness research, or practice to policy translational research.

Applicants to the PhD program must have a master’s, and can expect to earn their PhD in four to five years. The master’s program takes two years to complete, and a minimum of 32 credit-hours must be completed. Students choosing a certificate program must complete a minimum of 16 credit-hours. One certificate program may be completed online, and the other program is completed on-campus.

The 2017-18 tuition for full-time students was $26,664, plus $5,196 in mandatory fees. Other fees, books, and supplies are extra. Tuition for non-degree students was $3,333 per credit-hour, plus fees, books, and supplies. The Tufts University Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. Please note that Tufts is the only school in this list that doesn’t participate in SARA.

Georgetown University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (On-Campus)

Located in Washington DC, Georgetown University offers an exceptional master of science degree program, and a non-degree certificate program. The 33 credit-hour master’s program is designed to be completed in three terms. Areas of concentration include mechanistic and biomedical research, clinical trials and research, health services and community engagement, and regulatory science. The 16 credit-hour certificate is designed to be completed in two terms. Coursework offered includes research ethics and human subjects, clinical research administration, elimination of racial and ethnic disparities in health, and social and behavioral aspects of public health.

The 2017-18 tuition and required fees are approximately $2,170 per credit hour. Books and supplies are additional. The University does have online programs, but at the time of this writing (January 2018) the Clinical and Translational Research program is completed on-campus. Georgetown University is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) of the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Other Schools Offering Certificates and Degrees in Clinical and Translational Research

The institutions above offer some online coursework, but at the time of this writing (Feb. 2018) a majority of clinical and translational research degree programs are completed on-campus.

Admissions into Clinical and Translational Research Programs

Although every school has specific admission requirements, most ask that students applying for master’s degree programs submit:

  • A resume or curriculum vitae
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts with a competitive GPA
  • Statement of purpose
  • Completed application form
  • Non-refundable fees
  • Proof of completion of an undergraduate program with qualifying course prerequisites
  • Standardized test scores
  • Proficiency in English

Accreditation and State Authorization

When choosing a school, it is essential to determine if the school is accredited, and the agency by which the school earned accreditation. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the curriculum and instructors. Certain standards must be met before accreditation is granted. The agency that accredits clinical and translational research programs is the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). Some programs may also receive accreditation from the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Both organizations maintain a list of schools they have accredited.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) are voluntary agreements among states that establish “comparable national standards for interstate offering of post-secondary distance-education courses and programs.” The intent is to make it easier for students to take online courses from out-of-state institutions, thereby giving them more access to educational programs.

Salary and Job Outlook for Clinical and Translational Researchers

Clinical and translational research programs fall under the umbrella of medical science. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Oct. 2017) projected 13 percent employment growth for medical scientists from 2016-26. That is faster than projected growth for all occupations in the United States. According the BLS (May 2016), the mean salary for medical scientists was $95,000 per year. The lowest tenth percentile of medical scientists made $44,550 on average, and the ninetieth percentile earned $159,570.

Several factors influence the rising demand for medical scientists. These include:

  • An aging population
  • Increasing rates of chronic conditions
  • Increasing use of pharmaceuticals
  • Resistance to antibiotics
  • New research technology
  • International travel

As a final note, most medical scientists work full-time, and are employed in a variety of medical sectors. According to the BLS, the largest employers of medical scientists are as follows:

  • Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: 35 percent
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools (state, local, and private): 27 percent
  • Hospitals (state, local, and private): 16 percent
  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing: four percent
  • Offices of physicians: four percent

Professors to Know in Clinical and Translational Research Programs

Jamie Maguire, PhD is an assistant professor of neuroscience at Tufts University Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences. A Pennsylvania native, Dr. Maguire holds multiple degrees including a PhD in neuroscience from George Washington University. Dr. Maguire’s current research focuses on how stress triggers neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, and she has co-authored more than 40 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Harry Selker, MD, MSPH is the executive director of the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies at Tufts Medical Center; the dean of the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute; a primary care physician at the Pratt Diagnostic Center at Tufts Medical Center; and a professor of medicine and a professor of clinical and translational science at Tufts University School of Medicine. Dr. Selker developed clinical predictive instruments, which aid emergency physicians with decision making in cardiac emergencies by providing predictions of key outcomes in real time. Dr. Selker also evaluates and develops predictive mathematical models for clinical care.

Jennifer R. McCall, PhD, MBA is an assistant professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Dr. McCall holds a BS, MS, and PhD in biology, and her MBA specialization is in the business of biotechnology. Her areas of research include bioprospecting or drug discovery of marine natural products; drug development and preclinical research; and the translational research and commercialization of scientific products or services. Dr. MCall is also involved in developing a rapid test capable of detecting the health of beaches, streams, and seafood.