Average Medical School Debt

Last Updated: June 8, 2021 by Melanie Hanson

Report Highlights. The average medical school debt is $215,900, excluding premedical and other educational debt.

  • The average medical school graduate owes $241,600 in total student loan debt.
  • 76-89% of medical school graduates have educational debt.
  • 43% of indebted medical school graduates have premedical educational debt.
  • The average medical school graduate owes 6 times as much as the average college graduate.
  • 55% of medical school students use loans specifically to help pay for medical school (as opposed to undergraduate or premed debt).

Related reports include Student Loan Debt Statistics | Average Cost of College | Average Law School Debt | Average Time to Repay Student Loans | Student Loan Default Rate | Student Loan Refinancing

Line Graph: Average Medical School Debt Adjusted for Inflation

Medical School Debt Statistics

Between medical school and undergraduate study, physicians must pay for 8 years of postsecondary education before they can work as doctors.

  • This year’s medical school graduates owe an average of $200,000 – $250,000 in total educational debt, premedical debt included.
  • $4.349 billion is the total educational debt among medical school graduates each year.
  • A medical school graduates owe more than 6 times as much in educational debt as an average college graduate.
  • A 177.7% increase in the average debt took just over 15 years.
  • Adjusted for inflation, the cost of medical school has nearly doubled, increasing by 94%.
  • 11.1% was the annual growth rate of medical school debt.
  • 2.4% was the annual growth rate of the cost of medical school.
  • In Canada, the average medical school debt among graduates is $19,250 USD.
  • If debt continues to outpace the cost of attendance at the present rate, the average medical student debt will exceed $300,000 by 2024.

Historical Medical School Debt

The average medical graduate’s debt rate outpaces the inflation of academic costs, which in turn outpaces economic inflation.

  • In 1978, the average medical school debt in the U.S. was $13,500.
  • That’s $53,648 when adjusted for inflation.
  • Medical school graduates in the 1999-2000 academic year owed $87,000 in educational debt.
  • Adjusted for inflation, the average debt for a medical school graduate was $124,700.
  • Graduates owed an average $78,700 for medical school alone in 2000.
  • That’s $118,416 when adjusted for inflation.
  • $223,100 was the average medical school debt owed by 2016 graduates.
  • In 2010, 86% of medical school students graduated in debt.
  • By 2017, 76% of medical students graduated with debt.
  • Between 2010 and 2017, the rate of debtorship decreased by 11.6%.
  • Medical school debt alone accounted for 55.8% of total educational debt among the Class of 2000.
  • Medical school debt was 53.9% of 2016 graduates’ total educational debt.
Percentage of Medical School Graduates with Educational Debt
Medical School Debt Premedical School Debt Other Educational Debt
2010 48% 37% 1%
2011 50% 35% 1%
2012 49% 36% 1%
2013 49% 35% 1%
2014 49% 34% 1%
2015 45% 33% 3%
2016 41% 32% 3%
2017 41% 32% 3%

Average Medical School Debt and Premedical School Debt

Public vs. Private Medical School Debt

The cost of attendance for a private medical school is higher than that of a public medical school. The rate of the debt increase, however, is not equal to the increased cost of attendance.

  • Public medical school graduates owe $2000 less on average than private medical school graduates.
  • $200,000 was the median student debt among private medical school graduates in 2016; the cost of their education was $306,200.
  • $180,000 was the median student debt among public medical school graduates; $232,800 was the cost of their education.
  • Private medical school graduates leave school owing 65.3% of their cost of attendance.
  • Public medical school graduates leave school owing 77.3% of their cost of attendance.
  • In 2009, private medical school graduates owed 73.8% of their cost of attendance.
  • Also in 2009, public medical school graduates owed 89.7% of their cost of attendance.

Public & Private Medical School Debt Averages

Loan and Repayment Statistics

Some institutions have responded to the student debt crisis with more scholarships and loan forgiveness programs. Not everyone benefits from these programs, however, leaving some students to face increasing debt even as they continue to make payments.

