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CCRP Certification: ACRP vs. SOCRA


The Value of Certification & Certifying Organizations

In addition to experience and career accomplishments, CCRP certification can provide added credentials for CRAs to progress further. It is common to see job advertisements that list certification as one of the preferred quality a candidate should possess. CCRP certification shows that a CRA is willing to go the extra step to pursue professional certification.

Below, I’ll talk about the 2 main clinical research organizations (ACRP and SOCRA) that are well recognized among those in the industry and the type of certifications that they offer.

The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP)

The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) is one of the two clinical research professional organizations that are well recognized. ACRP is the older (established in 1976) and the larger of the two organizations, with more members worldwide.

ACRP offers membership, certifications, classes, conferences, career resources, and job postings. ACRP also offers an online forum and local chapter meeting around the world for networking opportunities and learning events.

For certification, ACRP offers a certification for clinical research coordinators (CRC), which is called Certified Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC). I had a CCRC certification when I was working at a hospital site as a CRC. ACRP also offers a certification for clinical research associates (CRA), which is called Certified Clinical Research Associate (CCRA). Below are some steps for a CRA to become a certified CCRA through ACRP:

  1. Become an ACRP member ($150 annual membership fee in United States, $60 annual membership fee for emerging market – electronic membership)
  2. Register for CRA certification exam ($460 – $600 fee, must meet one of the eligibility options below and provide detailed CV/resume and job description.
OptionEducationMinimum CRA Work Experience
1Bachelor’s degree (or higher) or Registered Nurse (RN)3,000 hours
2Associate’s degree4,500 hours
3Other, such as LPN, LVN, Medical Assistant, Lab Technician or High School diploma6,000 hours
Note: Clinical research education may substitute for 1,500 hours of CRA work experience. Click here for more details.
  1. Take and pass the CCRA examination
  2. Renew CCRA your certification every 2 years ($215 – $325 renewal fee)
  • Report twenty-four (24) contact hours / points every two (2) years
    -or-
  • Take the current Certification Exam

The Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA)

The Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) is the newer of the two clinical research professional organizations. It was established in 1991. Similar to ACRP, SOCRA is well recognized among those in the industry. SOCRA offers membership, certifications, classes, conferences, career resources, and job posting. SOCRA does not offer an online forum, but SOCRA does have local chapter meetings around the world for networking opportunities and learning events.

As for certification, SOCRA is different than ACRP in its approach. Instead of offering separate certification for Clinical Research Coordinators (CRC) and Clinical Research Associates (CRA), SOCRA offers one certification for both. This is called the Certified Clinical Research Professional CCRP certification. I got my CCRP certification through SOCRA. Below are some steps for a CRA to become a certified CCRP through SOCRA:

  1. Become a SOCRA member ($75 annual membership fee)
  2. Register for the CCRP certification exam ($395 fee, must meet one of the eligibility options below and provide detailed CV/resume, verification of employment, and job description. Click here for more details.
CategoryDescription
 1Have two years of experience as a full-time Clinical Research Professional (or have 3,500 hours part-time) during the last five years
 2Hold a degree in “Clinical Research” from an Associate, Undergraduate, or Graduate Degree program AND Have completed a minimum of one year of full-time experience (or 1,750 hours part-time) during the past two years as a Clinical Research Professional
 3Hold an Undergraduate or Graduate Certificate in “Clinical Research” with a curriculum of no less than 12 semester (credit) hours or totaling a minimum of 144 credit hours from an academic institution of higher learning (community college, college or university) AND Hold an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree in a science, health science, pharmacy or related field AND Have completed a minimum of one year of full-time experience (or 1750 hours part-time) during the past two years as a Clinical Research Professional.
  1. Take and pass the CCRP certification exam
  2. Renew your CCRP certification every 3 years (maintain membership during the 3 year period, $75 fee per year plus a $100 processing fee)
  3. Report 45 continuing education hours every three (3) years AND
  4. Take the recertification knowledge quiz (open-book quiz)

ACRP vs. SOCRA CCRP Certification

Both ACRP and SOCRA are well recognized among those in the industry. The decision to choose between ACRP and SOCRA for a CRA may come down to the consideration below:

Which organization do you want to be a member of?

