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Congratulations, you’ve decided to become a doctor, perhaps the most noble of professions and certainly one of the most lucrative. While the rewards are great, the journey is long.
While some lucky students might receive scholarships or grants to pay for medical school, most doctors will rack up hundreds of thousands in student loan debt by the time they graduate.
The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that the average medical school debt balance for graduating students in 2018 was $196,520. Keep in mind that this number doesn’t account for any undergraduate student debt.
On this page:
- Average Medical School Debt
- Average Undergraduate Debt
- How Medical Students Can Take On Less Debt
- Average Cost of Medical School
- Average Physician Salaries
Average Medical School Debt
The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that the average medical school debt balance for graduating students in 2018 was $196,520.
Add that burden to their estimated undergraduate balance of around $25,000 and the total average student loan balance for a doctor is $221,500.
Average Undergraduate Debt
The average borrower who graduated in the Class of 2018 racked up $28,565 in student loans. That’s just the average, mind you. Students who attend expensive private colleges can easily rack up more than $75,000 in student debt before setting foot in medical school.
Your medical education begins in a four-year pre-med undergraduate program that emphasizes the sciences.
For the 2017-18 academic year, in-state colleges cost an average of $25,290 annually, whereas private college costs averaged $50,900.
A four-year undergraduate degree is going to cost between $100K and $200K on average, and considerably more if you attend a private school.
These costs include tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, personal expenses and transportation. Bear in mind that many colleges charge higher tuition for technical and scientific majors.
How Medical Students Can Take On Less Debt & Save on Debt
Medical school graduates have access to several programs that reduce their indebtedness.
Repayment Assistance Programs
At the federal level, there is the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program for doctors who serve at an approved Health Profession Shortage Area (HPSA). Two years of full-time service (32 hours per week) allows you to discharge up to $50,000 in loan repayments.
>> Read More: How to Pay Off Medical School Debt
Participants in the Students to Service Loan Repayment Program can earn up to $120,000 in the last year at medical school by committing to serve three years at an approved HPSA.
Other federal programs to reduce medical school debt include:
- Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness
- Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
- Army/Air Force Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program
- Army/Navy Healthcare Professions Loan Repayment Program
In addition, many states have loan forgiveness programs. For example, physicians participating in the Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment Program can discharge up to 20 percent of their qualified loan debt each year for serving between two and four years in an approved HPSA.
Refinancing Medical School Debt
Medical school graduates who are currently in residency or are already doctors have the option to refinance medical school debt to save on interest costs.
There are a few lenders who specifically offer refinancing programs for medical school graduates. These lenders typically have better rates, higher loan amounts, and don’t require full payments during residencies or fellowships.
Here are two top-rated lenders for refinancing medical school loans.
|Best for||Best overall||Best for refinancing during residency|
|Rates (APR)||3.21% – 6.67%||As low as 2.80%|
|Loan amounts||$5,000 – $500,000||$5,000 – Total outstanding loan balance|
|Benefit||Skip one payment per year without penalty||Pay as little as $100 a month during residency or fellowship|
Average Cost of Going to Medical School
In 2016, the average cost for a single year of attendance at a public medical school was $32,495. Tuition and fees at a private medical school averaged $52,515 a year, whether you’re an out-of-state or in-state student.
Of course, you must also add on room, board, books, transportation and all the other costs of living to get an idea of the all-in cost for a medical education. Many are forced to take on private student loans to cover the costs.
>>Read More: Best Medical School Loans
If you are looking for a relative bargain at a public medical school, the average annual tuition and fees among the 10 least expensive ones was $19,355. The best deal in the country went to Texas residents attending Texas A&M Health Science Center for a mere $16,432 a year. In fact, six of the 10 least expensive public medical schools for in-state students are in Texas.
Do your tastes run more towards private medical schools? The average tuition and fees among the 10 most affordable private medical schools in 2016 was $42,900. Once again, Texas led the way, with Baylor College of Medicine charging only $31,663. At the opposite end of the spectrum sat Columbia University’s medical school at $61,485.
Average Physician Salaries
A 2019 survey of salaries for physicians reported the median starting salaries of doctors overall as well as various specialties. Here are some of the findings:
- Primary Care Providers (in general): $237,000
- Specialists (in general): $341,000
- Orthopedics: $482,000
- Cardiology: $430,000
- Anesthesiology: $392,000
- General Surgery: $362,000
- Emergency Medicine: $353,000
- Family Medicine: $231,000
- Pediatrics: $225,000
Author: Jeff Gitlen