Is Medical School Worth It? 4 Questions to Ask Before Deciding

 January 30, 2020
How Student Loan Hero Gets Paid

How Student Loan Hero Gets Paid

Student Loan Hero is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). Student Loan Hero does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero is an advertising-supported comparison service. The site features products from our partners as well as institutions which are not advertising partners. While we make an effort to include the best deals available to the general public, we make no warranty that such information represents all available products.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

cost of medical school
Logo

We’ve got your back! Student Loan Hero is a completely free website 100% focused on helping student loan borrowers get the answers they need. Read more

How do we make money? It’s actually pretty simple. If you choose to check out and become a customer of any of the loan providers featured on our site, we get compensated for sending you their way. This helps pay for our amazing staff of writers (many of which are paying back student loans of their own!).

Bottom line: We’re here for you. So please learn all you can, email us with any questions, and feel free to visit or not visit any of the loan providers on our site. Read less

Becoming a physician is a rewarding career path that can literally be a life-saving profession. However, the mental and physical demands of the job coupled with the likelihood of shouldering six-figure student loan debt may have you questioning, “Is medical school worth it?” Here’s what you need to know to know about costs and average medical school debt before making a decision.

Is medical school worth it? Pros and cons
What is the cost of medical school?
How long does medical school take?
How hard is it to get into medical school?
What are the top medical schools?
How to pay medical school student loans

Is medical school worth it? Pros and cons

Pros Cons
High earning potential (in the six figures) Expensive education
Possible eligibility for loan forgiveness High student loan debt
In-demand job outlook Competitive application process
Fulfilling career path Challenging work-life balance

What is the cost of medical school?

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average cost of medical school for the 2019-2020 academic year for first-year students is $32,520 at a public institution. This is for in-state residents; non-resident first-year students can expect to pay an average of $56,284 to attend a public medical school.

Private medical schools are more expensive across the board for residents and non-residents alike. The AAMC reports that 2019-2020 average medical school tuition at a private institution is $55,337 for first-year students who are residents and $56,831 for first-year students who are non-residents.

These med school tuition figures don’t include student fees and health insurance, which can increase yearly admission costs by several thousand dollars.

Additionally, the AAMC states that students are required to earn a bachelor’s degree, which is typically a four-year degree, before entering a medical school program. According to the College Board, the average cost for an in-state student to attend a public four-year college and live on campus is $26,590. A four-year private education with on-campus housing averages around $53,980.

In total, including the cost of an undergraduate degree, paying for medical school can cost you anywhere from $236,000 to nearly $500,000, depending on the school you attend, your residency status and other factors. This estimate also doesn’t include other expenses you may incur during your medical school career, like textbooks, housing and other living expenses.

Paying for medical school costs

Although financial aid, such as scholarships and grants, can help cover some costs, 75% of medical students rely on student loans to help pay for medical school, according to the AAMC. If you need to take out student loans, you can choose to take out federal student loans along your journey through medical school.

Keep in mind, however, that the aggregate subsidized and unsubsidized federal loan limit you can borrow as a graduate student is $138,500. This includes your undergraduate federal loans. You’ll likely need to take out private student loans to cover the remaining costs, if you don’t have this cash on-hand. When taking out student loans — whether federal or private loans — factor in the interest costs for each loan to get the full scope of your out-the-door medical school loan cost.

The AAMC’s latest data found that medical school graduates left school with a median debt of $200,000, with 0.50% of students carrying debt over $500,000.

How long does medical school take?

A medical school program typically takes four years, but that doesn’t cover the entirety of how many years it takes to become a doctor. First, you’ll need to complete a four-year, pre-med curriculum to obtain your bachelor’s degree. Then, you’ll undergo another four years in your chosen med school program, followed by another three to eight years in residency to train in a specialty. In total, pursuing an education and career in medicine can take 11 to 16 years to complete.

There’s also the option to apply to a post-baccalaureate premedical program as extra prep before applying to medical school. These programs typically take one to two years to complete and are meant to help position you as a stronger candidate for medical school. Of course, with additional coursework, comes additional tuition costs along the road to becoming a physician.

How hard is it to get into medical school?

Getting into med is notoriously difficult. The acceptance rate for Harvard Medical School’s entering 2019 students was just 3.3%, for example, and completing the medical school application is an intricate process in and of itself. The course requirements vary between med school programs. For example, one program may expect a certain amount of laboratory experience, while another program may put a greater emphasis on specific courses completed.

Generally, medical school applicants need to have taken a year of biology, a year of English and two years of chemistry, in addition to demonstrating multiple core competencies, like critical thinking, human behavior, oral communication and ethical standards.

Aside from submitting transcripts of your coursework to your desired programs, you’ll need to describe your extracurricular activities, work experience, awards and certificates, and list your MCAT exam scores. Additionally, you’ll need to write a personal essay and obtain letters of recommendation to submit with your medical school applications.

