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
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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:
- East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine
- University of New Mexico School of Medicine
- Baylor College of Medicine
- Texas A&M College of Medicine
- Mayo Clinic School of Medicine
- Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine
- University of Central Florida School of Medicine
- David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA)
- University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
- University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
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.
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|0.99% – 11.98%1||Undergraduate|
|1.13% – 11.23%*,2||Undergraduate|
|0.99% – 11.44%3||Undergraduate|
|1.50% – 11.33%4||Undergraduate|
|1.12% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate|
|1.15% – 11.01%6||Undergraduate|
|3.80% – 9.36%8||Undergraduate|
|* 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.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust 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.
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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. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student 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 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
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Ascent loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs.
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5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 10.66% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.23% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 10.90% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.10% to 11.34% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.08% to 10.86% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.05% to 11.29% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 10.66% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.20% to 11.23% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (>www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.15% – 11.01% (1.15% – 10.24 APR)Fixed interest rates range from 4.18% – 11.70% (4.18% – 10.83% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 10.66% (1.89% – 10.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.64% – 11.23%% (4.64% – 10.95% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 9.22% (1.89% – 8.50% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.38% – 10.44% (4.38% – 9.72% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 8.02% (1.89% – 7.72% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.28% – 9.24% (4.28% – 8.94% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.97% – 7.06% (1.97% – 7.06% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.94% – 8.58% (4.94% – 8.58% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.44% – 9.58% (4.44% – 9.52% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.83% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.53% – 7.03% (3.53% – 6.76% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.98% – 10.09% APR).
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Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7 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.
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Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.