How Much do Clinical Trials Pay? Everything You Need to Know About Getting Paid For Clinical Trials

How much can you earn by participating in clinical trials? Read here about the factors that determine payment amounts and typical payment methods.

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Reviewed by Vanessa Zeilinger, PharmD

Published 20 December 2023

How much a clinical trial pays depends on various factors, such as the type of research being conducted, the location of the study, and the number of eligible participants available. Some trials offer compensation to participants for their time and effort, while others don't.

In this guide, we will explore the concept of being paid for clinical trials, the types of payments that might be offered, how payments are determined, but also the ethical implications that may arise.

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What are paid clinical trials?

Paid clinical trials are typically conducted by pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, or contract research organizations.

The trials are a vital step in testing new treatments or medications – evaluating their safety and effectiveness, or comparing them to existing therapies.

Do all clinical trials pay?

Not all clinical trials offer a payment, but some might provide non-monetary compensation, such as free medical care, or access to experimental treatments.

If you’re expecting some form of payment, make sure you review the trial information and speak with the recruiting staff before you volunteer for a clinical trial. This will ensure you have all the information about the type of payment being offered, the amount, and any other potential compensation.

Why are patients paid in clinical trials?

Some studies offer compensation to offset the potential burdens participants might experience, such as time away from work, the cost of transportation, or childcare.

Paying participants could improve trial diversity

Many clinical trials struggle to recruit a diverse range of participants, which could lead to disparities in healthcare outcomes. So offering a payment could potentially attract more individuals from underrepresented populations.

The ethical implications of paid participation

If you are considering taking part in a paid study, it is important to weigh the potential ethical implications carefully. While financial incentives may be attractive, some critics believe that financial incentives lead to individuals being used as a ‘means to an end’, rather than being treated with respect and dignity.

It is also important to consider whether the payment structure may create a conflict of interest that could compromise the integrity of the research. This could arise if volunteers are paid based on their study results, or are incentivized to remain in a clinical trial, even if they experience adverse effects.

In 2018, the FDA issued guidance regarding the payment and reimbursement of research subjects (Payment and Reimbursement to Research Subjects, FDA, Jan 2018). The guidance states, “Other than reimbursement for reasonable travel and lodging expenses, Institutional Review Boards should be sensitive to whether other aspects of proposed payment for participation could present an undue influence, thus interfering with the potential subjects’ ability to give voluntary informed consent.”

Be sure to thoroughly review the study's informed consent form and ask any questions you may have before deciding whether to participate.

How Much Do Clinical Trials Pay?

The rates paid for clinical trials vary significantly, and it’s worth bearing in mind that riskier studies don't always pay more.

The lower end of the payment spectrum for clinical trials can vary, with some studies offering only reimbursement for travel and expenses, while others provide a modest compensation of a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars for participation.

On the higher end, some clinical trials may offer payment in the tens of thousands of dollars for participation, particularly if the trial involves a high level of risk or requires a long-term commitment.

Determining compensation for clinical trials

How much a clinical trial pays is determined by the drug or device company sponsoring the research, which is then reviewed by an independent review board. The level of compensation depends on several factors.

Study duration

Longer studies may offer higher compensation than shorter studies due to participants being required to commit more time and effort.

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Learn more about the duration of clinical trials and what to expect in our detailed guide.

How Long Do Clinical Trials Take? Understanding Clinical Trial Timelines

Type of study

Phase 1 trials, which are the earliest stage of testing a new drug in humans, often involve healthy volunteers to test safety and dosages, and may offer higher compensation rates to encourage participation. In contrast, later phases of clinical trials typically involve testing the safety and efficacy of the drug in patients with the disease or condition that the drug is intended to treat and might offer lower compensation rates.

Level of risk

If a trial presents greater risks – such as potential side effects or adverse events – more compensation may be offered to participants.


Clinical trials conducted in areas with a higher cost of living may offer more compensation accordingly.

Supply and demand

If a trial requires a specific type of participant – such as individuals with a rare medical condition, certain age or gender – more compensation might be offered to attract enough volunteers.

Examples of lower-paying research studies

The following research studies tend to offer relatively modest levels of compensation.

Surveys and questionnaires

Some studies involve surveys, questionnaires, or interviews that are simple to complete, and as such, offer less compensation.

Non-invasive studies

Studies that don’t involve invasive or uncomfortable procedures may offer lower payments. These non-invasive studies might involve wearing a fitness tracker, providing a sample specimen, or assessing the effectiveness of medical packaging or instructions.

Healthy volunteer studies

If a study involves healthy participants only, it might be easier to recruit, resulting in less compensation.

Short studies

Some studies only require a few visits or a short-term commitment, and therefore, offer a lower level of compensation.

Examples of higher-paying research studies

Clinical trials offering relatively substantial compensation may involve more invasive, complicated, or lengthy procedures.

Studies involving invasive or uncomfortable procedures

When a clinical trial involves invasive or uncomfortable procedures – such as multiple blood draws or tissue biopsies – it might offer higher compensation to account for the added inconvenience or discomfort.

Studies involving rare diseases or conditions

Clinical trials that require participants with rare medical conditions or diseases may offer higher compensation to attract enough participants.

Studies involving healthy volunteers for quarantine studies

When healthy participants agree to be quarantined in a controlled setting, a higher level of compensation could be offered.

How are clinical trials paid and what types of payments are offered in clinical trials?

Four main compensation models structure how and when participants are compensated for clinical trials.

