Be a Human Guinea Pig
There are many good reasons to volunteer to participate in medical experiments: the advancement of knowledge, the opportunity to help future generations–and the opportunity to pick up some well-earned cash.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans participate in varying levels of medical research every year. That participation can be as simple as filling out a questionnaire, or as risky as entering into a new drug treatment that might make your hair fall out (though you’ll be warned about such unwelcome side effects).
Before you volunteer to participate in any medical study, no matter how simple, consider how far you’re willing to go. Some experiments are more involved, time-consuming and painful than others. However, being a human guinea pig is very safe: There are so many requirements and regulations that there’s virtually no chance you’ll wind up disfigured or dead. (For information about the safety of human-subject trials, follow the links in Resources.)
Learn About Simple Experiments
Almost every study in which you participate will have some kind of requirement. Some studies will only want college-educated men between the ages of 30 and 32, and some studies will only want Polynesian grandmothers who have had at least 10 children. The more specific the requirements are, the more likely it is that you’ll get paid a lot of money if you fit them.
Simple experiments are, by nature, simple to conduct and to find subjects for. These usually involve doing nothing to you per se, but simply studying your current state. Questionnaires, quizzes, a blood test and/or an MRI are all relatively simple. There are three basic categories of simple experiments:
Questionnaires and interviews
These experiments are easy and quick, but also the lowest-paying. Psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and their grad students usually run them. These types of studies usually involve sitting for an interview or filling out a questionnaire, or in some cases looking at images and describing your feelings toward them (usually via multiple-choice questions).
These are incredibly easy experiments, and a great way to make some extra cash. This is an especially attractive option for college students, since you can simply walk around campus and find out what studies are taking place.
* What it generally pays: Between $5 and $20, depending on how long it takes. If you’re in college, many professors will give you extra credit in lieu of cash for helping their grad students with a particular study.
* Possible risks: Extreme boredom, and you sometimes have to return for follow-up sessions.
Medical exams and/or interviews: Type I
Many researchers are interested in the correlation between someone’s general health and his stress levels, anger management or other mental factors. In Type I exams, you are usually subjected to a lengthier examination that will probably involve a general physical (including height, weight and blood pressure); you then answer questions about your mental health.
* What it generally pays: The range is wide, but you could pocket anywhere from $20 to $100.
* Possible risks: a cold stethoscope, the revelation of private information, and time.
Medical exams and/or interviews: Type II
These are the same as the Type I experiments, except that they may involve some more advanced procedures, such as:
* Blood tests: They’re not a big deal, but if a paper cut makes you queasy, you may want to stay away.
* EKG: those white, circular stickers on you that measure heart function and brain response. (It doesn’t hurt at all.)
* MRI: A doctor will slide you headfirst into a coffin-like tube to see what’s going on inside your organs. If you’re claustrophobic, avoid these. But they’re so expensive you probably won’t encounter this in a voluntary experiment.
* Internal exams: These can involve vaginal exams and/or rectal exams.
Remember, the more you allow to be done to yourself, the more money you’ll probably make.
* What it generally pays: Usually a little more than the Type I experiments. It depends on the tests given, but the range is about $50 to $100.
* Possible risks: It’s very rare, but you could have some weird reaction to a test. Also, after a blood test, you may feel lightheaded or queasy.