Pathway to Research Administration (PTRA) Project

Project Description

Pathway to Research Administration (PTRA) is an internship-to-career program focusing on building a robust workforce that can meet growing service demands and adapt to constant changes to Research Administration in Campus Shared Services (CSS) at the University of California, Berkeley. The job as a research administrator is getting more challenging as it is a holistic position that requires a combination of technical skills, breadth in institutional knowledge, and most importantly, core competencies. The goal of the program is to accelerate the development of these skills and knowledge for the interns with the end result of matriculating them into full-time Research Administrators. As the RA workforce is gradually decreasing due to retirement and competition in the job market, this project was implemented to establish a pipeline for the CSS RA workforce.

Date completed: January 2018


Due to high rate of retirements and competition in the job market for Research Administrators, CSS is experiencing rapidly shrinking workforce that is not sustainable to adapt to constantly changing technology and meet growing service demands.


According to the HR Census data from Cal Answers, as of April 2016, CSS has a total of 153 Research Administrators. 7% of those are highly likely to retire; those who have at least 15 years of service and are at the age of 50 years. These research administrators are even more likely to retire by end of June 2016 with the retirement deadline.

What’s even more alarming is 50% of CSS Research Administrators are eligible to retire. Although they may not retire immediately, the likeiness of CSS Research Administrators retiring increases as time progresses (as indicated in the gray arrow).


Currently there is high demand for Research Administrators, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. UC Berkeley is located in a highly competitive region that includes similar institutions of higher education in need of Research Administrators, such as UC San Francisco and Stanford University. In addition, UC Berkeley is also facing competition from private research industries with companies such as Genetech and Kaiser Hospital, that are in need of Research Administrators. As a result of high demand, the salary levels of Research Administrators becomes inflated and expensive for Campus Shared Services and the university to afford.


The approach to creating a pipeline for the CSS RA workforce is to create an internship program that is sustainable and feasible, utilizing resources that are already available on campus, and supplement the program with support of fellow Research Admnistrators within CSS. Hence, the program does not require starting from scratch, but just connecting the dots. The following elements helped the RA interns succeed in the program.

Research Administration Professional Development Program (RAPDP)

The Research Administration Professional Development Program (RAPDP) is an in-house training program spearheaded by Talent and Organizational Performance (TOP), a unit within UC Berkeley Central Human Resources. The program was created in part because of the need by campus to develop an in-house training program that helps campus employees learn and understand the complex End-to-End Research Administration and the business processes at UC Berkeley. The program encompasses knowledge in Research Administration contributed by Research Administrators across campus. Contributors includes Research Administrators from Campus Shared Services , Sponsored Projects Office , Office of Intellectual Property & Industry Research Alliances , Contracts and Grants Accounting Office, and other Departmental RAs.earch industries with companies such as Genetech and Kaiser Hospital, that are in need of Research Administrators. As a result of high demand, the salary levels of Research Administrators becomes inflated and expensive for Campus Shared Services and the university to afford.

RA Buddy System

Under the PTRA program, each RA interns were paired with a research administrator, or "RA Buddy". Because the RA interns were already taking training courses in RAPDP, the RA Buddies were able to focus more time on mentoring the RA interns. In addition, the RA Buddies also acted as delegates on their respective teams assigning tasks to the RA interns. When the internship program is completed and the RA interns have successfully demonstrated readiness to matriculate into a Research Administrator, their RA Buddies will eventually become their fellow colleagues, and moreover, their RA Buddies may continue to be their mentors throughout their careers.

Research Admnistration Core Competencies (RACC)

The last element of the program is developing core competencies of the RA interns. The goal is to provide added value for the RA interns and increase the likeliness for the RA interns to succeed as Research Administrators. The core competencies include the following:

  • Teamwork
  • Responsibility
  • Decision Making
  • Leadership
  • Ethics
  • Career Motivation

The End Goal

The end goal of this project is part of a long term strategy of establishing a pipeline and a career pathway for CSS Research Administration. For the post-project assessment, the RA interns who matriculated as Research Administrators will continue to be evaluated for further long term result of the PTRA program.

Project presented at the Society of Research International Conference

The project was presented at the Society of Research Administrators International in 2018 in Orlando. The project was well received by many attendees at the conference. Many attendees have expressed the need to have similar RA internship programs at their institutions to help address challenges of the shrinking RA workforce.