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Becoming a doctor can be a tall order. Medical students often spend more than a decade preparing for the profession between college, medical school, residency and specialization. It’s also expensive; a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) found that the median four-year cost at U.S. medical schools exceeds $268,000. This may explain why medical students who took out loans left school with a median debt of $193,000 for a public school degree and $224,000 for those graduating from private schools.
Education costs aside, medical doctors have some of the most generous salaries in the nation, with yearly earnings averaging $223,458 nationwide, according to ZipRecruiter. Here’s everything you need to know about the cost of attending medical school, including ways to reduce the costs.
Average cost of medical school
The AAMC estimates that resident students at public medical schools pay a median of $268,476 for their four-year education, while resident students at private schools pay a median of $363,836.
But when you’re trying to ask how much does medical school cost, there are expenses above and beyond tuition to prepare for.
|Additional medical school expenses||Cost|
|MCAT registration fee||$330|
|MCAT prep courses||Varies based on provider. Some courses can be found for $500 or less, while some programs may be close to $3000|
|Medical school application fee||Many medical schools rely upon the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) application service, through which prospective students can submit a single set of application materials that will be distributed to all the schools the applicant wishes.
The 2024 fee for this service is $175 for the first school an application is sent to and $45 for each subsequent school.
Application fees at schools not participating in the AAMC submission process vary.
|United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) fee||$1,000 each to register for Step 1 and Step 2 of the exam
International test delivery surcharge $195
Step 2 CK international test delivery surcharge $220
|Textbooks and supplies||$1400-$1500 for the first year and declining thereafter|
The cost of attending medical school starts with the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which nearly all schools require. The MCAT currently has a $335 registration fee, though the cost goes down to $140 if you qualify for assistance. If you plan on taking prep courses (which is highly recommended), you’ll need to budget for a few thousand dollars more.
Most medical schools in the U.S. require students to submit their application through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), which has a fee of $175 for your first application and $45 for each additional school.
According to the AAMC, the average student in the U.S. applies to 16 schools through the AMCAS — meaning you can expect to spend more than $800 in application fees alone. Some medical schools also require a secondary application fee, which Kaplan estimates can range between $30 and $250, although some schools may waive these fees.
The more schools you apply to, the more your application fees will increase. There are also secondary application fees to be prepared for. Many schools will require an additional application after receiving your initial submission from the AAMC’s submission service. The cost for this additional application varies by school. It may also be possible to get this fee waived by the school, so check before paying.
You’ll also need to factor in the cost of taking the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), a three-step exam. The first- and second-step exams are typically taken when you’re finishing your second and third year of medical school and are required by most schools to start your residency. The third step is taken during your residency and requires you to pass the previous two exams. Each step is charged separately, and the application fees add up to over $2300.
If you relocate to attend a particular school, you’ll need to factor in moving expenses, which can cost anywhere from $889 to $2,529, though the national average is about $1,705. If you opt to live in off-campus housing, you’ll also need to factor in this expense, which can vary based on the region of the country where the school is located.
Cost to attend medical school in the U.S.
The median four-year cost of attendance of medical school has risen by nearly 20 percent since 2009.
The cost of attending a public vs. a private medical school
Although the AAMC found that the cost to attend public medical schools has grown more quickly than the cost to attend private ones, attending a public medical school is still cheaper than attending a private one. AAMC research shows that during the 2022-2023 academic year, first-year students at in-state public medical schools paid a median of $67,641 between tuition, fees and living expenses, while those attending private medical schools paid a median of $93,186 — a 31 percent difference.
Students at public medical schools also graduate with less student debt than private school students. The median debt of students at public schools who took out loans was $193,000 for the class of 2022, while those who took out loans at private schools graduated with $224,000 worth of debt.
Average cost of tuition, fees and health insurance for first-year students
|Public resident||Private resident||Public nonresident||Private nonresident|
How much it costs to attend the top medical schools in the U.S.
The cost of medical school varies not only by the type of institution you attend (public versus private) but also by how prestigious your school is.
Below are the tuition costs at some of the nation’s most well-known medical schools, though it’s worth pointing out that the prices listed below are only for the first year of school. The third and fourth years of medical school typically cost more due to the clinical rotations.
|School||Estimated in-state tuition, fees and insurance for first-year students (2023-24 )||Estimated out-of-state tuition, fees and insurance for first-year students (2022-23)|
|Baylor College of Medicine||$28,465||$41,565|
|Harvard Medical School||$75,425||$75,425|
|Johns Hopkins School of Medicine||$67,894||$67,894|
|Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine||$77,684||$77,684|
|Perelman School of Medicine||$76,035||$76,035|
|Stanford University School of Medicine||$84,996||$84,996|
|UCSF School of Medicine||$45,131||$57,376|
|UNC School of Medicine||$34,706 (2022-2023)||$62,666 (2022-2023)|
|Yale School of Medicine||$70,947||$71,647|
How to pay for medical school
While there’s no denying that medical school is expensive, there are several ways to reduce out-of-pocket costs.