Market model

In the market model of payment for clinical trials, the rates of payment for participation can be influenced by the principles of supply and demand. When there is high demand for clinical trial participants due to factors such as the rarity of the condition being studied or the location of the trial, the payment offered may be higher in order to incentivize more people to participate.

Conversely, when there is low demand for participants, such as when a trial is studying a common condition or is located in a highly populated area, the payment offered may be lower.

Reimbursement model

The reimbursement model involves claiming expenses for costs such as gas, parking, lodging, and meals, and can sometimes include compensations for lost wages.

Wage-payment model

Participants can sometimes earn money per hour, or for reaching certain study milestones. This amount is often based on the time and effort required, with reasonable additions for risks and inconvenience.

Appreciation model

Some participants receive tokens of appreciation at the end of a study, such as small gifts, gift cards, or even thank you letters.

How to learn about compensation for a specific clinical trial

The research team should be able to provide details about the compensation being offered. At times, the maximum amount might not be disclosed until you’re accepted into the study, or until it has ended.

Compensation will also be covered as part of the informed consent process.

Should you sign up for a paid clinical trial?

There are many important factors to consider before you sign up for a paid clinical trial, such as the risks, the benefits, and the commitment involved.

Potential risks and benefits of participating in a paid clinical trial

Participating in clinical trials can be a hugely rewarding experience, helping advance medical discoveries that could help millions of people, potentially even yourself.

Some trials might even offer a thorough physical exam, alongside close medical monitoring and care.

However, the treatments or interventions being tested can come with potential risks. So it's important to review the informed consent document and speak with the clinical trial staff before you commit.


  • Access to new treatments and medications that are not yet available to the general public.
  • The opportunity to contribute to scientific research and potentially help others in the future.
  • Close monitoring of your health by medical professionals and access to specialized medical care during the trial.
  • Compensation for your time and effort, which can help offset expenses such as transportation and lodging.


  • Potential side effects or adverse reactions to the experimental treatment or medication.
  • Uncertainty about the effectiveness of the treatment being tested.
    The possibility of being assigned to a placebo group and not receiving any active treatment.
  • The risk of experiencing physical or emotional discomfort during the study procedures.
  • The possibility of the study not being successful and the treatment never becoming available to the public.

It is important to carefully weigh these potential risks and benefits before deciding to participate in a clinical trial. Additionally, it is essential to thoroughly review the study's informed consent form and ask any questions you may have before making a decision.

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Learn more about the potential risks and benefits of participating in clinical trials in our detailed guide.

Clinical Trial Benefits, Risks & Safety Considerations

The clinical trial compensation amount

Although a clinical trial may offer compensation, this shouldn’t be the sole reason for participating. But if it is a motivating factor, ensure you’re happy with what’s being offered.

How much time the trial will take from your everyday life

Clinical trials can require a significant time commitment, including regular appointments and follow-up visits. So consider whether you’re able to commit the necessary time and energy.

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Read more about how time consuming clinical trials may be in our detailed guide.

How Long Do Clinical Trials Take? Understanding Clinical Trial Timelines

The specific eligibility criteria

Most paid medical trials require you to meet specific requirements related to your age, your medical history, or your lifestyle. They may also have certain stipulations about how much you drink or smoke.

How many paid clinical research studies can I participate in?

There’s no restriction on the number of paid trials you can participate in, although individual studies may have their own rules on this. If asked, it’s important to fully disclose your history of volunteering.

Having a break between trials is generally recommended. The length of the break may depend on several factors, including the specific requirements of the study, the nature of the treatments or interventions being tested, and your overall health status.

Can I participate in more than one paid clinical trial at a time?

Some studies may have exclusivity criteria that prevent you from participating in more than one study simultaneously.

There’s also a risk that the different interventions being tested could have an adverse reaction to each other. As such, it may not be feasible, and isn’t normally advisable.

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Read more about participating in clinical trials in our comprehensive guide.

Everything You Need To Know About Participating In Clinical Trials

How to find a paid clinical trial

Paid studies can be difficult to find due to strict advertising guidelines and screening criteria around eligibility. However, there are a few ways to locate them.

Search clinical trial registries

Clinical trial registries, such as, are publicly accessible databases of studies, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Many trials don’t include compensation in their listing, so you’ll have to do a little research.

Contact local research institutions

Local universities or hospitals may be looking for paid clinical trial participants, so check their websites and social media pages, or contact them directly.

Use online resources

Various online resources list paid clinical trials, allowing you to search by location, medical condition, and other criteria.

Participate in patient communities

If you have a medical condition, online patient communities or support groups are a great resource and may share information about paid clinical trials.

Consult with your doctor

Your healthcare provider may be aware of paid clinical trials that are relevant to your medical condition or history.

What can I do with my clinical trial pay?

How you spend the compensation you receive is entirely your choice, and it will likely depend on your financial situation and priorities.

Cover your living expenses

The money from a clinical trial could help cover your living expenses, such as rent, utilities, groceries, or transportation. Or it could go towards outstanding debts to leave you in a more stable financial position.

Invest in your future

By contributing to a retirement account, or building an emergency fund, your clinical trial pay could be an investment in your future. You could also consider investing in stocks or bonds to potentially grow your wealth over time.

Donate to a worthy cause

If you're financially comfortable, you could make a charitable donation to a non-profit organization. You could even donate it to other medical research and clinical trials that need funding.


Clinical trials play a vital role in making new medical discoveries, and they can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Although money should never be your primary incentive for participating, it’s reasonable to expect that some will offer compensation.

Regardless of whether it's a paid opportunity, always research exactly what the trial involves before you volunteer.

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