What are the top medical schools?

With so much money invested in preparing and attending med school, there’s a lot at stake when it comes to choosing the right program. To make the most of your investment without taking on more debt than necessary, you’ll want to know where to find the most affordable top medical schools in the U.S.

In Student Loan Hero’s 2018 medical school study, we ranked the cheapest medical schools based on how much debt graduates had after their program; the cost of in-state, full-time annual tuition; and how many students received financial aid. Here are the top 10 results from our ranking:

  1. East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine
  2. University of New Mexico School of Medicine
  3. Baylor College of Medicine
  4. Texas A&M College of Medicine
  5. Mayo Clinic School of Medicine
  6. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine
  7. University of Central Florida School of Medicine
  8. David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California – ​Los Angeles (UCLA)
  9. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
  10. University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

How to pay medical school student loans

Although the cost of becoming a doctor is shocking, leveraging financial aid opportunities can make medical school worth it. You can find various medical school scholarship opportunities directly through your medical program or school, or through scholarship and grant websites, like Fastweb.

There are also federal service programs that can cover a significant portion of your medical education costs. The Health Resources & Services Administration, for example, offers a handful of loan repayment programs, if you meet eligibility requirements.

Another option for physicians with high federal student loan debt is pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). To be eligible, you’ll need to work full-time for a government organization or nonprofit, and make 120 qualifying student loan payments under an income-driven repayment plan. Afterward, your remaining federal loan balance may be forgiven, tax-free.

If working in the public sector doesn’t appeal to you, you can also pursue federal student loan forgiveness through an income-driven repayment plan. Under an income-driven repayment plan, your monthly payments are reduced based on your income. Depending on the plan you choose, you’ll need to make payments for 20 or 25 years. Any remaining balance after that time is forgiven, but unlike PSLF, you’ll be taxed on the forgiven amount so it’s wise to prepare for that expense.

Without help in the form of scholarships, grants, and student loans, paying for medical school is challenging. By selecting an affordable school from the beginning and being open to loan repayment program opportunities, you can minimize the financial impact of medical school debt while benefiting from this lucrative and rewarding career path.

Miranda Marquit contributed to this report.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2022!
LenderVariable APREligibility 
2.49% – 13.85%1Undergraduate
Graduate

Visit College Ave

2.55% – 11.44%2Undergraduate
Graduate

Visit Earnest

3.25% – 13.59%3Undergraduate
Graduate

Visit SallieMae

0.00% – 23.00%4Undergraduate
Graduate

Visit Edly

3.25% – 9.69%6Undergraduate
Graduate

VISIT CITIZENS

N/A6Undergraduate
Graduate

Visit FundingU

* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.

1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

  1. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
     
  2. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
     
  3. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 9/15/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.47% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 2.80% APR to 11.69% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.


3 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

4 Important Disclosures for Edly.

Edly Disclosures

1. Loan Example:

  • Loans from $5,000 – $20,000
  • Example: $10,000 IBR Loan with a 7% gross income payment percentage for a Senior student making $65,000 annually throughout the life of the loan.
    • Payments deferred for the first 12 months during final year of education.
    • After which, $270 Monthly payment for 12 months.
    • Then $379 Monthly payment for 44 months.
    • Followed by one final payment of $137 for a total of $20,610 paid over the life of the loan.

About this example

The initial payment schedule is set upon receiving final terms and upon confirmation by your school of the loan amount. You may repay this loan at any time by paying an effective APR of 23%. The maximum amount you will pay is $22,500 (not including Late Fees and Returned Check Fees, if any). The maximum number of regularly scheduled payments you will make is 60. You will not pay more than 23% APR. No payment is required if your gross earned income is below $30,000 annually or if you lose your job and cannot find employment.

2. Edly Student IBR Loans are unsecured personal student loans issued by FinWise Bank, a Utah chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to eligibility criteria and review of creditworthiness and history. Terms and conditions apply.


5 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  • Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of September 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 2.23%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.
  • Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
  • Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates are only available for the most creditworthy applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate or medical degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

     

    Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.25%-10.35% (3.25% – 9.69% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.24% – 10.59% (4.24% – 9.93% APR). 

    Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.90% (3.75% – 9.68% APR). Fixed interest rates range from  5.22% – 10.14% (5.22% – 9.91% APR). 

    Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.35% (3.75% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.20% – 9.59% (5.20% – 9.39% APR).

    Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.75%-9.02% (3.75% -8.98% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.18% – 9.26% (5.18% – 9.22% APR). 

    Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.25%-9.21% (3.25% – 9.21% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.96%-9.50% (3.96%-9.50% APR).

    Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.58%-11.72% (6.58% – 11.62% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.82% APR). 

    Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 5.67%-9.17% (5.67% – 8.76% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.08% APR).


6 Important Disclosures for Funding U.

Funding U Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.