Reader Tip: Earn cash by participating in university studies

Nicole emailed in the following tip:

Do you live near a university? Then you might have a way to earn spare cash! If it’s a university that conducts social or scientific research, you can often qualify for paid participation in their studies.

The university near us conducts several studies each semester and posts details of them online in the search for participants. Some of these studies can pay quite well; my sister is participating in one about diet that will pay her $350 at the conclusion of the study!

If you’ve got a university near you, here are the things to keep in mind when finding and trying for a research study:

1. Go to your university’s webpage and run a search for “paid research study.” Or do the same with Google, using the name of your university.

2. Read the guidelines listed carefully; many studies have specific parameters so you might not qualify.

3. Realize that not all studies are created equal. Make sure the amount of effort you need to put forth is worth the payout.

4.  Each study has a contact email address listed. When you write them, keep your e-mail brief and to the point. Let them know you’re interested in more information and you believe you qualify. Sometimes studies fill up rather quickly, so you could ask if there are any other studies coming up soon that you might be qualified for.

5. Most of the time you will be paid only after you have completed your participation requirements. Keep this in mind when thinking about your payment; it will help towards building a savings goal or giving you spare cash, but it probably shouldn’t be counted for helping to pay a bill due that week.

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  1. Diane says

    My infant was in a study, it was fun. I think it paid 8 dollars hour but I was really just trying to help the department with research since it can be hard to find subjects, especially babies and it was with a former professor of mine.

  2. joanna says

    i did a sleep study for hershey medical center in hershey, pa. it was interesting for me, helped them w/ their research, & @ the same time, helped provide extra income for me.

  3. Katie says

    Also, if you happen to have twins, there are a lot more options available. :) They’re non-invasive (recording language development, etc.), and while they don’t pay much, they do occasionally pay, and it does help the progress of research. Twins are especially helpful in the nurture / nature debate regarding disease.

  4. cheryl says

    About 4 months ago, I completed a study at a doctor’s office for medication for a skin condition I have. I earned $2100 for doing almost nothing – just put a cream on my face and evaluate my skin at the end of each day for 6 weeks. I had to visit the doctor’s office 6 days during that period. 3 were quick 20 minute visits and 3 were where I had to be checked by the doctor every 3 hours over a 12-hr period. I lived too far to go home between visits so I made a fun day of it, watching movies, shopping, talking long walks, etc. Very easy money. Sadly I had the placebo but saw others where it really worked.

  5. Shari says

    My 2 year old and I participated in one just recently. It was a lot of fun and very interesting to see what they wanted to know about 2 year olds. It was only 2 three hour sessions and we got a set amount at the end. They even paid mileage for the one session at the college. The best part was that the timing was perfect for using the extra money to pay for little league for some of my older kids.

  6. Jen says

    My son is currently participating in a speech study at our local University. He loves going and the graduate students really make it fun for him. In my experience, for the studies with children we get paid a set amount each session, plus they give the child a small toy each visit. He really likes this study because he’s been getting small Lego sets each time!

  7. Beth says

    We do this often at our local university. I have a 9 month old who just began participating, as well as a two year old that has done several studies in the last year and a half. We aren’t paid at all, but the girls receive a small gift — a toy, a book, or a t-shirt — at the end. They are studying language development and it is really interesting!

  8. Jodi says

    Keep in mind that the pay that is received for doing these paid research studies may be considered taxable income. I just checked on the website for paid research studies at the university in my city and found out that the pay would be considered taxable income and that before receiving payment, one would have to fill out the proper tax forms.

  9. says

    I always wondered how to find these. It would have been really great when I lived in our college’s town and was not working. Now I have kids and live 30 minutes away. Still, I will keep looking to see if anything might work. I will definantly keep this is mind for those days when I am “in town” with nothing to do for a few hours.

  10. says

    Try the education department too – sometimes they are looking for reading intervention, or studies on certain educational approaches and a whole variety of other things. Some are one hour interviews, some are longer studies. The one hour interviews are usually very convenient for the study participant, though they don’t pay very well.

    No matter what the study, check to see how they’re paying you. Sometimes you will get a gift card rather than cash/check/pre-paid debit. While I haven’t done them myself, I have a friend who does almost any study who pays with a Starbucks gift card – feeds her coffee habit for very little! :)


  11. says

    Thank you so much for this tip! I never even considered this! A friend of mine is struggling financially because he has epilepsy and no one will hire him. I can’t wait to talk to him about the idea!

  12. Amity says

    I did a study a couple of years ago because I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant. I cant recall how much I got paid but I had to wear one of those monitors that counts your steps and upload it once a week. The purpose of the study was to find why people who get gestational diabetes are more prone to getting it later on in life. I was contacted by the universtiy who got my information from our insurance company (because I said it was ok to share certain information). It was very interesting to be apart of and I hope to someday see the results from it.

  13. Bethany M says

    Ha! Just looked at my local U and found the only study I’m able to participate in involves 4 pelvic exams….nah!

  14. Pam says

    Be careful on what you agree to. I took a non paying medical survey that lasted for years. I put an end to it after years of lengthly phone interviews which included intrusive questions, sending medical records, and digging up medical information on family members. They asked medical questions about all 12 of my father’s brothers and sisters and all 8 of my mothers family as well as my 4 siblings. Some of them did not want to release their medical info and I don’t blame them. I was never did figure out what they were looking at but as you can imagine with a family this large there have been a few repeated medical problems through out.

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