Certified Research Administrator

Certified Research Administrator

The Certified Research Administrator (CRA) designation is granted in the United States by the Research Administrators Certification Council to individuals who demonstrate the knowledge necessary to serve as an administrator of professional and sponsored research programs.[1] Candidates must hold a Bachelor's degree, possess at least three years of related experience, and pass the Certified Research Administrator examination before being conferred the right to use the CRA designation.[2]


CRA Designation

According to the RACC, the CRA designation carries numerous benefits to those who hold it, such as recognition among professionals, a sense of personal satisfaction, indication of expertise in the administration of sponsored research endeavors, greater opportunities for employment, greater opportunities for advancement, robust credibility, and the ability to serve as a role model to research peers. The CRA designation is a registered certification mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.[2]

As of June 22, 2010, approximately 1,398 active CRAs are listed in the RACC's online database.[3]


In 1993, the Research Administrators Certification Council (RACC) was founded as a private non-profit organization. Active CRAs sit on the council and have the role of certifying that an individual possesses adequate knowledge for serving as a professional research administrator of sponsored programs, such as grants.[4]


Candidates must hold a Bachelor's degree and three years of substantial involvement in administrating sponsored research programs, in either a sponsoring, recipient, or self-funded organization. The Research Administrators Certification Council may waive the requirement of a Bachelor's degree if an applicant petitions the council and possesses an Associate's degree and at least six years of experience or eight years of substantial experience working with sponsored research programs.[2]

Candidates must pass a written Certified Research Administrator examination designed by the RACC and administered by Professional Testing, Inc., which covers fundamental information necessary for meeting the demands and responsibilities of a career in sponsored program administration.[2]

CRA Exam Curriculum

The curriculum covered by the CRA examination is referred to by the RACC as the "Body of Knowledge," and has four broad components:

  • Project Development and Administration
  • Legal requirements and Sponsor Interface
  • Financial Management
  • General Management

Body of Knowledge

The "Body of Knowledge" which collectively forms the curriculum for the CRA exam is developed and revised by the RACC. This body of knowledge contains the following sections which are deemed to be fundamental knowledge that will be utilized by individuals who seek to administrate funded programs.[2]

Project Development and Administration

The section on project development and administration tests candidates on internal and external marketing concepts, as well as candidates' ability to locate and identify funding opportunities (both private and public funding), identify internal capabilities relevant to funding opportunities, and assemble resource documents and application information and materials. Candidates must demonstrate an understanding of project development, showing that they know how to organize and write actual proposals, prepare and justify budgets, document the satisfaction of a sponsor's requirements, route proposals for internal processing, employ negotiation techniques, and demonstrate an understanding the fundamentals of contracts. Candidates must demonstrate knowledge of project administration, showing that they can monitor the activities of sponsored programs, prepare financial reports and progress updates, understand continuation of funding and related requirements, conduct closings, and handle changes in the status of a sponsored program. Candidates are also tested on such matters as conflicts of interest, bioethics, human subjects' involvement in research (and regulation by institutional review boards and federal statutes such as the National Research Act of 1974), animal care (regulated by the Health Research Extension Act of 1985, and Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966, and professional conduct. This section requires that candidates demonstrate knowledge of patents, trademarks, copyrights, licensing, commercialization, data, proprietary information, and relationships between universities and industries. In addition, candidates are tested on matters dealing with the registration and renewal of institutional accounts and profiles with funding entities such as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. Department of Education, and Grants.gov.[5]

Legal Requirements and Sponsor Interface

The section on legal requirements and sponsor interface tests candidates on an overview of relevant regulations and legislative processes, including governmental relations and mandated requirements. Candidates are tested on compliance with sponsors and management practices, such as appropriate representations and certifications, federal requirements, institutional committees (including institutional review boards and institutional animal care and use committees), federal disclosure requirements (such as FERPA protection), institutional or sponsor requirements for publication, fair labor standards, health, International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and export administration regulations. In this section, candidates are also tested on their understanding of appeal procedures when dealing with federal or other sponsoring entities, and legal delegation of authority.[5]

Financial Management

The section on financial management tests candidates' knowledge of budgeting and accounting, including accounting systems, management information systems, special projects (reporting of effort, program incomes, internal control, gifts), and rebudgeting procedures. Candidates are also tested on their knowledge of facility and administrative costs (including indirect costs), indirect cost rates, cost sharing, and fund matching. In addition, candidates must demonstrate knowledge of federal or sponsor financial reporting and auditing (including types of audits and internal and external auditing requirements).[5]

General Management

The section on general management tests candidates' knowledge of facility management, including property management, utility and equipment management, safety and health requirements, hazardous and nonhazardous materials, security, renovation and construction, biohazards, and control of foreign assets. Candidates are also tested on legal concepts behind contract management and purchasing, as well as termination and appeals procedures. As well, candidates must demonstrate knowledge of records management and human resources management, including employee relations, career development, staffing, Affirmative Action, and Equal Employment Opportunity.[5]


Every five years, CRAs must recertify to continue using the CRA designation. Recertification applicants are expected to demonstrate continued participation or employment in the field of research administration, including requisite hours of continuing education activities and a collection of several questions for potential use on future revisions of the CRA exam.[2]


External links

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