5 Ways You Can Make Money as a Test Subject

A woman with electrodes on her head gets brain testing.
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What do your brains, your body, and your child’s toy box have in common? They can all score you extra cash! 

From market research to medical tests, being a test subject offers an opportunity for people young and old to fatten up their wallets with cash, checks and gift cards. If you’re willing to try a new product or experience and share your thoughts with its creators, you could give your bank account a boost in time for the holidays.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to make money as a test subject.

5 Ways to Make Money as a Test Subject

1. Sign Up for Medical Tests and Trials

If you don’t mind being poked and prodded, this may be a great gig for you. 

Be prepared to fill out lots of paperwork on your medical history, and in many cases, show proof to support what you’ve listed. This may include providing copies of your charts or having a physical or other tests done to determine if you qualify. 

Since criteria vary from test to test, your participation in one research study doesn’t guarantee you a slot in another study — in fact, it may even disqualify you! 

The National Institute of Health (NIH), which has nearly 3,500 volunteers participate in its studies each year, states that it “compensates study participants for their time and, in some instances, for the inconvenience of a procedure.” Time is compensated at a standard rate, while inconvenience rates vary. 

The NIH suggests that people interested in volunteering consider the risks and possible side effects of a study before taking part.

2. Participate in Psychological Research Studies

Looking for something less invasive? Consider participating in a psychological research study, where you can be paid per hour paid out in cash or gift cards. Rates can vary from $10 to $50 an hour to a flat rate for participation.

It’s not as scary as you might think. Many studies look for insights into human thought and behavior, including memory, decision making, learning and perception. 

But there are many others that study the overlap between psychology and market research. Yale’s SOM eLab, for example, explores a “wide range of academic studies on topics in individual decision making, including consumer goals and behavior, influences of marketing, interactions with culture and politics, health and public policies, and even moral and ethical issues.”

It’s no surprise that the best place to find opportunities like this is at a large university. Harvard, NYU, and the University of Maryland all boast outstanding psychology research programs. 

Don’t live near one of these schools? No worries. Some universities, like Stanford and Yale, allow online participation, and many use the same Sona system to register volunteers for their study pool.

Make sure to read the fine print before signing up. While many research studies pay via bank check, PayPal or gift cards, some simply enter you in a draw where you could potentially win money. Also, many universities offer class credit for participation, so you must select your “payment” carefully if you are looking to earn cash.

3. Share Your Thoughts Through Market Research

You know what they say about opinions, don’t you? Well, since “everybody’s got one,” why not start getting paid for yours? 

Since companies run off the basic principles of supply and demand, they want to hear from people like you to see what the market is demanding, so they can supply it. 

How does it work? Participants in focus groups earn money for giving their honest feedback, often in the form of a survey or group discussion.

Participation in these focus groups is based largely on your demographics. When you sign up for a research group’s database, you’ll answer a number of questions to determine which studies you qualify for. 

Ready to try a focus group? Some companies to contact include 20|20 Panel, Focuscope, Inc., MindSwarms (online participation), Mediabarn Research, and Shugoll Research.

4. Get Your Kids Involved as Toy Testers

If you’re toying around with the idea of market research, why not get your kids in on the action?

If you live near El Segundo, California, the Mattel Imagination Center is a great option for kids (typically ages 3-13) to test out toys in exchange for a toy and/or a gift card. (Parents will also receive a gift card.) 

Hasbro also has a toy-testing program listed on their FAQ page, or you can see if their Fun Lab in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is recruiting.

The best way to get your family involved in one of these opportunities is by following the toy company’s social media feeds. As you might imagine, people don’t “play around” when it comes to toy testing; the competition can be tough. Often, the companies hold contests and select new testers from the pool of entrants.

5. Get Paid for Jury Duty as Part of a Mock Trial

Another way your opinion can earn you some extra money is by being a surrogate juror. If you meet the requirements for regular jury duty, attorneys in your county or federal district may pay you to review a case and give feedback.

Check out opportunities to participate in mock trials in person through companies such as Sign Up Direct or online through sites like Online Verdict.

And the best news? According to Steve Gillman, who made $150 by spending a day participating in a mock trial, they tend to pay you (and feed you) better than actual jury duty. How much better? Depending on how complicated the case is, you can expect to make $20 to $60 per hour.

Leah Thayer is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.