Human Guinea Pig

By Megan

Not another boring summer job!

So you’re looking to make money, but don’t want to do it the same old minimum-wage way as your friends. If you’ve ever been interested in scientific “stuff” or medical research, you might want to think about finding a clinical trial to participate in. Healthy volunteers ages 18 and older can be paid anywhere from $100 – $300 a day for taking part in these trials, which can focus on anything from drug studies to to cognitive and sensory studies.

Experimental Test Subject? Sounds too Sci-Fi for me

I know what you’re thinking – signing up to be a “lab rat” doesn’t sound like the most appealing job out there. But along with the decent pay, there can be a lot of other perks to being a study subject. Almost all of the trials out there will involve some sort of physical examination, so instead of having to pay to go see your own doctor, you can have easy access to one in the study. Also, there’s typically very little effort required on your part. With many studies, you can get paid just to sit in a comfortable atmosphere and read, watch TV, or even play video games!

What Kind of Study Should I Look For?

There are generally two types of studies that you can volunteer for:  In-house studies or outpatient studies. In-house studies require subjects to stay for at least one overnight, while outpatient studies only have a time commitment of a few hours, but may require the participant to come back more than once. When looking for studies to volunteer for, you will want to look for Phase 1 trials, which most often use healthy people to act as control subjects for the study.

While there are a variety of trials out there, the drug studies tend to be the most common and the most profitable. In these trials, healthy subjects are given very low doses of the drug and then its effects on things like heart rate, absorption rate, etc. are monitored. You have to go through a very thorough screening procedure before you can even be selected for a trial like this. If you’re not comfortable with a drug trial, there are other less invasive trials that conduct studies on other things, such as the effects of exercise and diet, or studies on cognitive processes such as memory and concentration.

Participating in clinical trials does not come without risks. Though typically low, the possibility of serious side effects from any medication can exist. The question of ethics can also come into play when it comes to clinical trials. Though there are many regulations in place to prevent unethical studies, some sketchy ones are still able to continue under the radar. The best way to avoid potential problems with this is to read and understand everything that is given to you about the trial, and as ask many questions as you can before deciding whether or not to go through with the study. Remember that you can back out of the trial at any time. 41vQd2qMtuL._SL110_ Author Alex O’meara has written a very informative book called Chasing Medical Miracles: The Promise and Perils of Clinical Trials, in which he uses his own experience with a clinical trial to provide a behind-the-scenes look at how these studies work. After reading it you will have a better idea of what to look for and what to avoid if you are looking to become a participant.


Ok, I’m interested. How do I sign up for a study?

The best way to go about finding a trial to sign up for is to find a well-regarded directory of studies. The National Institutes of Health http://clinicalresearch.nih.gov/index.html provides a very comprehensive directory of available clinical trials which you search by state or by study topic. Contact information is usually provided by these directories, and you can then go about setting up a screening appointment to get the whole process started.

While it is possible to a make a living by participating in clinical studies full-time, this can also be a great way to simply earn some money to put towards anything you like – school, a car, a trip somewhere, etc. There are several websites out there that offer great advice on what to expect in a study and tips on finding and signing up for clinical trials. So go ahead and put yourself out there in the name of science, and make some cash while you’re doing it!


Photo Credit: wazuluwazu

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