Clinical research – a profession that requires intellectual ability and promises to be exciting

In cooperation with PAREXEL, IUBH University of Applied Sciences has been offering a distance learning degree in clinical research management for one year. Dagmar McCaughey, Expert at Parexel Academy, and IUBH programme director Prof. Dr. Thomas Neunert talk about developments in clinical research and why a MBA can make sense.


IUBH: New vaccines, anti-cancer drugs, anti-dementia drugs: every year a large number of new drugs are approved – and clinical trials are required before any development and approval. How has this impacted clinical research in recent years?

Dagmar McCaughey: The conditions surrounding clinical research have changed dramatically in recent years. We confront new national and international regulations as well as special requirements from regulatory authorities. This puts higher demands on the quality and scope of research.
In addition, electronic data collection – we have to deal with different electronic systems and internet portals for almost every research project – and the so-called personalised medicine increase the complexity of conducting research. We also confront new demands in the working environment: teams are doing research worldwide and need to be managed globally and virtually.

Thomas Neunert: In addition to scientific tasks, researchers are increasingly required to demonstrate business management skills in the context of managing and administrating projects. This is especially true when assuming executive management and leadership responsibilities.


IUBH: So, it makes sense to specialise in the field?

Neunert: Definitely. The field of clinical research is continuously growing. There is also an increasing shortage of specialists with both medical and business skills. The industry therefore offers a realistic prospect for long-term career development in an expanding labour market.

McCaughey: Independent studies, for example the Hans-Böckler Foundation study done last year about the labour market situation in the pharmaceutical industry, also predict a significant shortage of skilled workers in this field by 2030. In addition to the critical scientific ability to understand and optimise the process of drug approval, academic expertise in the field is becoming increasingly important in order to work in this industry.


IUBH: For whom do you think this degree programme is of interest?

McCaughey: The degree programme is aimed at those who are already working in clinical research…

Neunert: …or have that goal…

McCaughey: …and want to gain a comprehensive overview of the overall process of drug approval, as well as business and financial skills, and insights about personnel management.

Neunert: Actually, for anyone who wants to get started as a project manager or research coordinator, as manager of a working group or a department in the research and consulting sector. The MBA degree offers our graduates many career opportunities: they are also eligible to work for government agencies – drug approval and supervision – or as consultants.


IUBH: What do you find fascinating about this field?

McCaughey: For anyone who is looking for a profession that requires intellectual ability and promises to be exciting, clinical research is the perfect field! You can participate when pioneering improvements in therapy are approved for the market. For me it is a profession in which one can truly be proud to make a contribution.
It is also never boring: since the development of new forms of therapy is a very innovative and rapidly changing field, it is necessary to continue your education and stay up-to-date. Companies and organisations in this sector usually support their employees with internal and external training.

Neunert: The exciting part for me is working in a global, expanding industry where you work internationally with people who have different functions in all the departments involved with the drug approval process.  The different nationalities and cultures around the globe require intercultural skills and thereby enrich the individual.



Dagmar McCaughey has been working in clinical research since 1999. She has worked in various departments in the industry as a participant of worldwide research teams and as executive manager in various departments. With the support of an international team, PAREXEL Academy offers educational programmes in clinical research worldwide. The programmes are operated independently as well as in cooperation with universities in various countries such as the USA, Singapore and Japan.




Prof Dr Thomas Neunert is programme director and university lecturer at IUBH since 2014. His expertise in health management is based on teaching, advising and executive positions he has held in companies and at domestic and foreign universities.  He studied political science and social psychology, with a focus on health care economics, in Germany and the USA. Job concurrent, he completed his doctoral research in the hospital sector.





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