Earn quick cash by participating in medical research and marketing studies

I made $120 for one hour of work last week.

On Tuesday, I participated in a neuroeconomics study at a nearby university. For sixty minutes, I lay inside an MRI scanner while answering questions about money. When I had finished, the researchers paid me $120. In cash.

I admit that with the four hour round-trip and the half hour of wait time, my hourly rate drops to something nearer $20, but that's still not bad. In fact, the experience made me wonder if there might not be similar opportunities closer to home.

Maybe I can't make $120 an hour, but might it be possible to supplement my income by volunteering for studies at schools in Portland? After all, I work from home now, and my schedule is flexible.

Giving Blood and Watching Porn

My research turned up an article from my colleague Donna Freedman in which she writes about earning extra cash by giving blood and watching porn (though not at the same time):

Medical studies, whether through universities or drug companies, are always in need of test subjects. Personally, I don't do the “investigational medication” trials, but I've donated blood and filled out questionnaires for studies on a number of subjects, including female sexual response (see “porn”, above), Alzheimer's disease, depression, and airway ailments. I find them through Craigslist and through college bulletin boards and newspapers.

Freedman's article also includes a short video segment that documents one of her actual trips to participate in a medical study. “It's pretty good money,” she says. “Thirty dollars for fifteen minutes work.” Plus she gets cookies and juice.

Show Me the Money

Out of curiosity, I checked Craigslist to see what opportunities were available. I found a wide variety in the miscellaneous jobs section. Here are a few (note that these links are sure to die in a few days):

  • Healthy Hispanic adults can make $50 for giving a blood draw
  • $150 paid research for packaged foods purchasers
  • $10 for a clinical psychology study (for 45 minutes and two phone calls)
  • $50 for 40 minutes of voice recording sessions on a speech recognition project for native Spanish speakers

In June I shared a tip for subscribing to Craigslist search results to grab great deals. I could use the same method to keep updated on available medical and marketing studies.

When searching for studies, take care to avoid sales pitches and scams. University research projects are presumably safe, but it's best to google information about marketing firms before agreeing to participate in their research. A quick search reveals, for example, that The Gilmore Research Group (which is conducting the study in the image above) is perfectly legitimate.

Anything for Science

Obviously, this is no way to get rich (slowly or otherwise). But participating in these studies can be a fun way to make a little extra cash. Flexo from Consumerism Commentary says that before he graduated from high school, he participated in a number of studies at Princeton University's cognitive psychology lab. “It was just baseball card money for me at the time,” he says. “But it was fun.”

My study was fun, too. I wish I could tell you more about the experiment (because neuroeconomics is certainly an aspect of personal finance that fascinates me), but I'm sworn to secrecy. Maybe in a few months.

“We're conducting another experiment soon,” the research assistant told me as he counted out six $20 bills last Tuesday. “Your spouse would have to participate, but it is more lucrative. Are you interested?”

Anything for science, I thought. And for cold, hard cash.

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JerichoHill
JerichoHill
12 years ago

ROFL, JD.

I’ll read about you as Subject J in some economics journal soon.

I know that when I was in college I participated in alot of psychology experiments, I think the effective rate of pay was around 15 bucks an hour… its a neat way to make side change

middleclassdream?
middleclassdream?
12 years ago

This reminds me of the movie Fun with Dick and Jane. They both are out of a job trying to earn some money and Jane takes part in a cosmetic lab test that paralyzes her face for a few days, but hey she earned a little cash. JD you are too funny “giving blood and watching porn, though not at the same time” I woke up my wife as I laughed out loud when I caught the mental image of that one.

Maximus
Maximus
12 years ago

I have done several of these in the past. Once I went to the survey center and they had too many participants. It seems that they overbook to make sure that they can fill the panel. Those of us who were not picked had to sit around for 15 minutes. Then we got paid what was promised, $200. Best payday for survey taking I have had yet.

SG
SG
12 years ago

A good source of reliable information on available medical research and clinical trials is the National Institutes of Health Web site at http://www.nih.gov, as well as the Clinical Center’s Web site at http://www.cc.nih.gov/participate.shtml. A lot of the studies are in the DC area, but there are links to studies all around the country and even outside of the United States.

seeger
seeger
12 years ago

I found my time as a human guinea pig an agreeable way to make some money. When i was in & just out of college i did one or two medical-testings a year (nothing scary). I think my best gig was getting paid $2500 for two weekend stays where they were testing the effects of caffeine. I was forced to drink diet coke & bad coffee, but made what worked out to about $16/ hour sleeping, reading, writing & watching movies, which i normally do for free.

