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Attending medical school can be extremely expensive: As of 2021, 76% to 89% of medical school graduates leave school with an average of $203,062 in total education debt, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Keep in mind that this cost doesn’t include any student loan debt students might have taken on for studies prior to attending medical school.
Although medical school graduates can generally expect to earn a six-figure salary, facing this massive amount of student loan debt can still be overwhelming.
Here’s the average medical school debt in several categories:
- Average medical school debt
- Extreme medical school debt
- Cost to repay medical school debt
- How long does it take to pay off medical school debt?
- How interest piles up during residency
- Average salary with a medical school degree
- How to get rid of medical school debt
- How to refinance medical school debt
Average medical school debt
Here’s a look at the average medical school debt and earnings for graduates nationwide, based on information from the AAMC and the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Average medical school debt: $200,000
- Average education debt after medical school: $203,062
- Median salary with a medical school degree: $208,000
- Average salary with a medical school degree: $262,916
- Average time to repay medical school debt: 13 years
Before you attend medical school, it’s important to understand the full cost involved. This way, you can make the right decisions with your finances.
While medical school graduates generally make six-figure incomes, accruing interest on high student loan balances could lead to a longer repayment time.
Median medical school debt by year
|Graduation year||Median medical school debt||Cumulative debt at graduation|
|Source: AAMC Medical School Graduation Questionnaire|
The chart above shows median total education debt for medical school graduates is:
- For the class of 2015-2016: $190,000
- For the class of 2020-2021: $200,000
That’s an increase of 5%, without adjusting for inflation.
Total education debt includes both medical school and pre-med debt taken on to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Excluding pre-med debt and looking only at loans taken out for medical school, the median medical school debt at graduation is:
- For the class of 2015-2016: $180,000
- For the class of 2020-2021: $200,000
That’s an increase of 11%, without adjusting for inflation.
Learn More: U.S. Student Loan Debt Statistics
Public vs. private medical school debt
Another factor in future student loan debt is where someone chooses to attend medical school. In general, private medical schools come with higher costs compared to public schools.
According to the AAMC, while only 71% of students at private medical schools graduate with education debt compared to 74% of students at public medical schools, the average private medical school debt is higher than the average public medical school debt:
- Average private medical school debt: $215,000
- Average public medical school debt: $200,000
As of 2022, graduates from the following 15 medical schools left school with the highest amounts of debt compared to other schools:
|Nova Southeastern University Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine (Patel)||Fort Lauderdale, FL||$309,206|
|Western University of Health Sciences||Pomona, CA||$276,840|
|West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine||Lewisburg, WV||$268,416|
|New York Medical College||Valhalla, NY||$266,849|
|Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine||East Lansing, MI||$261,527|
|Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine||Indianapolis, IN||$257,744|
|University of Southern California (Keck)||Los Angeles, CA||$256,580|
|Ohio University||Athens, OH||$243,230|
|Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine||Blacksburg, VA||$242,329|
|University of Illinois||Chicago, IL||$242,186|
|William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine||Hattiesburg, MS||$239,781|
|Drexel University||Philadelphia, PA||$238,549|
|Tufts University||Boston, MA||$235,737|
|University of Vermont (Larner)||Burlington, VT||$235,369|
|Saint Louis University||St. Louis, MO||$233,660|
|Source: U.S. News, “Which medical graduates have the most debt?”|
Check Out: How to Pay Off $100,000+ in Student Loans
Extreme medical school debt
Not only has average medical school debt grown significantly, but it’s not unusual for med students to borrow more than average.
Here’s how the debt levels broke down for recent medical school graduates according to the AAMC 2021 Medical School Graduation Questionnaire:
|Total education debt||Percentage of graduates|
|$1 to $49,999||6.0%|
|$50,000 to $99,999||6.2%|
|$100,000 to $149,999||8.9%|
|$150,000 to $199,999||13.1%|
|$200,000 to $299,999||24.3%|
|$300,000 to $399,999||10.6%|
|$400,000 to $499,999||2.7%|
|$500,000 or more||1.0%|
Most medical students borrow less than $300,000 — but about one out of every seven medical students borrow more than that, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
Looking only at members of the class of 2021 who borrowed to get their degree, AAMC found:
- Borrowed less than $150,000: 21.1%
- Borrowed $150,000 to $299,999: 37.4%
- Borrowed $300,000 or more: 14.3%
Looking at all members of the class of 2021:
- Graduated without debt: 29.5%
- Graduates with debt who plan to apply for loan forgiveness: 46.7%
Learn More: 5 Steps to Pay Off $400k in Student Loans
Cost to repay medical school debt
The cost to repay medical school debt depends primarily on three factors:
- The interest rates on your loans
- What you do with your loans in residency
- How long it takes you to pay your loans back
If you’re wondering how long it’ll take to pay off your student loans and how much it will cost, enter your current loan information into the calculator below to find out. Use the slider to see how increasing your payments can change the payoff date.
