The exam programs—the Certified Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC) and the Certified Clinical Research Associate (CCRA)—were launched in 1992 and 1995, respectively, and are the only programs to offer job-specific certification to clinical researchers. To date, ACRP has certified more than 14,200 clinical research coordinators (CRCs) and 7,600 clinical research associates (CRAs).
“The reason we sought the accreditation is that we believed that, once we were accredited by a standard-setting organization, it would prove that our tests did have value and reliability,” said Carol McCullough, ACRP’s director of credentialing and certification. “We believe that the value of having it accredited—and having someone say, ‘Yes, you do it the right way according to recognized standards’—is that it increases the value of the credentials.”
NCCA is the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence and is widely accepted as legitimate, independent verification that a certification program is statistically valid. NCCA has accredited 233 certification programs for a range of professions, including nursing, finance, respiratory therapy, counseling and emergency technicians.
“NCCA was more of a black and white type of accreditation [than other accreditors]. They had very specific rules that you had to follow,” McCullough said.
To be accredited, ACRP had to submit an application to NCCA, demonstrating the CCRC and CCRA programs’ compliance with NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs. The accreditation is valid for five years, at which point ACRP will repeat the application process.
ACRP announced its NCCA status at last week’s ACRP Global Conference and Exhibition in Tampa, Fla. The conference was attended by more than 2,500 clinical research professionals.
“It was very enthusiastically embraced when it was announced [at the conference]. People who had the credential came up and said, ‘Gee, I feel like I just got a promotion.’ They perceived it also as adding value to their credential,” McCullough said.
To be certified by ACRP, CRAs and CRCs must have two years’ experience conducting clinical research. They must also pass a written exam, demonstrating their knowledge of the clinical research guidelines and regulations. The exams for certification are administered through the association’s Academy of Research Professionals, an ACRP affiliate for non-physician certification.
Now that ACRP has achieved NCCA accreditation, the association plans to pursue accreditation from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)—an accreditation that is better recognized internationally.
“Our goal is to have our credentials recognized as a level of competency so that when a regulator or an employer sees that after your name, they respect that and believe that you provide quality clinical research,” McCullough said.