The Importance of Professional Development in Research Administration

By January 11, 2022 February 23rd, 2024 No Comments
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Research administration is a profession that involves the development, management, and implementation of research initiatives. Research administration professionals are recognized nationally1 and supported by organizations, educational programs, and resources for building and maintaining a solid foundation in the profession. For many research administrators, or RAs, these resources are key to professional development and career growth.

Benefits of Professional Development

As with any vocation, the field of research administration comes with opportunities to engage and develop professionally. Along with on-the-job experiences, there are platforms dedicated to the learning and applying of new knowledge and skills. This ongoing education and professional networking allows participating individuals to expand proficiency. As a result, they often move up the career ladder faster than peers who do not seek outside guidance and interaction.

By taking part in professional development activities and organizations, research administrators gain the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in their roles. In addition, they develop a network of peers who can provide support, access to resources, and avenues for new opportunities.

Why Professional Development Is Good for Everyone Involved

Professional development not only benefits employees, but institutions and organizations as well. By encouraging and supporting professional development, employers can develop and maintain a cadre of skilled research administration professionals. As a result, this can lead to increased compliance with federal and sponsor regulations. Additionally, employers can experience better employee satisfaction and retention, more staff energy and creativity, effective succession planning, and the ability to attract and retain administrative career-focused job candidates.

Professional Organizations for Research Administrators

In the U.S., there are two primary organizations that support research administrators professionally. These organizations are the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA)2 and Society of Research Administrators International (SRAI)3. Both organizations enable educational opportunities for members by providing information that is vital to building a knowledge base in research administration. They also present opportunities to engage and share experiences, and resources to keep current on industry trends, practices, and policies.

Building and Maintaining a Knowledge Base in Research Administration

With a core mission to advance the profession of research administration, NCURA and SRAI provide resources such as:

  • workshops
  • concurrent sessions
  • discussion groups
  • publications
  • webinars
  • podcasts
  • other resources vital to skilled research administration professionals

Keeping Current Via Professional Development

Research administration is a dynamic, regulatory field. As such, keeping current on regulatory requirements is of utmost importance. The resources provided by members of both NCURA and SRAI aid research administrators in keeping current with federal agency and sponsor regulations. Also, attending conferences and webinars and accessing available resources helps alleviate the burden of sifting through a wealth of ever-changing information while keeping abreast of new regulations and requirements. Further, members can willingly share policy and procedure documents via listservs and resource depositories, saving members time when developing resources for their institutions.

Sharing Expertise in Research Administration

In addition to providing resources essential for subject matter expertise, professional organizations provide a platform for individuals to engage professionally, build networks, and share insights. This level of peer-to-peer engagement fosters mutually beneficial professional relationships. It also leads to increased skills, knowledge, new resources, and professional opportunities.

Additionally, presenting, publishing, attending professional conferences, and participating in research administration communities and listservs such as RESADM-L4, are but a few ways to remain actively engaged while learning from others. Both NCURA and SRA provide opportunities to share expertise and network through annual membership conferences, regional or sectional activities, focused communities, and member and career directories.

Also,  because organizations like NCURA and SRA rely heavily on volunteers to share information and knowledge, members are provided with ample opportunities to improve their knowledge and confidence, along with their presentation, communication, and leadership skills.

“In learning you will teach. And in teaching you will learn.” – Phil Collins, Musician

Professional Development Resources in Research Administration

NCURA and SRAI are two of the leading professional organizations for research administrators. However, they are not the only entities that provide training, education, advocacy, and networking opportunities. The following table lists additional organizations and associations that support research administration as practiced by Institutions of Higher Education and research hospitals and institutes.

Professional Organization Description
American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Collective of public colleges, universities, and systems with a mission to support applied research and service that advances economic development and quality of life in communities across the country.
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the work of public universities in the U.S, Canada, and Mexico.
Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) Nonprofit organization that supports professionals in academic technology transfer through education, professional development, and partnership.
Council on Governmental Relations (COGR)


Association of research universities, affiliated medical centers, and independent research institutions that provides information on financial and regulatory infrastructure and compliance requirements associated with managing federal research grants and contracts.
European Association of Research Managers and Administrators (EARMA)


Member association that provides an interface between research funding entities and the scientific community via training and developmental opportunities directed toward Research Managers and Administrators within Europe.
Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP) Cooperative initiative between Federal Agencies and Institutions of Higher Education that receive federal funding with a focus on streamlining information and reducing administrative burden associated with federal grants and contracts.
Grants Resource Center (GRC) Unit of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities that supports research and sponsored program capabilities of public and private higher education institutions.
National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) Membership organization that provides education and guidance on accounting, finance, and tax issues in higher education.
National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA)


Member organization of research administration professionals with the mission to advance the profession of research administration through education and professional development programs.
National Grants Management Association (NGMA) Member association dedicated to the profession of grants management. Formerly the National Assistance Management Association.
National Organization of Research Development Professional (NORDP) Member organization of research development professionals dedicated to enhancing competitive, multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary research.
Society of Research Administrators International (SRAI)


Member organization of research administration professionals that provides education, professional development, and comprehensive information about research management.
Research Administrators Certification Council (RACC) Independent non-profit organization comprised of active certified research administrators with the purpose to certify and uphold research administration standards to advance the profession.
University Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP) Member organization whose mission is to identify key issues impacting university-industry relations.

Educational Opportunities in Research Administration

In addition to informal educational opportunities and networking via professional organizations, there are formal educational opportunities in research administration. Namely, these opportunities consist of graduate certificate and Master-level degree programs and professional certifications. The table below highlights current education and certification opportunities for administrators seeking continuing education.

Organization Program(s) Weblink
Emmanuel College MS Research Administration (online)
Graduate Research Administration Certificate (online)
Central Michigan University MS in Administration: Research Administration (online)
Johns Hopkins University MS in Research Administration (online)
Graduate Certificate in International Research Administration Management (online)
Research Administrators Certification Council Certified Research Administrator (CRA)

Certified Pre-award Research Administrator (CPRA)
Certified Pre-award Research Administrator (CPRA)
Certified Financial Research Administrator (CRFA)
University of Central Florida Master’s in Research Administration (MRA) (online)

NCURA offers scholarships up to $2,500 in support of members enrolled in a graduate degree program.5

Learn, Connect, Grow

Participation in professional organizations exposes both new and experienced professionals to fresh ideas, a diversity of perspectives, and different practices. Attending conferences, participating in regional events, attending webinars, and actively engaging in communities and listservs increases expertise and work confidence. Also, added bonuses include presentation and leadership opportunities as well as connecting with administrators across the globe.

Fortunately, today’s research administrator has myriad opportunities to engage professionally and to grow in the profession. And it’s made even better with the support of solutions like ours (Streamlyne Research) that enable Research Administrators to carry out their professional responsibilities at the highest level. This elevated performance helps to bring personal advancement, along with prestige and excellence to the field as a whole.

Set up a custom demo and let us show you the strides Streamlyne Research can make for your research program.


[5] NCURA Education Scholarship Fund (ESF) –