Written by: Corey Janoff
This post was originally published in December, 2019, and has since been revised and updated.
As a medical student, any extra cash you can bring in will go a long way. You and your peers are all living on essentially zero income – student loans, scholarships, or parents are funding your school and housing costs. Beer money is at a premium. But in all seriousness, if you can bring in some extra cash, that will help keep your credit card balances to a minimum, pay for conferences, interviews/residency applications, and potentially reduce the amount of student loans you need to borrow. This week we will look at 11 side hustles for med students who want to make money while in medical school.
Before we dive in, I understand that time is a limited commodity during these years (and every year from here on out). Depending on the curriculum, specialty you are hoping to pursue, rotations, your need to study, etc., some of these side hustles will be more feasible than others. This list is also not absolute – there are endless ways to make some money on the side from odd jobs and what not. Tap into your skillset and see what you can make of it. Here is a list of jobs for medical students:
As a medical student, you are a highly qualified learner. Most people assume if you can get into medical school, you must be really smart and good at school. There is a huge demand for tutors in this country and you can make a lot of money doing it. You could make $100 or more an hour tutoring college kids on how to study for the MCATs.
Find local schools and libraries in your area and start advertising your services and what subjects you can tutor. You could also tutor your fellow classmates in your medical school!
You can contract through an education company and they will connect you with people who are seeking tutors. It’s all done online, and you are (mostly) assured to get paid as these companies charge the pupils up front. The education company acts as a middleman and the amount you receive will likely be less than if you work directly with someone. However, you can set your availability and they will fill your schedule, which outsources a lot of the effort of getting customers.
I met with a gentleman once who started tutoring in medical school and it was so lucrative for him that he didn’t even bother going to residency. After he graduated medical school, he started a tutoring company and now tutors pre-med and medical students full time. He makes as much money as many primary care doctors out there and he doesn’t have to take call!
#2. Work as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
I know several people who worked as EMT’s while in medical school. One guy got a real thrill out of driving an ambulance! This is a great way to apply your knowledge and gain experience. Want to go into emergency medicine or trauma? Working as an EMT is a good place to start.
It is usually beneficial to gain experience in a field that is like the one you are pursuing. Also, you will gain an understanding of what the first responders go through before the patients are brought to the hospital.
Like tutoring, hours can be somewhat flexible too. You will likely need to commit to some sort of set schedule, but it can be built around your classes and rotations.
A phlebotomist is someone who draws blood. No, you do not need to be a doctor or registered nurse in order to do this job. You could work in the lab at your teaching hospital or one nearby.
There is also an entire industry of mobile phlebotomists who travel to patients houses to draw blood. This is primarily fueled by life and disability insurance companies needing blood and urine samples as part of their medical underwriting process. Insurance companies want to make it as easy as possible for potential policyholders to buy a policy. Rather than making the applicant trek down to the local hospital or lab to draw blood, they come to you.
Due to industry regulations, insurance companies need an independent party to do these blood draws. There are a number of independent mobile phlebotomy companies that hire independent contractors to do their exams.
You can set your schedule and decide what days/hours you want to work. The company you contract with will give you a list of names of people in your area that need blood draws and you coordinate with them a convenient time to meet and complete the exam/blood draw. You are paid per exam, so you can do as many or as few as you want. For a medical student, this can be great, because you can work evenings, early mornings, and weekends, which is precisely when most people want to schedule their insurance exams, so they don’t have to take time away from work.
#4. Medical Scribe
This one may not be quite as flexible as some of the others, as you must shadow an attending physician around and take notes and enter them into the EMR’s. You can only do this during the hours the doctor is seeing patients, which may conflict with your schedule. Also, the attending doctors may want someone who can commit to the hours they are seeing patients. If you can find an attending whose schedule aligns well with yours, at least for a half-day a week, then you may be in luck.
Many schools have built in days/hours for students to shadow doctors in practice, so this could be a way to kill two birds with one stone and make a couple bucks.
#5 Medical Research Assistant
Odds are your medical school is part of an academic research institution. There are many academic physicians engaging in research projects that they need help with. You could potentially work with one of them as a research assistant and get paid to do so.
Depending on the project and the doctor in charge, hours could be flexible. However, depending on the research project, it could be pretty demanding, so you’ll want to figure out the necessary commitment ahead of time.
