Financing Your Medical School Experience

Make no mistake, medical schools can be expensive. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), average annual tuition and fees for in-state medical school students totaled $23,581 from 2008 to 2009, while nonresidents paid $43,587 during the same time. Annual private school tuition and fees for the period averaged about $41,000 for state residents and nearly $43,000 for nonresidents. Neither of these sums includes housing or living costs.

The LCME Part I-B Medical School Questionnaire indicates that approximately 87 percent of students graduate from medical school with some debt. Average debt for students in 2008 was $155,000. Looking at such price tags could make a student nervous if he or she isn’t aware of all options available to pay for medical school.


While a high volume of debt can be an intimidating prospect, the AAMC advises students to remember that a medical education can be considered a lifelong investment that will bring returns long into your future. One of the first means of funding that students may turn to is borrowing. If you choose to take out some sort of loan, several federal possibilities are available, including subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, Perkins loans, and the Graduate Plus Loan. Of course, nonfederal loan programs are also possibilities. Whichever option you choose, make sure you understand how to manage your debt, as doing so can be greatly beneficial for your future.

To ensure you understand the consequences of borrowing money, visit with the financial aid office at your school. The staff there can direct you toward any further resources you may need, point out other funding choices, help you with applications, and discuss the policies and process of awarding financial aid. FIRST for Medical Education is another helpful resource, aimed at helping those who borrow money for medical school to make smart choices about student loans, increase financial literacy, and learn how to manage debt.

Medical School Doesn’t Have to Mean Taking on Huge Debts

Debt is just one of the options available, however; you should also explore other means of financing your education so you do not assume more debt than is prudent. Plenty of scholarships and grants can help students pay for their schooling. Some are need-based, while others are more merit-based; each can be found at both the government level and at individual medical schools.

Financing Your Medical School Experience

At the federal level, consider something like the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship for education funding. National Medical Fellowships help provide scholarships to minority students. Nonfederal sources are available, as well. For example, the AAMC provides Herbert W. Nickens Medical Student Scholarships for medical students who have outstanding academic achievements and are entering their third year of training.

If, however, scholarships and grants are not sufficient to help pay for medical school, there are more service-oriented approaches available. The military and the U.S. Health Service Corps are two ways you can help finance your medical education. If you choose the military, you will receive the medical training you need in exchange for service to the country. The funding you receive for your education will be proportionate to the number of years of active duty you must provide in return. In the U.S. Health Service Corps, medical students can also receive assistance with medical school funding in exchange for a promise from the student to offer service in a medically underserved area of the country once his or her education is complete.

Finally, hospitals employing doctors or nurses sometimes offer loan forgiveness programs to their employees as part of a financial package. If you have accumulated considerable debt throughout medical school, this can be another means of obtaining assistance with what you must repay.

Ultimately, the way you finance your education will be about smart planning. Be sure you fully comprehend the consequences of the payment methods you choose.

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