Research administrator salary: association with education, experience, credentials and gender.

Author:Shambrook, Jennifer


Senior research administrators (RAs) serving as mentors to up-and-coming RAs are often asked: "What is more important when it comes to salary: a Masters degree or Certified Research Administrator (CRA) credentials?" The senior RA could give an opinion based upon his or her own experience or personal preferences, but no sound empirical data exist in peer-reviewed literature addressing RAs as an occupational group.

This paper reports on a study conducted to provide empirical data to the research administration community on the findings of the 2010 RASPerS concerning the association of salary level with educational achievement, years of experience, CRA credential status, and gender (Shambrook, 2010). To determine these associations, the following hypotheses were tested:

[H.sub.1]. Higher education achievement will be positively associated with higher income levels.

[H.sub.2]. Greater years of experience will be positively associated with higher income levels.

[H.sub.3]. Attainment of the CRA credential will be positively associated with higher income levels.

[H.sub.4]. Higher income levels will not be associated with gender.


While the survey instrument allowed for participants to indicate "some college," no distinction was made between someone with three courses and someone with three years of college. Thus, it was not possible with existing data to determine if "some college" indicated more or less instruction than a two-year associates degree. Another limitation of the study was that no question asked whether the CRA credential was a requirement for employment in the participant's present job. Both of these factors may be of interest for future studies in this area.


The study protocol was given full board review and approval by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Walden University. The corresponding author was a doctoral candidate at Walden University at the time of the survey. The study population consisted of members of the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA), specifically chosen because research administrators are an occupational group comprised of individuals who are college educated, computer literate, and fully capable of reading and understanding their rights as study participants (Roberts & House, 2006). The study was conducted as an internet-based, cross-sectional survey. An electronic consent form preceded the electronic survey. Study participants positively selected a radio button to indicate they had read and understood the form before they could access the survey.

An email invitation to participate in the 2010 RASPerS via SurveyMonkey[c] was sent to the entire NCURA membership of 6,840 during a 10-day period in February, 2010. There were 191 potential participants who had previously opted out of SurveyMonkey[c] email solicitations. Three hundred twenty-six email addresses were no longer valid. Thus, the final study population was 6,323. This meant that responses from at least 893 participants were needed to achieve a 99% confidence level with a confidence interval of four or less. As shown in the results below, over 1,100 responses were received for each factor being tested.

Five factors from the Demographic Information section of the 2010 RASPerS were used for this study. Salary served as the dependent variable. The independent variables were level of educational achievement, years of research administration experience, CRA credential status, and gender. Survey questions and possible responses are shown below:

  1. What is your annual income as a research administrator?

    1. $35,000-$49,999

    2. $50,000-$74,999

    3. $75,000-$99,999

    4. >$100,000

  2. What is the highest level of education you have completed?

    1. High School Diploma or G.E.D.

    2. Some college credit

    3. Associate degree

    4. Bachelors degree

    5. Masters degree

    6. Doctoral degree

  3. How many full years have you worked in Research Administration?

    1. 1

    2. 5

    3. 10

    4. >20

  4. Have you received your certification from the Research Administration Certification Council as a CRA?

    1. Yes

    2. No

  5. What is your gender?

    1. Male

    2. Female

    To calculate means, salary level was re-coded as shown in Table 1 so that averages of the salaries could be computed. The data were analyzed using both descriptive and inferential statistical methods. Descriptive methods included...

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