Salary Frustrations Fuel CRA Turnover Rates

CRA Turnover Eclipse 21% Last Year, According to BDO Study

Contract research organizations (CROs) continue to struggle with high clinical research associate (CRA) turnover levels, according to a new study by BDO. “Turnover levels for CRAs in the U.S. have been persistently high in recent years,” the study found.

While the turnover rate in the U.S. dipped to 24.3% in 2019 compared to 29.4% in 2018, the turnover level outside the U.S. actually increased to 20.3% in 2019 compared to 16.3% in 2018.

While some may have expected the pandemic to have a chilling effect on switching jobs, the BDO survey noted “this has not been the case.” They estimate CRA turnover in 2020 eclipsed 21%, based on a poll of 15 CROs as of early November last year.

Salary is the engine driving much of the turnover, BDO said. “CRAs with three to five years of experience have developed a level of skill that has likely exceeded the size of their paycheck,” the report suggested. “Unsurprisingly, many of these employees view switching companies as their best career choice.”


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The survey found that CRO salary increase budgets hovered around 3% for the past several years and “typically lagged behind” the general industry until recently.

As one way to combat turnover in the CRA workforce, BDO recommends CROs explore the increased use of performance-based initiatives. “These can come in many forms, including project incentives, retention bonuses tied to milestones, or team-based incentives,” the report concluded.

Edited by Michael Causey