Andrea
Andrea
12 years ago

this reminded me that I had done surveys and testing but not recently. I will look up the local company and check in with them.

Sam
Sam
12 years ago

Well not only it can save you money, it can save your life too. My uncle who was living in San Jose California agreed to be part of a hospital doing research on some drastic ways to reduce liver cancer cells.

My uncle having no retirement fund at all, agreed and after 6 months, he’s cancer free. Hopefully, cancer cells will no longer return.

Sam
Fix My Personal Finance
http://fixmypersonalfinance.com

HIB
HIB
12 years ago

Very interesting article. While there are people that might be interested in medical research, there are many other ways to make money that may not be potentially harmful. I would probably do the marketing studies if the money was worth the time and effort. Personally, I’d prefer to stay away from the medical research all together whether they are taking blood or having you take an MRI. (Disclaimer: I faint around needles 🙂 )
Thanks!
-HIB

escapee
escapee
12 years ago

Just be careful with this- some medical studies, like CT scans, actually can have ill health effects if you do too many of them. Radiation is known to increase your risk factor for cancer.

FranticWoman
FranticWoman
12 years ago

An HOUR in the MRI?? I would have lost my mind!! I can barely make it for 10 minutes.

I used to do those studies too now and then. Many were fun. One of the memorable ones I had involved wearing a ‘new’ synthetic fiber in a complete coverup and cyclying on a stationary bike for 40 minutes while they kept raising the tempature – until it got to over 100 degrees. What a sweaty memory!

Not sure I would have done a four hour RT in the car for JD’s study – although it sounds v. interesting.

Mark Nelson
Mark Nelson
12 years ago

One of my son’s college buddies gives plasma for $50.00 a time. That is almost a part time job for him.

My thought would be to start a business where you can create residual income. Might take a little longer to get started but the right business will provide money for life.

I just wrote a blog about a couple of businesses my son and I are doing. Pretty exciting stuff.

Emina Wisdom
Emina Wisdom
6 years ago
Reply to  Mark Nelson

Hey Mark I was interested in earning some extra cash and would like to know what it is that you and your son do as far as work..

Thanks

deepali
deepali
12 years ago

As a researcher, I wholeheartedly support participation in studies. I’m also looking for test subjects. 🙂
But a couple words of advice – don’t lie about anything. ANYTHING. For one, you screw up the results, for two, you can hurt yourself.
Give the researcher whatever information they ask for, and anything else that might seem relevant (except for topics you are specifically asked not to talk about, to maintain the blind). Your anonymity is required by IRB, so they won’t sell your dirty laundry.

Also, make sure it’s reputable, particularly if medical testing is required.

Mydailydollars
Mydailydollars
12 years ago

Interesting post! I’ve never tried a study, but I’ll keep my eyes open. My husband is an optometrist. Since I’ve been doing online general surveys, I’ve convinced him to participate in his survey offers, especially because they are much more lucrative!

DeeBee
DeeBee
12 years ago

If you live near a major university, the Psychology and Marketing (Finance) departments are always looking for survey and study participants. Even if you live near a small college, try the Psychology Department.

Also, if you live near a major University with a teaching hospital, you can frequently find posters advertising medical studies outside and inside the hospital building.

DeeBee

Cara
Cara
12 years ago

I work in casual games and we often do focus tests, where we hire people to come in and play a game for 45 minutes. I think they get $50-75. Not bad! We use a company that specializes in recruiting and booking people. Do a search for “research facilities” or “market research firms” in your area, then call and ask to be added to their database of potential testers. They do all sorts of market research, not just games.

Jenzer
Jenzer
12 years ago

The University of Michigan Health System maintains an online database to provide “‘one-stop shopping’ for people who want to help medicine move forward by participating in clinical research at the University of Michigan.”

http://www.umengage.org/

Joe G
Joe G
12 years ago

When I was unemployed for a long stretch, I did a ton of these. I finally stopped doing the MRIs because of a little claustrophobia, but I was averaging 3-4 a month and they paid well. Lots of studies are simple pencil and paper/computer drills and pay $10-20/hr depending upon how hard they are to fill. I live near Harvard and MIT and the Harvard-affiliated hospitals, so I was able to find lots of studies and they have online signups. I would also do focus groups and the like — just this month I made money for a focus group… Read more »

Jessica
Jessica
12 years ago

I think that this is a great way to make some extra money. I did a couple psychology experiments in undergrad and I always found them to be interested. Unfortunately I was not paid for these experiments as they were requirements for a course. I think I will look at Craigs list to see if there are any at my school.

