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5 Ways to Make Money With Paid Medical Research Studies & Donations

By Melissa Batai

medical ways to make moneyIn difficult economic times, many people look for ways to make extra money, and you may be considering some creative options to pay down debt. One way to make money is by using your body. No, I’m not talking about hard labor, but rather the ways that your good health and bodily functions can help you bring in some extra cash – and help people at the same time.

First and foremost, you must carefully consider your medical decisions, and always discuss these ideas with your doctor.

Medical Methods of Making Money

1. Donate Plasma

If you can handle needles, fall within the recommended weight requirement (110 pounds or more), and have some time to spare, you could earn $50 to $65 a week, depending on your location and how often you donate.

When you arrive at the blood center, you’ll get a brief, basic medical examination. A technician will ask questions about your physical history and then check your weight, blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. You’ll then give a few drops of blood from your fingertip to be screened. If you meet all of the requirements, you’ll get set up for the needle insertion and blood draw. The whole experience usually takes an hour and a half to two hours, but may sometimes take slightly longer.

I gave plasma several times while in graduate school, and it was generally a painless process. A machine strains plasma from your blood and then reinserts the blood (minus the plasma) back into your body. That part always felt a bit strange to me, but it wasn’t painful.

Make sure to drink water, get enough rest, don’t take aspirin, and have a satisfying meal about two hours before you donate. I went on an empty stomach once and nearly passed out when I stood up after donating.

Hospitals and clinics use plasma to treat hemophiliacs, some pregnant women, infants, and burn victims, so in addition to making money, you will be helping others. Visit DonatingPlasma.org to find a donation center near you.

drawing blood needle

2. Participate in a Paid Medical Study

Medical studies offer you the chance to help test a medicine or treatment to be sure that it’s safe for the general public. If you are joining an invasive medical study and will be having injections or taking medicine, make sure you know the risks. Many of the treatments and procedures are in the testing phase, so you do run the risk of having adverse effects immediately or in later years. To combat this concern, some choose to only participate in studies that are noninvasive.

The administrators of many medical studies are looking for certain types of participants, such as people who are overweight, females between ages 17 and 32, or individuals with specific conditions or diseases. There are, however, many studies that are less restrictive in their participants’ characteristics.

There are several ways you can find paid medical studies, including:

  1. Checking the ETC area of the Jobs section on Craigslist. If you live near a large city, you will see plenty of opportunities for paid studies. A quick perusal in my area shows a medical study for teens ages 14 to 17 at a local research hospital. Participants spend the weekend in a sleep lab, and the researchers will evaluate the effect of light on sleep patterns on teens.
  2. Reading newspaper classifieds, especially near college towns. Many medical studies looking for participants will advertise in college newspapers because they know most college students are eager to make money.

participating in a sleep study

3. Become an Egg or Sperm Donor

Many people are interested in donating eggs or sperm not just for the making extra money, but for the chance to help a single woman or a couple have a baby.

You may, however, face your own moral issues, in addition to health concerns. Unlike other medical ways to make money, this one is less benign, because if your donation successfully leads to a child being born, he or she would be your biological child, even if you never know who they are. You may not even know how many children your donations created. Before donating, think about future potential implications and how you’ll handle them emotionally.

Donors must meet strict age, health, and background requirements for both egg and sperm donation. Young men and women are prime candidates; women typically can’t be older than 30, and men should be younger than 38. Compensation varies, but men can make over $1,000 per month, depending on how many times they donate, and women can make as much as $10,000 per donation.

Women should keep in mind that the process is more invasive and time-consuming than it is for men, typically involving several rounds of shots and an appointment to harvest the eggs.

sperm egg petrie dish embryo

4. Become a Surrogate Mother

A surrogate gets to bring a child into the world. She can either be implanted with her own egg in conjunction with the man’s sperm, or she can be implanted with the couple’s egg and sperm.

In cases of gay couples, the surrogate may be implanted with donor sperm or egg. While this seems to be the greatest gift one can give – a child to a couple who would otherwise be unable to have their own – the potential consequences are serious. A woman has a natural inclination to become attached to the child growing inside her; a surrogate must be very clear that at the end of the nine months of gestation, this child will not be going home with her.

Furthermore, as with any pregnancy, the surrogate runs the risk of medical complications. Many surrogate deliveries are scheduled, which means the carrier will have to be induced and may have a C-section.

Most surrogates must be 21 to 37 years old and have had a prior successful pregnancy or successful pregnancies. The ideal candidate is also married and does not smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs.

Keep in mind that in many surrogate pregnancies, the surrogate is implanted with two embryos and may carry twins, which will put additional stresses on her body. In return for the arduous task of carrying a child for nine months and delivering, a surrogate can expect to be compensated $25,000 or more.

If you are interested in being a surrogate, you can find ads in the newspaper, on Craigslist, and through agencies listed in the phone book. Consider doing a web search of “surrogacy” and your home state to find local agencies.

surrogate mother

5. Sell Your Breast Milk

If you are a breastfeeding mom producing copious amounts of milk and are willing to pump, you could sell your milk for money. Sites like Only The Breast link mothers who would like to purchase breast milk for their babies with mothers who would like to sell their breast milk.

Before selling, you should undergo a thorough, documented screening process, because many things can pass through breast milk, such as HIV, syphilis, drugs (legal and illegal), and hepatitis. Ideally, a seller/donor will also obtain written documentation from her doctor stating that her milk is safe to use. Check your state’s laws, because some do not permit selling breast milk.