  • ACRP is older and has more members
  • ACRP is has an online forum

Which eligibility requirements do you meet?

  • SOCRA’s CCRP certification is available to anyone who has worked full time in the field of clinical research for at least 2 years as a Clinical Research Professional.
  • ACRP’s CCRA certification is available to only those meeting specific CRA/monitoring job functions

How much studying are you willing to put into to passing the exam?

  • SOCRA’s CCRP certification exam is easier (unofficial opinion from my own experience and from what I heard from friends and colleagues over the years).

How often do you need to renew the certification and the number of continuing education credit needed?

  • ACRP requires 24 credits every 2 years (12 credits/year)
  • SOCRA requires 45 credits every 3 years (15 credits/year)

How much does it cost for membership and maintaining your certification?

Below are some estimates of total cost (assuming membership is maintained during renewal period)

OrganizationMembershipExam FeeRenewal FeeTotal
ACRP$150/yr = $300/2 yr$460-$600$215-$325$975-$1225
SOCRA$75/yr = $225/3 yr$395$350 (including membership fee)$820

Full Comparison Table

ACRPSOCRA
Certification optionsOffers Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC), Clinical Research Associate (CCRA), and Certified Physician Investigator (CPI) certifications. There is more specificity in the certifications they offer.Offers the Clinical Research Professional (CCRP) certification. This certification is more broad. According to SOCRA, CCRPs may have backgrounds in nursing, pharmacy, medical technology, business administration, health record management, statistics, science, education, or other areas.
Annual membership costsMust be a member of ACRP – membership costs $150/yr*Must be a member of SOCRA – membership costs $75 per year*
Membership requirementsYou must submit a CV or resume showing at least two years of clinical research experience and your current job descriptionYou must have at least two years of full time employment working as
a clinical research professional
Certification exam fees$340 + certification application fee of $100 ($440 total)*One time application fee of $195*
Certification renewal fee$150/yr*$100 every 3 yrs ($33.33/yr)*
Renewal termsCertification lasts for 2 years, then you can renew with 24 contact hours of continuing education
credits and an 80% passing rate
Certification lasts for 3 years, then you can renew with 45 hours of continuing education credits, completion of a quiz, and a renewal fee of $100*
*Fees are subject to change. See documentation from each organization for official fee costs.

Why I Chose SOCRA CCRP Certification

I had ACRP’s CCRC certification when I was a CRC in 2010. I chose not to renew the CCRC certification after becoming a CRA soon after. I have been SOCRA CCRP certified since September 2013. The reason I chose SOCRA’s CCRP certification was due to the lower cost and the longer period of renewal.

For those considering SOCRA’s CCRP certification, I have a study guide that helped me pass the exam with 96% out of 100% grade (click here to see my score). This study guide contains the notes that I compiled for my own study.

Even though materials on the notes are from publicly available sources (ICH GCP, FDA’s CFR, resources from internet, etc.), I find the vast amount of information to be overwhelming, especially with limited study time in between my daily workload.

This study guide includes summaries of information in an easy-to-read format, as well as my own knowledge and experience in clinical research. I bring both clinical research coordinator (CRC) and clinical research associate (CRA) perspectives, as I had worked in both roles in my career. Visit the homepage to learn more!

Author

Post author

Ernie Sakchalathorn

Polachai Ernie Sakchalathorn is the founder of ClinicalResearchAssociateCRA.com and has been in clinical research since 2007. While he is no longer affiliated with the website or benefits financially from site operations, he still remains a professional in the clinical research space and currently serves as a Clinical Affairs Manager at a medical device company.

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