When you thought about what you wanted to be when you grew up, did a human guinea pig ever cross your mind? Probably not.
The term “guinea pig” might carry some negative connotations. But it’s a great way to earn money to pay off debts, boost your savings account or just stop living paycheck-to-paycheck.
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Who Can Participate in Clinical Trials?
Before getting into the ways you can make money renting out your body or mind for science, I want to provide a quick explanation about the different types of clinical trials.
The people who participate in medical trials are either completely healthy, or have a specific disease or medical issue they’re hoping could be healed or impacted by testing a particular drug.
There are multiple phases done with clinical trials. Phase I studies are conducted with healthy volunteers to determine side effects and proper dosage. The remaining phases include volunteers with the medical issue the drug is made to treat.
If you’re suffering from a specific medical condition and looking to take part in medical trials, be aware you could be issued a placebo drug. This means you’re given a pill with no medication, and your reactions and vital signs will be used as a control.
One major plus to volunteering for trials is you get tons of free medical tests. You’ll be tested for general health, and have your vital signs monitored for days on end in extended studies. This is a nice way to get medical checkups without paying to see a doctor — plus, you’re getting paid to be in the study.
If you like the idea of making money in the name of scientific advancements, here’s a list of four ways to do it.
1. Sign Up for Medical Trials
Medical trials are dependent on where you live and what research facilities are close by, but they can pay out big.
These trials can involve anything from testing a medicinal cream to comparing flavors of medicine to trying a newly developed drug. Some may require you to have an existing medical condition, while others accept all kinds of healthy participants.
The best way to find a paid medical trial is to search for one specifically in your area. For example, there’s a large testing facility in my city called Hilltop Research.
They test everything from anti-aging skin cream to makeup removers. I’ve personally taken part in one of their eye-makeup removal studies and earned $50 for a few hours of my time. Clinical trials don’t always involve actual medicine, though this same facility does offer week-long studies that pay thousands of dollars.
A quick online search will show you where to look for trials in your area. For example, The Kessler Foundation is looking for participants in New Jersey, and Parexel pays volunteers at its locations in Baltimore and Los Angeles.
A few more resources for finding clinical trials:
2. Join a Sleep Study
If you’d rather not take experimental drugs or rub on medicated skin cream, look for a sleep study near you. While these won’t be all soft pillows and sweet dreams, some pay thousands of dollars — one woman even earned $12K for an 11-day sleep study. (And if you really play your cards right, you can get paid to snooze and make money while you sleep!)
Sleep studies can be a bit more taxing. Past participants report you will likely be kept in isolation, might have to maintain an unusual position and be subjected to consistent medical testing.
Find a sleep facility near you on Sleep Education, and check to see if there are any open studies.
3. Participate in Psychological Research Studies
Psychological research studies are a great way to earn money as a human guinea pig without having to be poked and prodded. This type of study looks closely at decision making and human behavior, rather than testing one specific product or medicine.
Curious about what a psychological study looks like? Here’s an example of a decision-making study open at NYU: You’ll be placed in an MRI machine and choose between different options, such as money or food. It pays $30 per hour. This study isn’t too invasive, as long as you don’t mind being inside an MRI machine.
Note: Some universities enter you in a drawing to win money, rather than actually pay you per hour. Make sure to read the fine print.
Companies want to know what consumers think of its products, and they do so by conducting focus groups. This isn’t exactly medical or psychological testing, but you’ll be paid decent money to be part of important market research.
Join sites like 20|20 Panel, MindSwarms and Mediabarn Research to participate in online focus groups. Once you join, you’ll answer some basic demographic questions that determine which studies you’re eligible for.
When a study is available, you’ll be asked to share your opinions about a certain product or service. Depending on the study, it won’t take too long to complete. You’ll either record a short video of your thoughts or participate in a live discussion via webcam. The pay also varies, but 20|20 Panel pays anywhere from $50-$150+ per study, while MindSwarms pays $50 for each one.
Will You Rent Your Body Out in the Name of Science?
The amount of money you can really make as a human guinea pig depends on your location, free time and medical condition. Some studies are only a few hours long, while others will require you to stay in a medical facility for a few days to be monitored. If you’re looking to make money without having a real job, the overnight, extended-stay clinical trials would be your best bet.
Also, always read the fine print! Depending on the medical study, there could be risks or potential medical complications associated with the product being tested. Don’t sign up for anything unless you’ve read all the potential benefits and risks.
Now that you know where to look, what paid experiments will you sign up for?
Jacquelyn Pica is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Find her on Twitter @jacquelynTPH.