The average medical school debt in 2023 is over $200,000. Graduates owe, on average, over $250,00 in student loan debt by the time they finish their educations.

This figure is staggering but not surprising, considering that a student with state resident status at a public institution pays an average of $39,905 per academic year for tuition, fees, and health care, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). A non-resident at a public school is charged $63,718.

Because most medical school students have debts in the six-figure range, knowing how to manage that debt can be a critical skill both during school and after graduation.

Medical debt statistics
  • Graduates who attended state institutions carried an average student debt of $194,558, while private school graduates owed $222,899 on average when they received their diplomas in the spring of 2022.
  • While 73 percent of medical school graduates from public institutions have debt at graduation, just 68 percent of medical students from private schools have debt. In total, 71 percent of all medical students have education-related debt after graduation.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 medical school graduates have more than $300,000 in student loan debt.
  • The median pre-med school debt is $27,000.
  • Medical school graduates also have other debts, including a median of $5,000 on credit cards and a median of $10,000 in residency and relocation loans.
  • With a starting salary of $200,000, the average monthly repayment cost is $330-$370 during residency practice and $1,600-$2,300 post-residency.

What are the average interest rates on medical school loans?

If you have federal student loans, interest rates are updated annually. Private student loans, on the other hand, typically offer a range of interest rates, which depend on your creditworthiness (or your co-signer’s).

For the 2023-24 school year, the interest rate on Direct Unsubsidized Loans for graduate students is 7.05 percent. Direct PLUS Loans — used for graduate and professional students — have an interest rate of 8.05 percent. Private student loan interest rates range from 1 percent to 17 percent, depending on the lender and your creditworthiness.

Most student loans accrue interest while you’re in school, even if you elect not to make payments. The interest will compound if you choose to continue that deferral through residency. Once you’re ready to make payments, the lender will capitalize the interest, adding it to your principal balance and increasing your monthly payment.

How long does it take to pay off medical school debt?

The standard repayment term for federal student loans is 10 years. If you have a hard time keeping up with your monthly payments, though, you can extend your repayment schedule to up to 30 years with alternative repayment plans:

Repayment plan Repayment term
Consolidation loan Up to 30 years
Extended Up to 25 years
Pay as You Earn 20 years
Revised Pay as You Earn 20 or 25 years
Income-based 20 or 25 years
Income-contingent Up to 25 years

Private student loan companies set their repayment terms, but most private medical school loans will allow you to choose terms from five to 20 years. You can also refinance your loans to new terms, extending the payoff period. How long it takes to repay your medical school debt depends on your salary and other expenses.

How do I reduce my medical school debt?

You may find it difficult to work even a part-time job while in medical school, so you may need scholarships and grants to reduce your reliance on debt to get you through college.

Once you finish school, you’ll have a few different options to reduce your student loan balance or at least the amount of interest you pay on the debt.

Student loan forgiveness programs

The federal government offers student loan forgiveness to borrowers who work for a government agency or eligible not-for-profit organization. To qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, you’ll need to work full-time for an eligible employer while making 120 qualifying monthly payments.

Once you’ve completed all of the requirements, your remaining debt will be forgiven.

You can also achieve forgiveness by getting on an income-driven repayment plan and completing the repayment term. After 20 to 25 years of payments, your remaining debt will be forgiven.

Student loan repayment assistance programs

Federal agencies and state governments offer a variety of student loan repayment assistance programs. These programs aren’t technically forgiveness programs because the benefit doesn’t come from the lender, the U.S. Department of Education.

However, depending on the program, you could get tens of thousands of dollars in repayment assistance. The Association of American Medical Colleges maintains a list of state and federal programs you may be able to take advantage of.

One thing to remember is that these programs typically only assist borrowers with federal loans. If you have private medical school student loans, they may not be eligible.

Student loan refinancing

Student loan refinancing is replacing one or more existing loans with a new one through a private lender. Depending on your income and credit history, you may qualify for student loan refinance rates that are lower than what you’re currently paying, which can save you money and reduce your monthly payment.

You’ll also be able to shorten or extend your loan repayment term — lenders typically offer terms ranging from five to 25 years.

If you have federal loans, refinancing may not be the best option if you’re working toward forgiveness, a repayment assistance program or an income-driven repayment plan.

Is medical school worth it?

The answer to this question is different for everyone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a median salary for physicians and surgeons is $229,000 or more– and such an income could easily offset the cost of a medical degree – especially over the course of a career.

The cost of medical school entails tuition and fees but also admission expenses like application fees and registration for the MCAT exam. Once you are admitted, you will want to consider living expenses as well, as the academic pressure of medical school does not typically allow for outside employment.

Starting salaries vary and depend on location and what kind of medicine you choose to pursue. To build an understanding of whether medicine is a worthwhile pursuit for you, consider arranging some informational interviews with professionals who practice in an area of your interest.

The bottom line

The average medical school debt is over $200,000, a hefty amount of debt to carry at the start of your career. The expected payoff schedule is over 20 years, and during that time, you’ll be paying the equivalent of an extra mortgage payment to make progress on the loan. You may be able to save some money by going to an in-state school as a resident.

Given the average salary for a medical doctor, paying off the loan on time is possible but will depend on where you work and your specialty.