If you are nursing your own child in addition to pumping extra milk to sell, it is important to remember to take vitamins so nursing does not deplete your body’s own vitamin storage. Also, some buyers may prefer that you avoid foods that may make the baby gassy, such as broccoli and cabbage.

Women who sell at Only The Breast are allowed to determine the price they would like to charge per ounce of milk. This site works on the free market theory: If you charge too much, your milk may not sell. Most mothers seem to be selling their milk for as little as 75 cents per ounce, or as much as $2 per ounce.

A woman can make more money if she meets certain criteria, such as not eating any dairy, so the milk can be free of dairy for infants who can’t digest it. In addition, the seller is responsible for shipping the milk following proper procedures (i.e. packing in dry ice is important).

Many women who do not care to breastfeed or are unable to nurse would still like to give their newborns all of the documented nutritional benefits of breast milk. If you are making extra milk, this is a great way to make money and help another child get the benefits of breastfeeding. After all, this used to be a common practice decades ago with the use of wet nurses.

baby milk bottle

Final Word

Your body can be a surprising source of monetary gain if you meet standard requirements and are comfortable giving up what your body produces. You can bring in extra money and, in some cases, show your philanthropic side at the same time, as you’ll be helping other people. People with medical conditions can benefit from the plasma you sell, people desiring to be parents can have a child thanks to your donation, and new parents can give their child the benefits of breastfeeding thanks to you. Participating in medical studies can help scientists advance their studies and may help others in the future.

While this seems like a win-win situation, and it can be, just make sure you are prepared physically as some of these methods can take a toll on your physical health. Also, prepare mentally as some of these ways to make money have moral implications.

Have you used any of these techniques to earn extra money? What was your experience like?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Melissa Batai
Melissa is a former college instructor who recently quit her job to be a stay home mom with her three children ages 7, 2 and 1. She is a personal finance writer for several online publications, and she blogs at her own blog, Mom's Plans, where she documents her family's journey to live a fulfilling life on less and Dining Out Challenge, where the motto is, "Never pay full price to dine out again." She enjoys cooking, writing, reading, and watching movies.

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  • http://blog.famillymoneyvalues.com/ Marie at FamilyMoneyValues

    Wow, I would never have considered any of these methods to make money (when I was young enough to do most of them). But, desperate circumstances call for desperate measures. If I had starving children I would probably do almost anything to care for them.

    • http://www.lillepunkin.com/ Melissa

      Plasma donation was a good option for me in grad school; I helped people in need and was able to supplement my grad assistantship.

  • http://blog.famillymoneyvalues.com/ Marie at FamilyMoneyValues

    Wow, I would never have considered any of these methods to make money (when I was young enough to do most of them). But, desperate circumstances call for desperate measures. If I had starving children I would probably do almost anything to care for them.

  • http://www.bargainbabe.com/ Yazmin

    I’m still pretty young and broke, but I wouldn’t consider most of these options to make money. I’ve seen people donate plasma (OUCH!). I don’t like needles. If I had to choose, then I’d donate plasma. You have to be careful with these options as many carry consequences. You could end up sick after participating in a medical study – after all you’re the guinea pig – and there goes the money. To each their own, I guess.

    • http://www.lillepunkin.com/ Melissa

      Yes, Yazmin, it is best to know what you are comfortable with. Not everyone should choose the invasive route, though their are some medical studies such as the sleep study one mentioned in the post that won’t have the potential for long-term repercussions.

  • Desiree

    When I was younger, I did the plasma centers. It wasn’t a big deal, since I’m not afraid of needles. In a way, it actually turned out to be a good thing in the long run. I became very aware of how critical it is to be a donaor and have since donated pints and pints of blood for free. I did a quick search of plasma centers in my area (the Greater Sacramento Area) and couldn’t find any that are still doing it on a paid basis.

    • http://www.lillepunkin.com/ Melissa

      Strangely, it seems that in some larger cities, it is hard to find plasma centers. You could try looking on Yelp. That is how we found one in our area.

  • Dan

    Sadly, most of these methods may have lasting detrimental consequences. Better to participate in consumer opinion focus groups or sign up with promotional marketing companies for contract work. Also sell items on eBay or used clothing stores.

    • http://www.lillepunkin.com/ Melissa

      Consumer opinion focus groups or non-invasive medical studies are great ways to make extra money, sometimes a few hundred dollars at a time.

  • http://twitter.com/MariedOnABudget Diane’n’David

    I sold my plasma while in grad school and it was nice to get paid $40 every week to sit there and study! :) Just make sure that the place is in a nice location… I did NOT sell my plasma in undergrad because the location was a really sketchy place.

    • http://www.lillepunkin.com/ Melissa

      Excellent point. You want to make sure it is a clean, professional location. The one I went to was immaculate (as it should be) and well-kept up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kristen-Kuchar/100002941222787 Kristen Kuchar

    The plasma idea sounds really interesting. Thanks for the tips!

  • http://www.lillepunkin.com/ Melissa

    Thanks for the additional info, Kira!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pamela-Kennedy/100001233602883 Pamela Kennedy

    You forgot something. To donate eggs women must be Caucasian or Asian. For the most part no other races need apply.

  • zesta

    I wish i were a few years younger, i’d be happy to donate an egg to help someone have a baby! I would’ve loved to have been a surrogate too, because I felt the best ever when i was pregnant. Now i’m a single mother of one and could use the money, but past the preferred age limit! Thanks for all the tips though!

  • lauren

    These are all great ideas and ive looked thoroughly for any paid plasma donation sites in massachusetts or NH area. can anyone help me out with any informationp

  • Paid Clinical Trials

    Not only you can make cash selling plasma, but you also make a difference in people’s lives.

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