Sam
Sam
12 years ago

These kinds of studies are GOLD for poor college students like me and my friends! There are always tons of postings on our university website (and at the many other universities in the area, since we’re in Boston). I guess the secret’s out now…

Anni
Anni
12 years ago

Another opportunity within the medical field is that of “professional patient.” Individuals are given information about an illness to study, then present the symptoms and are “diagnosed” by interns. A colleague supplements his income this way and makes $20/hour in the process.

Rob in Denver
Rob in Denver
12 years ago

I participated in a drug study last fall… $100 for each session at five sessions. It was for a new antidepressant and they wanted to see whether it affected fertility in humans (animal testing at extreme doses showed fertility loss in males subjects).

Once every couple of weeks I had to go watch porn and leave a sample. A hundred bucks for doing something I’ve done for free since the age of 14? Where do I sign up?

Richie
Richie
12 years ago

More info on getting paid to watch porn, please.

Amanda
Amanda
12 years ago

I must be signing up for the wrong ones! I’m an identical twin, and a member of the Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry system. I did a few couple hour survey’s when I was little (along with my sister and parents) and I knew we got pizza for that, but I’m not sure if we were monatarily compensated beyond that. Since then I’ve had 2 phone interviews with questions for about 30-60 minutes for $35 each and this year they want to draw blood from both my sister and myself for $35 as part of their effort to figure out what genes… Read more »

Mac
Mac
12 years ago

“Maybe I can’t make $120 an hour, but might it be possible to supplement my income by volunteering for studies at schools in Portland?”

You’re not really volunteering if you’re getting paid, sorry.

Jaynee
Jaynee
12 years ago

I’m participating in a 12-month weight loss study. I will get paid $840 for the study (paid out over the course of the year) AND have the added benefit of losing weight! I started in February and have lost 25 pounds on the study thus far. I’ve also earned about $200 so far. I’ve thought about doing other studies after this one – it’s “easy” money (although dieting is NEVER easy *lol*).

J.D.
J.D.
12 years ago

Hm, Mac I think you’re confusing volunteer with Volunteer. That is, “to volunteer” for something means to offer to make yourself available. It’s true that a more restrictive definition is to do this without being paid, but that’s not the only definition, and not the one I intended.

(Why am I even defending my word choice, anyhow? 🙂 )

KurtMac
KurtMac
12 years ago

The Mac Daddy of them all would have to be NASA’s Bed Rest Study, which pays out $15,000 for a 115 day study of the effects of weightlessness on bone and muscle atrophy. Of course, big money comes with big sacrifice, as you must be confined to bed rest in a controlled environment for 90-days straight, 24 hours a day. Also, its probably very hard to qualify as they only use subjects who represent the physical acumen of fighter pilots and astronauts. I totally want to participate, not so much for the money, but to contribute to science that hopefully… Read more »

Moneymonk
Moneymonk
12 years ago

I know people that make up to $500 dollars doing studies. However, I like to pass I do not know the long term effects that it can bring uopn you

Charlie
Charlie
12 years ago

I can top this. I made $1,100 in two hours. Wrote about it here:

http://charliehoehn.com/2008/07/29/how-i-made-1100-in-less-than-two-hours/

ericabiz
ericabiz
12 years ago

Hi J.D.,

This is an excellent example of where setting a baseline hourly rate will help you figure out what’s actually worthwhile:

http://www.erica.biz/2008/entrepreneurs-is-extreme-frugality-a-waste-of-time/

In this case, I would argue that 4 hours spent on your business should reap you far greater returns than $120, and thus, most surveys are unlikely to be worth it.

-Erica

kick_push
kick_push
12 years ago

make money watching porn? where the heck do i sign up? lmfao! =)

Naurhir
Naurhir
12 years ago

I have my name registered at a few local marketing research organizations, and get called on for studies every 6months-year. It is always nice getting some bonus cash.

When I was in college and living on campus, fortunately enough for me, the particular campus I was staying at had an Air Force research center as well as various health research centers. I participated in enough studies @ $10/hour that I was able to quit my part time job and live like a true student bum.

Simon
Simon
12 years ago

I sometimes do studies for about $10 at my university’s Psychology department but wow @ the money for watching porn. Researchers surely would get a large research pool for those studies, lol!

Anca
Anca
12 years ago

I tried this in college, but I got claustrophobic in the MRI machine from having to lay completely still for a long time while the machine made loud noises. But I’ll check out other opportunities you mentioned.

ajc
ajc
12 years ago

Who was it who said: “I regret that I have but 2 legs to give for medical research”?

bethh
bethh
12 years ago

*headsmack* I just sent off five emails for some opportunities. I never thought of checking craig’s list for that!

