Online Master’s in Clinical and Translational Research Programs

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) defines translational research as the “process of turning observations into interventions to improve health.” 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 specific patient or group. 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 the 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 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.

Arizona State University
Johns Hopkins University (AAP)
University of West Florida

Featured Online Master’s Programs in Clinical and Translational Research

Due to the hands-on nature of clinical and translational research, most programs are campus-based.

George Washington University, School of Medicine & Health Sciences (Online)

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.

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences has approval from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, sponsored by the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges. In addition, the National Accrediting Agency accredits the medical laboratory science program for Clinical Laboratory Science. GWU was ranked #63 by the U.S. News & World Report’s list of best national universities.

  • Location: Washington DC
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $1,354 per credit

Ohio State University (Online)

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 from two specializations: clinical research management and regulatory affairs. 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 after 33 credits. Prerequisites include coursework in pharmacology and pathophysiology.

The MACPR program meets the competencies developed by the Consortium of Academic Programs in Clinical Research. Graduates from this program work as clinical research coordinators and clinical research associates.

  • Location: Columbus, OH
  • Duration: One to two years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $782.19 per credit

University of North Carolina–Wilmington (Online)

Located in Wilmington, North Carolina, 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.

Prospective applicants should know that the GRE and MAT are not required for admission. Graduate students can apply to the certificate and master’s degree programs and decide later which program works best for their schedules. Students can transfer up to six credits from another institution.

  • Location: Wilmington, NC
  • Duration: 2.5 to 3.5 years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $262.17 per credit (residents); $1,061.34 per credit (non-residents)

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

Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the MCW CTSI offers a blended master of science in clinical and translational science. The master’s degree requires 36 credits, and students move from completing core courses to studying one of four concentration tracks in translational, population, health system, and community-based science.

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 certificate program requires the completion of 12 credits, and students may transfer credits to the master’s program. The certificate program focuses on translational research and commercial development and takes one to two years to complete. To graduate, students in the certificate and master’s programs must complete a thesis. 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 courses are entirely online.

  • Location: Milwaukee, WI
  • Duration: Two to four years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $1,088 per credit

Tufts University Graduate – 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 focusing on translational research. Core courses include principles of epidemiology, study design, scientific and grant writing, and biostatistics. Students also can 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 Students must complete a minimum of 32 credits. Students choosing a certificate program must complete a minimum of 16 credits. Students may complete one certificate program online, and the other program is completed on campus.

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Duration: 2-5 years
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Tuition: $19,326 per year

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

Georgetown University is located in Washington, DC, and 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.

The 16-credit certificate is designed to be completed in two terms. The 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 Clinical and Translational Research master’s program is offered on-campus, and the certificate program is entirely online. Georgetown University is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) of the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Duration: Two to three terms
  • Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $2,280 per credit

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 in November 2023, most 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 the following:

  • 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 it is accredited and the agency by which it earned accreditation.

Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the curriculum and instructors. Accreditation requires that schools must meet specific standards 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 postsecondary distance-education courses and programs.” The intent is to make it easier for students to take online courses from out-of-state institutions, 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 2022) projected a 10 percent employment growth for medical scientists from 2022 to 2032. That is much faster than the projected growth for all occupations in the United States (5 percent).

According to the BLS (May 2021), the mean salary for medical scientists was $104,050 per year. The lowest tenth percentile of medical scientists made $50,100 on average, and the ninetieth percentile earned $166,980.

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 (2023), the largest employers of medical scientists are as follows:

  • Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: 36 percent
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools (state, local, and private): 19 percent
  • Hospitals (state, local, and private): 19 percent
  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing: 5 percent
  • Offices of physicians: 4 percent

Professors to Know in Clinical and Translational Research Programs

Jamie Maguire, PhD is a professor of neuroscience at Tufts University. 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 a professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine; the dean of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute; a primary care physician at the Pratt Diagnostic Center; and the executive director at the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies.

Dr. Selker developed clinical predictive instruments, which aid emergency physicians with decision-making in cardiac emergencies by providing predictions of crucial 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 the 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 research areas 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. McCall is also involved in developing a rapid test capable of detecting the health of beaches, streams, and seafood.

Rachel Drummond, MEd
Rachel Drummond, MEd Writer

Rachel Drummond has contributed insightful articles to since 2019, where she offers valuable advice and guidance for those pursuing careers in the healthcare field, combining her passion for education with her understanding of the critical role that healthcare professionals play in promoting physical and mental well-being.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.