What Is the Average Medical School Debt?

If you're thinking about going to medical school, one of the most substantial considerations is paying for it. This article breaks down the average medical school debt.

Medical school can open up a lot of opportunities for students interested in entering one of many health professions. But the cost of getting through college is incredibly expensive. 

According to the Association of American Colleges (AAMC), the average medical school debt is $201,490. Of course, graduating as a doctor of medicine provides you with lucrative career options, but medical school debt can still feel crippling. 


Average medical school debt

Nearly three-quarters of medical school graduates have student loan debt, according to the AAMC. While the average is $201,490, 18% of graduates have doctor student loans amounting to $300,000 or more.

Unsurprisingly, the largest chunk of that comes from medical school. The median student loan debt med school graduates have from their premedical education amounts to just $25,000.

Here's how the average med school debt compares to other educational options in the health profession:

  • Associate Degree Nursing: $19,928
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing: $23,711
  • Master of Science in Nursing: $47,321 
  • Master of Business Administration degree: $66,300
  • Doctor of Pharmacy: $179,514
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine: $183,302

The reason the average doctor debt is so high is because of the cost of medical school. The median cost of attendance per year, according to the AAMC, is $86,356. Over four years, the median is $337,584.


Average salary as a medical school graduate

While getting through medical school can be a grueling and expensive process, the career itself can be incredibly rewarding — both in terms of helping people and a tidy salary.

Here are just a few examples of what you can expect to earn, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Career

Median annual salary

Anesthesiologist

$267,020

Physician or surgeon

$208,000

Pediatrician

$184,570

Podiatrist

$134,300

Physician assistant

$115,390



Is medical school worth it?

Medical school isn't for everyone. The process is long and, at times, taxing. There's also no guarantee that, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a degree, that you'll be able to get a good enough job to make your monthly payments.

Also, while the above salaries are medians for their respective fields, you can generally expect to earn much less when you're just starting out.

So is it worth it to take on medical school debt? It really depends on what you want for your career. If you're passionate about helping others in the medical field, the process and cost of getting through medical school can be well worth it.

However, it's a good idea to take some time before you enter medical school to determine if it's right for you. Consider speaking with others in the field and talk about your ambitions and concerns. Someone with a good handle on the experience can help you determine the right path for you.


How to pay for medical school

If you're concerned about figuring out how to pay for medical school without taking on too much debt, it's important to understand all of your options:

  • School-specific financial aid: While most medical schools typically don't offer merit-based scholarships, they do offer financial aid based on need. Reach out to your school's financial aid office to talk about your options for getting help paying for school. 
  • Other scholarships: Depending on your career path, you may be able to obtain other types of scholarships. For example, branches of the armed forces offer scholarships in exchange for a commitment to serve as a military doctor. You may also be able to get a scholarship from the National Health Service Corps if you agree to work in a medically underserved area for a predetermined period. Also, search scholarship databases at websites like Scholarships.com and Fastweb to find opportunities from private organizations.
  • Get a part-time job: A lot of medical schools offer teaching and research assistant jobs to students where you can assist professors with various duties. In return, you can earn tuition credits. This option typically requires some experience, so you may have a hard time getting such a gig as a first-year student. But if you can make it work with your course load, you could knock off tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your time in school.
  • Federal student loans: Federal student loans are often preferable to private loans because they offer access to income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness programs and other benefits. That said, Direct Unsubsidized Loans limit how much you can borrow, and Direct PLUS Loans can be expensive, so carefully consider all of your options before you apply.
  • Private student loans: Private student loans may not offer all of the same benefits as federal student loans, but depending on your credit score and finances, you may be able to score a lower interest rate than you would with federal loans. Juno can help with that by negotiating with lenders on your behalf to get you exclusive rates and discounts. We also offer a price match guarantee in the event that you can find a better deal elsewhere. Juno graduate loans don't require a credit check to get started, and the negotiation is free.


The bottom line

If you're thinking about going to medical school, it's important to know what you're getting yourself into. While you can earn serious money in the medical field, the education it requires to get there is very expensive. 

As a result, it's important to carefully consider all of your options before deciding to attend medical school. If you've determined that it's the right fit for you, apply to multiple schools, so you can choose the one that will offer the best value for your money.

Then, look at all of your options to pay for your education. While student loans can be easy to obtain, consider other options that you don't have to repay first.

Ultimately, the important thing is that you plan in advance for what you're going to experience and look for opportunities to maximize the value of your education at the lowest possible cost.


Ben Luthi
Written By
Ben Luthi

Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer based in Salt Lake City, UT. He loves helping people better understand their finances. When he's not traveling, Ben enjoys spending time with his kids, hiking, and watching films. His work has been featured in U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, MarketWatch, Fox Business, and many other publications.

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