Updated July 6, 2018

Average Medical School Debt May Surprise You

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75% of medical students graduate with debt. What's worse? 4 of 5 grads have loans over $100,000. Read on for more alarming stats about medical school debt and some ways to ease your burden.

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Facing Medical School Debt

Medical students suffer enough sleepless nights without worrying about debt. But the majority will graduate with nearly 5 times as much debt as students from four-year universities.

We break down the numbers below.

  • How much is the average medical school debt?
    The average medical graduate has $192,000 in medical school debt at graduation. This includes both public and private medical schools.

    In comparison, students at four-year colleges graduate with over $39,000 in debt.

  • How many students graduate medical school with student loans?
    75% of students graduate medical school with student loans. This is 5% more than students with a general 4-year degree graduating with student loans.

    Want to attend medical school for free? It's possible, though you'll gave some pretty stiff competition. New York University School of Medicine announced in August that every student accepted into its program will attend tuition-free. (They will be required to pay room and board.)

    NYU has already raised 75% of the 600 billion needed to fund the program in an appeal to trustees and private donors.

  • How many students graduate medical school with more than $100,000 in student loans?
    Of the students graduating with medical school debt, 83% of them have debts that exceed $100,000.

  • How many students graduate medical school with more than $200,000 in student loans?
    As many as 48% of medical students have total debt of more than $200,000. Just 14% have debt that exceeds $300,000. Of the total debt, on average $25,000 of it is for pre-med education.

  • What medical specialties carry the least debt?
    The five specialties with the least debt are:

    • Dermatology
    • Radiation oncology
    • Urology
    • Ophthalmology
    • Internal medicine

    Worth noting: each specialty still carries an average debt of over $100,000.

    Are you buried in medical school debt? Check out our comprehensive list of loan forgiveness programs for doctors. Most of these programs require that you work in a medically underserved area.

    If you don't qualify, consider student loan refinancing. It can help make your payments more manageable because you can potentially get a lower interest rate and better term options. This could save you thousands in interest. At least check out rates to see if they're better than what you're currently getting.

  • How much does the average person lose in potential earnings by attending medical school?

    The number varies by industry but it's pretty hefty across the board. Say you graduated with a four-year degree and found a job for $25 an hour (the average median salary for Bachelor's Degrees across disciplines.) That's $52,000 a year you're missing out on.

    Multiply that by the four years of medical school for a whopping total of more than $208,000. And that's BEFORE accounting for what you're paying for tuition, room and board.

    Of course, a primary care physician just out of residency makes an average of $251,578 a year. That's about five times what you'll earn with a Bachelor's Degree.

What's behind all this medical school debt? Read on for the answer.

Attending Medical School

With the U.S. facing shortages in the near future, becoming a doctor seems like a great career move. But attending medical school comes at a cost - literally.

Check out these tuition numbers and graduation statistics.

  • How much does it cost to attend med school?
    You can expect to spend an average of $35,932 per YEAR for an in-state public college. An out-of state public school cost run an average of $60,543 yearly.

    Students who prefer private schools will pay an average of $57,492 per year. This accounts for just tuition, fees, and health insurance and does NOT include room and board.

  • On average, how many medical students graduate from medical school?
    In the United States for the school year 2016-2017, there were 19,254 graduates from medical school. That's 300 more graduates than the previous school year.

  • How many graduates of medical school are female?
    9,119 female students graduated from medical school in the 2016-2017 school year.

  • How many graduates of medical school are male?
    In the 2016-2017 school year, 10,135 male students graduated from medical school.

The Education Requirements

You'll need more than just money to make it. Medical students undergo extensive training before slipping on those white coats.

Check out these fascinating stats.

  • How many years of medical school does it take to be a doctor?
    After a standard four-year degree from an accredited school, you'll attend medical school for 4 years. The first two years focus on classroom study and lab work. In the 3rd and 4th years, you will engage in clinical and hands-on work.

    Following completion of medical school, graduated begin their residency training.

  • How many years of residency does it take to be a doctor?
    A general practitioner needs a 3-year residency in an approved residency program. Students wishing to enter any type of specialty practice could spend as many as 7 years as a resident.

    Some students will go on to complete a fellowship where they will study in their sub-specialty for an additional year or two.

  • How many years of school does it take to be a surgeon?
    On average, you can expect 5 years of residency before becoming a general surgeon.

  • How many years of school does it take to be a brain surgeon?
    A neurosurgeon resident spends six years becoming a surgeon. The first year is for general surgery, followed by five years of specializied neurological training.

  • How many years of medical school does it take to be a heart surgeon?
    A heart surgeon or thoracic surgeon undergoes five years of general surgery residency, plus 2 years of thoracic residency.

Becoming a physician does offer some advantages, including the pay. Check out what the average doctor makes and other salary information below.

Average Salaries for Doctors and Surgeons

As a doctor, your salary can vary significantly based on experience, specialty, and other factors. Here are some numbers to consider:

  • What is the average salary for doctors in residency?
    Doctors in residency typically receive a stipend that varies based on year. As a first-year resident, you can expect to make an average of $53,580. By the 3rd year of residency, you'll receive an average $57,532.

    Doctors within specialized fields who are still in residency after 8 years make an average of $70,390 per year.

  • What is the average salary for doctors after residency?
    This depends on several factors including your field of study. Primary care physicians make an average of $251,578 per year, or $120 an hour. Specialty doctors make an average of $425,509, or $204 per hour.

    The highest paying medical specialties are:

    • Neurosurgery
    • Thoracic surgery
    • Orthopedic surgery
    • Vascular surgery
    • Plastic surgery

  • What is the average surgeon's salary?
    General surgeons make an average of $409,665 per year.

Taking Care of Medical School Debt

Of course, those high salaries usually come with some strings attached. Soon after starting their careers, doctors have to start paying off their substantial student loan debt.

We take a look at the numbers below.

  • What is the average payment for medical school debt?
    The standard payment for a graduate is estimated to be $2,098 a month for 10 years.

  • What is the average interest rate on medical school loans?
    The average graduate pays 6% interest on Direct Unsubsidized loans for medical school and 7% on Direct PLUS loans.

  • What loan forgiveness options are available to doctors?
    Doctors have several forgiveness options after graduation:

    • National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program: Doctors committing to 2 years of their career in a Health Profession Shortage Area may receive up to $50,000 in student loan repayment aid.
    • Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Doctors working at a government or non-profit organization and who make 120 payments on a qualified repayment plan may have the remaining balance of their student loans forgiven after 10 years

Other Student Loan Debts

How does medical school debt stack up against other kinds of schooling? We've got the answers.

  • What is the average student loan debt for a Bachelor's degree?
    The average Bachelor's degree graduate has $39,000 in student loans to pay off after graduation.

  • What is the average student loan debt for a Master's degree?
    You can expect to owe an average of $59,000 in student loans when graduating with a Master's Degree.

  • What is the average debt for veterinary school?
    Veterinary school graduates have an average debt of $167,534 when they complete school. More than 20% of those graduates with veterinary school debt owe more than $200,000 in student loans.

    As an aspiring veterinarians, you'll have eight years of education (4 years at an undergraduate school and 4 years at a veterinary school).

  • How much does the average veterinarian make per year?
    The average veterinarian makes $88,770 per year.

Bottom Line

Attending medical school will have a big impact on future employment AND your long term finances.

Consider all of your options, including student loan refinancing, financial aid and/or student loan forgiveness to make it easier on yourself as you begin your career as a doctor.

Sources and References:

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