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Average interest rates on medical school loans
If you’re using federal student loans to pay for medical school along with your pre-med studies, there are three interest rate tiers to expect — one for undergraduates, one for graduate students, and one for PLUS Loans.
Many doctors will have all three types of loans by the time they graduate from medical school.
These rates are set by Congress and are adjusted annually to account for the government’s cost of borrowing.
Based on average student loan interest rates in recent years, a typical medical school graduate would have loan balances and interest rates that look like this:
|Loan type||Amount borrowed||Average interest rate|
|Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans|
(for undergrad students)
|Direct Unsubsidized Loans|
(for graduate students)
|Direct PLUS loans|
(for graduate and professional students)
|* Averages based on federal interest rates from 2006-22.
Source: Average Student Loan Interest Rates in 2022
Typical loan balances and interest rates for med school grads
Most graduate and professional students can borrow up to an aggregate limit of $138,500 in federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (no more than $65,500 in subsidized loans). But if you attend medical school, you might qualify for a higher limit in unsubsidized loans.
Once medical school students have exhausted their subsidized and unsubsidized loan limits, they could turn to federal Direct PLUS Loans or private student loans. These loan types could cover your school’s cost of attendance (minus any other financial aid you’ve received).
Check Out: Average Grad School Debt in the U.S.
How long does it take to pay off medical school debt?
The standard student loan repayment plan for federal student loans is 10 years of monthly payments. But if you’re struggling to make your payments each month, you can extend your repayment term or reduce how much you pay each month through an alternative or income-based repayment plan.
Here are the repayment options available for federal student loan borrowers:
|Repayment plan||Repayment term|
|Standard Repayment Plan||10 years (10 to 30 years for Consolidation Loans)|
|Graduated Repayment Plan||10 years (10 to 30 years for Consolidation Loans)|
|Extended Repayment Plan||25 years|
|Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE)||20 years (up to 25 years for graduate loans)|
|Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE)||20 years|
|Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)||20 years (for new borrowers after July 2014) or 25 years (for borrowers who took out loans before July 2014)|
|Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)||25 years|
Keep in mind that refinancing with a private student loan or consolidating multiple federal loans into a single Direct Consolidation Loan can extend the time it takes to repay medical school loans.
How interest piles up during residency
In addition to the interest rates on your loans, your repayment costs will depend on how long it takes you to pay back your loans. Residency can add three to seven years to your repayment timeline.
During residency, many medical school grads make only partial monthly payments on their loans or no payments at all. Here are a few things to remember when it comes to interest:
- Most loans will accrue interest during residency. With the exception of need-based subsidized loans taken out as an undergraduate, federal and private student loans continue to accrue interest during residency.
- Payments might not cover total interest. If your loans are in deferment or forbearance or you enroll in an income-driven repayment plan like Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), your monthly payments may not cover the interest you owe.
- Interest could capitalize. Some or all of the unpaid interest you owe could capitalize when you finish your residency — meaning it will be added to your loan balance.
Below, you can see how interest could pile up during the six-month grace period that comes with most federal student loans after graduation as well as during your three years of residency.
This table assumes that you’ll request mandatory forbearance after your grace period and make no payments on your loans during residency.
|Months in forbearance||Monthly interest charges||Total interest charges||Loan balance after residency|
|Interest charges on $241,600 in education debt at a weighted average interest rate of 5.67% during 6-month grace period and 36-month residency.|
This can help keep your loan balance from growing so dramatically.
Learn More: How to Pay Off $200,000 in Student Loans
Average salary with a medical school degree
Starting your medical career with more than $200,000 in student loan debt might sound frightening. But the good news is that most new doctors earn a salary that’s equal to or greater than their total debt — making it easier to manage.