Scholarships and grants
A good starting point to look and apply for both scholarships and grants is the AAMC’s aid search engine, where you’ll find dozens of them.
Federal and private student loans
Scholarships and grants can significantly reduce the cost of attending medical school, but they rarely cover all the costs. Student loans are usually the next choice to help you bridge the financial gap.
When borrowing money to pay for school, look at federal student loans first. Federal student loans tend to have lower interest rates and offer income-driven repayment options, in addition to the possibility of forgiveness — all of which aren’t available with private student loans. Unlike private loans, federal student loans also don’t require you to have excellent credit or a stable income to qualify, so almost anyone in good academic standing is eligible for them.
Medical students can apply for two types of federal student loans: Direct Unsubsidized Loans and grad PLUS loans. Direct Unsubsidized Loans have an annual borrowing limit of $40,500 and a lifetime borrowing limit of $224,000 for medical students and currently have a fixed interest rate of 6.54 percent. Grad PLUS loans can be taken out for up to your full cost of attendance, as certified by your school, and currently have a fixed interest rate of 7.54 percent.
Another way of reducing the cost of medical school is looking into forgiveness programs. These programs are typically available through your state and are designed to help you tackle any debt you incurred while in medical school.
However, most of the forgiveness programs require you to relocate to rural areas where there’s a high need for medical professionals or to work in public service, which means that you won’t be earning as much as other doctors in a private practice. You’ll also have to commit to some years (typically two or more) to be eligible for these programs.
Still, they’re an option worth considering, as you could get a significant portion of your debt forgiven early in your career.
How the cost of medical school has changed over time
Over the last decade, the median four-year cost of attending medical school has grown by roughly 20 percent, going from $227,000 in 2009 to $272,000 in 2019, according to a report by the AAMC. These prices include not only the cost of tuition and fees but also living expenses and course materials.
The bottom line
Becoming a doctor requires years of education, including college, medical school, residency and specialization. The cost of medical school is also hefty. The medical school you choose can make a big difference in your final costs, as can deciding to study in-state. To help further defray costs, consider seeking scholarships, grants and forgiveness programs. For those passionate about the medical profession, the payoff for the steep price tag and extensive education requirements is a generous salary and the ability to help others.
Frequently asked questions
Medical students can spend more than a decade in school: four years for their bachelor’s degree, four years in medical school, three years of residency and a few more if they decide to pursue a specialization.
Getting into medical school is a highly competitive process. AAMC data shows that applicants and matriculants in the 2022-2023 school year had an average GPA of 3.62 and an average MCAT score of 506.5.
The process to get into medical school is as follows:
- Take and pass the MCAT.
- Prepare a personal statement of roughly 500 words about why you would like to attend medical school, as you’ll be asked to submit this as part of your application.
- Submit applications to several schools through the American Medical College Application Service. The application currently costs $170 for the first school and $43 for each additional school you want to apply to. You’ll want to submit your applications early in the summer (May) so you can hear back from the schools as soon as possible.
- You’ll be asked to submit a secondary application once the schools verify your applications through the American Medical College Application Service. This secondary application is for the school and will only be sent to you if the school thinks you’d be a good fit. For this secondary application, you’ll be asked to answer a few questions in an essay about yourself and your interest in medical school.
- If your secondary application catches the school’s interest, you’ll be asked to come for interviews, which is the final step of the application process. If those go well, then you will be admitted.
The cost of medical school varies depending on the type of school (public versus private) and how prestigious it is. According to the AAMC, the median four-year cost of public medical schools is $268,476 for resident students, while resident students at private schools pay a median of $363,836.
Medicine is one of the most challenging fields of study, with countless hours of studying required to absorb an incredible amount of knowledge in a short time. Some classes may also have a pass-or-fail format, which can add a lot of stress. However, in the end, the reward could be very well worth it.
The best medical school for you depends on your preferences and career goals. However, some of the most popular medical schools in the U.S. are:
- Harvard Medical School.
- NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
- Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
- David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
- Duke University School of Medicine.
- Baylor College of Medicine.
- Stanford University School of Medicine.
- Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
- Georgetown University School of Medicine.
- Eastern Virginia Medical School.