Yes, it's true. Professional human guinea pigs get paid for
participating in medical experiments. The idea might remind you
of the scene from the movie Monty Python's The Meaning of
Life, in which the father explains to his fifty children
that he can't afford to feed them any longer. "It's medical
experiments for the lot of you," he announces, and all the
children are sad (as they sing the infamous "sperm"
In real life it isn't so bad according to those who have done
this for a living or for extra income. In some cases you simply
take a drug for a while, have a few blood tests done, and get
paid. That certainly sounds easy enough. Other test procedures
and studies are more intrusive, but they usually pay better.
Researchers doing medical, health and psychological studies
require a steady supply of new participants for testing various
things. Trials and experiments can be for testing of new drugs,
new medical devices, or even new psychological therapies. There
is also general research into various diets, exercise routines
or other things related to health or medicine. Volunteers --
the human guinea pigs -- who participate in the various trials,
tests and experiments, generally get paid, and sometimes more
than just a token amount.
Here's a video on volunteering for
For example, in researching the topic for this page, I came
across a study that was done on the benefits of a diet based
on what ancient hunter-gatherers ate. The volunteers used for
this study were paid $200 and given all the food they were supposed
to eat for three weeks. Daily blood testing was one of the requirements,
and nothing else could be eaten during this time, but the subjects
were otherwise free to live their lives normally.
Now, that is an example of a relatively low-paying job for
research participants (which is a nicer title than guinea pigs).
Of course, in addition to the $200, the participants did save
the money they would have otherwise spent on food for those three
weeks. Every study, trial or test has its own budget and pay-scale.
Sometimes it will hardly seem worth your while. On the other
hand, there are some people that make a living at this.
In another study subjects were paid $9,000 each for participating
in three weeks of asthma research. This was much more intrusive.
In fact, it required having a tube down their throats for much
of the time. You probably couldn't do this one if you had a regular
job. But $3,000 per week is decent pay if you have nothing else
going on. The requirements of different tests will obviously
vary, and the pay varies greatly as well.
The website http://www.gpgp.net
(guinea pigs get paid) has information
on drug trials and other studies that you can get paid to participate
in. Checking for opportunities in Florida (where I currently
live), as of early 2014 they listed a dozen places which were
looking for volunteers for clinical trial of different sorts.
There were also four or five universities listed under the category
"Non Invasive Research," and a consumer products testing
company that needs people to try shampoos, skin creams, and such.
Several places were listed under "Cognitive Studies,"
including one that pays participants $20 per hour (most do not
specify the payment amount until you talk to them).
What are some other ways you can you find these kinds of opportunities?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Try calling major research facilities and simply asking
if they need volunteers for any upcoming studies.
2. Search online for the various types of research you might
be interested in being a part of ("dietary research volunteers,"
or "cancer drug trials"). You can start by looking
for any studies that are relevant to conditions you already have.
If you have diabetes, for example, you might even find a better
way to treat it while you get paid.
3. Find a group of people that participates in these trials
and experiments regularly if you want to do this more than once.
Hanging out with the other human guinea pigs, at least in an
online forum, is a great way to hear about new opportunities.
You might hear the occasional horror story as well, but hey,
you need to stay informed if you want to do this regularly.