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Abbott Clinical Research

Spaulding Clinical

Doing Clinical Research Studies for a Living

Qualifications | About Clinical Research | Types Of Studies | Signing Up | Clinic Screening | Checking In

During The Study | After The Study | Making A Living

The Basics:

For some people, doing studies is a way to earn some extra money here and there to take a vacation or repair their car. 

But for others, doing studies is a way to earn a living.

Before you decide to quit your job and jump on the study wagon, you should know a few things about the lifestyle of a professional lab rat. 


What You Could Make In A Year:

The amount you can make a year varies greatly and is dependent on many factors.  Depending on how long your studies are and how long it takes to get into your next study, you can usually do 6 to 8 studies a year.  Some years you might score a big study and other years you just have to take what's available. 


How To Do It:

In order to screen for and complete the amount of studies you need to make a living, you must be on top of things. 

Once you get into a study, you need to start looking for your next study. 

You should screen for your next study midway through your 30 day washout period. 

Under ideal circumstances, you should schedule your next study as close to 30 days from the completion of your last study. 

But never less than 30 days. 

However, there will be times when this won't work out. 

Sometimes you will have longer periods of time between studies than you want. 

This may result in less studies for the year. 


It is important to keep in mind that you will not always get into every study you try out for. 

There will be times when you are a backup and your not used. 

There will be times when you just don't qualify for the study after screening for whatever reason. 

There will be holidays, family vacations and other factors that will limit your schedule and ability to do studies. 


You must be willing to travel when good studies are not available at your preferred (local) clinic.  This means extra expenses (though tax deductible) and extra risk since you don't get paid for screenings or extra for traveling.  You may hear about a screening today and have to catch the first flight out tomorrow to make the screening.  And sometimes you'll find out the study has been cancelled enroute.  These are the perils of traveling but sometimes you may have no choice. 


You must be able to deal with disappointment.  Occasionally, studies get postponed or even cancelled.  Nothing is guaranteed.  One day your set to check into a study and the next day your standing in line for a free Grand Slam at Denny's. 


When your not doing a study, you should think about working.  Many people I know have jobs that allow them to knock off for 2 or 3 weeks.  Worst case you can work at day-labor halls, scrounge jobs off craigslist or get work from temp agencies.  Bottom line is that you want to keep busy outside of studies, otherwise you'll just spend money all day. 


The Study Year:

Most new studies start between the 1st and 2nd week of January.

Nearly all clinics close down for Thanksgiving and thus do not schedule studies to start or end during that time, though there have been studies that have gone through Thanksgiving. 

Nearly all clinics close down for Christmas and thus do not schedule studies to start or end during that time. 

Most clinics do not have studies scheduled from Christmas to the 1st or 2nd week of January.  Some may have multi-stay studies scheduled during that time, but most will not start new studies. 

However, most clinics do conduct screenings during this time. 


How It Works For Me:

This is my eighth full year doing studies and it's been a a decent year so far. In the eight years that I have been doing studies, I have spend an average of 108 nights a year in-house, have had over 1500 blood draws, taken over 750 pills and make an average of $13.68 an hour based on a normal 40 hour a week job.  Unfortunately, I spend about as much as I make so that's bad! 


Exit Strategy:

At some point, your either going to not like doing studies anymore or you will no longer be eligible to do studies.  Sometimes you'll just hit a wall where you just don't want to do studies anymore. 

Also, age is a factor.  The main age cut-offs are:

   45 for most studies

   55 for many studies

   65 for some studies

   After 65, healthy Phase I studies will be limited but they do occur!


You should be prepared for this by putting away some of the money you earn.  You may also consider using the time to learn new skills and eventually start your own business.  Many people attend college, first time or going back. 

The Downside:

As mentioned earlier, there are no guarantees for getting into studies.  You might have a good run and get into several studies in a row and you might have a bad run where you can't get into a study for the love of the world.  Make sure when your ahead to pay extra months on your bills because the clinics don't admit people based on desperation, only their lab results. 


Another downside is that after doing studies for awhile, you won't have a work history so this can make it difficult to find a job when you decide to quite doing studies.  Many volunteers have part time jobs on the side so that would be highly recommended if you have the time. 


More Resources On This Site:

Now that you know more about the clinical research process, you probably want to know what to do next. 

Find a Healthy Clinic near you

Find a Patient Clinic near you

Find out more about the blood tests, Urinalysis and other tests

Get some tips


Or return to the main page


Links To Outside Sites:

These sites may offer you additional information and resources related to clinical research.  These sites may not represent the sentiments of Just Another Lab Rat!


Wired Magazine 'Drug test cowboys' This was an article in the magazine "Wired".  Not my favorite but I'll link it anyways. 
Guinea Pig Zero A journal for Human Research Subjects
Clinical Connection Another site about clinical research
Clinicaltrials.gov A Searchable database of studies going around the US
FDA Clinical Research Info From the FDA's website, some info about clinical research and other related topics
Drug Me, Pay Me Mini video documentary about volunteering for research
Epocrates Drug information program for PDA's and Iphone/Itouch / Android































Abbott Clinical Research

Spaulding Clinical


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