#6 Sell Your Body and Mind to Science
If you are unable to work as a research assistant, you could work as the subject of said research! Many of these projects need volunteers they can poke and prod and whatnot and will compensate the volunteers for their time. This can be a great way for a medical student to make some extra cash on the side without having to commit to an ongoing work schedule.
#7 Donate Plasma/Sperm
When I was doing some light research for this post, donating plasma was one of the most common ways I found for how to make money while in medical school. Some students go in twice a week and can make some decent money for the minimal effort. It takes about an hour and a half and companies will pay between $20-50 per donation. That’s a pretty good hourly wage for kicking back and scrolling through Instagram or reading a book. Do that twice a week and you could make several hundred dollars per month donating plasma!
For the men out there, you could also donate sperm. As a future doctor, your sperm is worth more than the sperm from say, the guy who drives a garbage truck. You could potentially make $500-1,000/month if you do it regularly. Just avoid doing 23andMe and AncestryDNA unless you want to be connected with all of your biological offspring one day.
Women could donate eggs, although that is a little more invasive than sperm donations, yet you are compensated considerably more. A typical egg donation could fetch you around $10,000 – again, as a prospective physician, you can likely sell your eggs at a premium and potentially make more than that. Some people will pay upwards of $50,000 for those future MD eggs.
For the women out there who have already had a child, you could consider being a surrogate. Definitely not for everyone, but the average compensation for a first-time surrogate is $25,000.
#8. Participate in Focus Groups or Surveys
Similar to selling your body to science, you could be a guinea pig in a focus group. Companies are gathering small groups of people every day to ask them questions and brainstorm ideas for potential products they are working on. If your interests, hobbies, profile, etc. meet the requirements, you could make a regular habit of participating in focus groups and make some decent money for your time. It’s not crazy to make a couple hundred dollars for a few hours of time.
You could also complete online surveys. Same criteria, if you fit the bill of people a company is looking for, you can do a short (or long) survey during your free time and make some money in the process. You might get a $20 Amazon gift card for completing a 15-minute survey. You’re not going to drop out of medical school and do this full time, but it is a good way to make some quick cash.
#9. Drive for Uber/Lyft/GrubHub
This list is in no particular order, but if it was, driving for Uber and Lyft should be placed towards the top. Delivering food via GrubHub, Postmates, UberEats, Door Dash, or one of the other food delivery services works too. This is a great way to make some extra cash during your free time, literally any hour of the day or night. You control your schedule and decide when you want to work. It is also a good way to meet new people, engage in fun conversation, and get to learn the streets of your city like the back of your hand.
Assuming you have a car in medical school, you can turn on the Uber/Lyft/etc. apps whenever you feel like driving some people or food around to earn some extra money.
#10. Property Management/Landlord
Not sure why I added this one here, because it is one of those jobs that probably requires you to know someone or do some advance planning in order to land this position. You could potentially live rent free and work as the property manager or landlord of the apartment complex you live in. Sure, you’ll occasionally have to deal with a broken appliance or clogged toilet, and you’ll have to ensure people pay their rent on time. But you may only have to “work” for a handful of hours per month and possibly get a free place to live out of the deal. Not too shabby.
#11. Traditional Student Side Gigs (Babysitting/Bartending/Waiting Tables)
There are plenty of other jobs you can undertake in while in medical school to bring in some extra money. Babysitting is an easy one and you can study your textbooks after the kids are in bed.
Depending on coursework and the flexibility of the employer, you could potentially bartend or wait tables one or two nights a week. This was less viable during the pandemic, but as places open up more, there are more opportunities.
You could also do random things like buy stuff at Goodwill and sell them at a premium on Ebay. I know someone who buys dull lawnmower blades, sharpens them up, and sells them for about ten times what he paid. He does the same thing with old baseball gloves. He’ll buy gloves at Goodwill for $2, cleans them up, puts some leather conditioner on them, makes them look nicer and resells them for $20-30.
You could work as a handyman. All of those new students need someone to help build their Ikea furniture when they move in freshman year. If you’re able to build stuff and fix things, you could be the go-to person in your class to hire when someone needs something taken care of.
The possibilities are endless. Any extra money you can bring in during medical school will help you scrape by during these intense years and help you get to the next chapter.