As of May 2021, doctors earned the following according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Median: $208,000
- Average: $262,916
Here’s how these earnings break down by specialty:
|Family and general practitioners||$235,930|
|Physicians and surgeons, all other||$255,110|
|Obstetricians and gynecologists||$296,210|
Check Out: Student Loan Requirements: How to Qualify for a Student Loan
How to get rid of medical school debt
While most doctors will eventually earn a high salary, they also end up with more student loan debt compared to other graduate and professional students for their degrees. Additionally, they bring in a relatively low income during their three to seven years of residency.
Thankfully, there are a few options available that could help you more easily pay off your medical school debt.
1. Explore loan forgiveness
If you’re a medical professional who works for a nonprofit or government agency, you might be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness after making qualifying payments for 10 years.
Or you could consider signing up for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. On an IDR plan, your payments will be based on your income — typically 10% to 20% of your discretionary income. Any remaining balance could be forgiven after 20 to 25 years, depending on the plan.
2. Be proactive during residency
Residents typically don’t earn enough to make full payments on their student loans. If this applies to you, consider:
- Requesting a mandatory forbearance: This will let you temporarily pause your payments during residency. Just keep in mind that your loans will continue accruing interest during forbearance.
- Signing up for an IDR or graduated repayment plan: Under an IDR plan, your payments will be based on your income, while a graduated repayment plan will start off with low payments that increase every two years. Making payments under either of these options could help keep your interest from wildly accruing.
3. Consider a more aggressive repayment schedule post-residency
Once you complete your residency and begin making a higher salary, you might be able to manage a more aggressive repayment plan.
In general, paying your loans off faster will save you money on interest and reduce your overall loan cost.
4. Look into refinancing
Refinancing your student loans might be a good idea in some cases. Depending on your credit, you might qualify for a lower interest rate through refinancing — which could reduce your interest charges and possibly help you pay off your student loans faster.
Or you could opt to extend your repayment term to get a lower monthly payment. Just remember that if you choose a longer term, you’ll pay more in interest over time.
If you’re wondering how competitive your loan is, the loan score tool below can help. Just enter your APR, credit score, monthly payment, and remaining balance (estimates are fine) to see how your loan stacks up.
How to refinance medical school debt
If you decide to refinance your medical school loans, follow these four steps:
- Research and compare lenders. Be sure to compare as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for your situation. Consider not only interest rates but also repayment terms, any fees charged by the lender, and eligibility requirements.
- Pick a loan option. After comparing lenders, pick the loan option that best suits your needs.
- Complete the application. Once you’ve picked a lender, you’ll need to fill out the full application and submit any required documentation, such as tax returns or pay stubs. Also be prepared to provide information regarding each of the loans you want to refinance.
- Manage your payments. If you’re approved, continue making payments on your old loans while the refinance is processed. Afterward, you might consider signing up for autopay so you won’t miss any payments in the future — many lenders offer a rate discount to borrowers who opt for automatic payments.
If you’re ready to compare lenders, Credible can help: You can see your prequalified rates from our partner lenders in the table below in two minutes — without affecting your credit.
|Lender||Fixed rates from (APR)||Variable rates from (APR)||Loan terms (years)||Loan amounts|
|4.4%+||4.67%+||5, 7, 10, 15, 20||$10,000 up to $250,000
(depending on degree)
|5.39%+1||5.39%+1||5, 7, 10, 15, 20||$10,000 to $500,000
(depending on degree and loan type)
|5.99%+2||5.99%+2||5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20||$5,000 to $300,000
(depending on degree type)
|7.41%+5||7.39%+5||5, 10, 15, 20||$1,000 to $250,000|
|5.08%+3||4.53%+3||5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20||$10,000 to $250,000|
|5.61%+4||6.61%+4||5, 10, 15, 20||$5,000 to $250,000|
|6.94%+ 7||N/A||5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20||Up to $300,000|
|4.49%+||4.76%+||5, 7, 10, 15||Up to $300,000|
|5.5%+||N/A||7, 10, 15||$10,000 up to the total amount of qualified education debt|
|5.29%+||N/A||5, 10, 15||$7,500 up to $250,000
(depending on highest degree earned)
|Compare personalized rates from multiple lenders without affecting your credit score. 100% free!
All APRs reflect autopay and loyalty discounts where available | 1Citizens Disclosures | 2College Ave Disclosures | 5EDvestinU Disclosures | 3 ELFI Disclosures | 4INvestEd Disclosures | 7ISL Education Lending Disclosures