Beth

Christine
Christine
12 years ago

Since I am prior military, I have the anthrax vaccine. I saw on Craigslist a couple of months ago that plasma centers across the US are offering $100 (up to eight times) for plasma donations. I signed up! Each donation only takes about an hour (they put the “anthrax” folks ahead of the line), and I got paid $100 in cash, leaving me with extra spending cash – I used it for my fiance’s wedding gift! They still need a lot of donors, so that’s why I am leaving this tip. If you don’t have the vaccine, I believe they… Read more »

Paul
Paul
12 years ago

“Obviously, this is no way to get rich (slowly or otherwise).” Depends on what you do with the money, and how much time you’re willing to spend 🙂 Robert Rodriguez (director of Sin City and Desperado) got his big break with a small, very low budget movie called El Mariachi. He financed the movie himself, mainly through a lump sum he got from checking himself in as a medical research subject. He wrote a very interesting book about his experiences making the film (Rebel Without A Crew), a very inspirational book that shows how much you achieve if you put… Read more »

Mika
Mika
12 years ago

New Haven CRU pays pretty well. I haven’t participated with them, but after looking at their “current studies” page, I might! http://newhavencru.com/sites/NewHavenCru/Pages/current_studies.aspx

jonathan
jonathan
12 years ago

This is very sad. Isn’t avoiding this the kind of thing one of the main reasons that we make and have money? Consider the transit time, waiting time, searching for studies and tell me then the payoff in terms of quality of life.

Andrea
Andrea
12 years ago

Actually you can be a volunteer and get paid. I have volunteered for studies at NIH -the amount of money I was paid was not even close to the cost of my leave from work. I did it to help the studies since they needed a particular category of people- you can’t refuse the money -I didn’t even know I was going to be paid originally- but you can donate it somewhere. I also did some volunteer work(I thought ) for a non-profit. They sent me a check- they told me they had to because of the nature of the… Read more »

Richard @ Student Scrooge
Richard @ Student Scrooge
12 years ago

I, too, have participated in my fair share of college experiments (mainly psychology), and I have always loved it. It certainly is an easy way to make a little cash on the side, but more than that, its usually just a very enjoyable experience. Especially on college campuses, in my experience, these experiments are often done by very passionate grad students who love talking about what they’re working on. As a “lifelong student,” I find the types of questions they’re looking into often are quite fascinating, and that, more than the money, is what keeps me coming back.

FranticWoman
FranticWoman
12 years ago

This got me curious so I checked out studies today. The highest paid one is allow extraction of bone marrow. eeggh…I think I’d rather stay in debt than go thru that.

kitty
kitty
12 years ago

There are risks in participating in medical studies. A typical CT scan, for example, if used in a study, gives you a fairly high dose of radiation, close to the smallest dose received by Hiroshima survivors. This increases your risk of cancer later in life. It is also cumulative i.e. all of your exposures add up. It is one thing when you do it when it is really needed i.e. when investigating a symptom of a potentially serious desease. But it is quite another to do it unnecessarily. Drug studies have risks too as these British students found out: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/08/world/europe/08britain.html… Read more »

Aviva
Aviva
12 years ago

I love doing the focus groups and such. The thing about those is they always ask if you’ve done one in the past 6-12 months, and if you have, they’ll tell you that you don’t qualify. 🙁 I’m signed up with a bunch of different market research companies in town, and so when they ask, I just hem and haw and say I can’t remember, what do their records say? And then I go with that. No need to mention if I’ve done one for someone else more recently, although I suppose that’s technically dishonest. :/ I wouldn’t do a… Read more »

Chris from St. Mary's
Chris from St. Mary's
12 years ago

Is the payment you get from doing medical research studies taxable if you get more than $600 a year?

jeflin
jeflin
12 years ago

There are health risks involved but so long as you are comfortable with it and full disclosure has been revealed, I think this is definitely a good method to make some side money.

Frugal Canadian Living
Frugal Canadian Living
12 years ago

There are a couple of major drug companies in Canada who offer the same type of research subject job.

Kenneth Rice
Kenneth Rice
12 years ago

Hey I live in the Atlanta area and have been looking for best research labs that pay the most & also where can you go to sell your blood it is not easy to find these labs. If anyone out there has any answer I would appreciate it!

William Bay
William Bay
12 years ago

Jonathan says:”This is very sad. Isn’t avoiding this the kind of thing one of the main reasons that we make and have money?” I think if you really look at the benefits, you may be overlooking something, Jonathan. Everyone has downtime, and to schedule that downtime into something that pays you $20 or more dollars an hour TAX FREE!!! I truly believe that it is worth it. I personally just got back from my first trip to the plasma bank where if I go twice a week I get $65, again, TAX FREE!!! And all I do is sit there… Read more »

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