  • The average physician ultimately pays $365,000 – $440,000 for an educational loan plus interest.
  • $165,000 – $240,000 is just from interest.
  • At current interest rates, a $200,000 debt can double in 10 years even with regular payments.
  • An average 33% of indebted medical school students owe repayments on Perkins or disadvantaged student loan programs.
  • 4.3% is the interest rate on the average federal direct unsubsidized loan for graduate or professional borrowers.
  • $2,480 is the minimum monthly payment the average medical school graduate must make in order to pay off all educational debts within 10 years.
  • Including interest, $291,681 is the graduate’s grand total pay-off.
  • If the average physician can’t pay off educational debts within 10 years, their total educational costs will likely exceed $300,000.
  • The medical school loans alone require 120 monthly payments of $1,951.
  • That’s a total of $234,104 over 10 years.
  • In the late 1980s, 59.9% of indebted medical school graduates had Health Professions Student Loans.
  • By 2000, just 4.4% of indebted students had HPS loans; reports indicate there are little-to-no funds being allocated to the HPSL program.

Medical School Cost of Attendance & Student Debt

Medical School Debt & Socioeconomics

Students who come from families with a good deal of wealth accrued are more likely to attend medical school than those without. Low-income students are attending medical school at decreasing rates, possibly due to the spectre of debt.

  • 45.2% of medical school students cite their ability to pay off debt as a primary concern.
  • 0.74% of indebted medical school graduates are born in rural areas.
  • Low-income attendees declined by 34% in medical schools in Ontario, Canada.
  • Since 1997, fees at these schools have increased 116%.
  • In the United States, 50% of low-income graduates have medical school loan debt that exceeds $100,000.
  • Among those with debts that exceed $200,000, those with Perkins or disadvantaged student loans are the majority.
  • Students with loans that are not based on their parents’ income consistently owe the least on average.
  • Students with nonincome-based loans are 30% less likely than low-income students to owe more than $100,000.
  • 67.8% of indebted low-income students graduated from a public medical school.
  • They are 35% less likely to owe more than $200,000.
  • Among students entering medical school, 17% had debts unrelated to their education.
  • Among those, 58.2% had less than $10,000 in debt unrelated to their education.
  • 11.2% had noneducational debts exceeding $100,000.
Average Medical School Debt Among Ethno-Racial Demographics & Medical School Type (Public vs. Private)
Demographic Public Private All
Non-Citizen, Permanent Resident $261K $178K $206K
Black, African American $201K $213K $207K
American Indian, Alaska Native $194K $195K $194K
Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander $181K $163K $175K
White $177K $203K $187K
Hispanic, Latinx $172K $195K $182K
Other Race, Ethnicity $168K $213K $185K
Unknown or Unspecified $157K $207K $183K
Asian $156K $172K $163K

Medical School Debt Demographics

Financial struggles affect demographics to varying degrees. Sociologists, economists, and behavioral scientists agree that the root causes of financial disparities are social or socioeconomic factors.

  • Male medical school graduates are 34.2% more likely than female graduates to leave school in debt.
  • 60.2% of indebted medical school graduates are male.
  • 33.4% are married.
  • Among U.S. citizens, Black and African American medical school students owe more, on average, than their peers of any other race or ethnicity.
  • 50% of Black medical school graduates are more than $200,000 in debt.
  • 17.1% have debts of $300,000 or more.
  • Asian students attending public medical schools have the second-lowest average debt balance.
  • Students of unknown or unspecified race attending public schools graduated with the least amount of debt.
  • Non-citizens and residents who graduated from public medical schools have the greatest amount of average debt.
  • Black or African American graduates who attended private medical schools have the second-highest amount of debt.

Medical School Tuition and Fees

Just applying to medical school costs thousands in entrance exam fees, preparation courses, travel & interview expenses, transcript processing fees, etc. The price of medical school has increased at more than twice the rate of currency inflation; this has been a significant contributing factor to the rise in medical school graduate debt.

  • $58,500 is the average cost of tuition and fees for a first-year medical student in 2020.
  • $16,900 was the total cost of tuition and fees for the average first-year medical student in 2000.
  • Adjusted for inflation, that’s $25,500.
  • The cost of medical school increased 129% in 20 years even after adjusting for inflation.
  • During that time, the cumulative rate of inflation of the U.S. dollar was 50.5%.
  • $2,800 is the average cost of medical school application fees alone.
  • $10,000 is the application budget recommended by academic counselors.
  • 55% of medical school students use loans to help pay for school.
  • In the U.S., 131 institutions award over 18,000 medical degrees each year.
  • 53,371 unique applicants submitted a total of 897,000 applications to medical schools for the 2019-2020 academic year.
  • 21,869 applicants were accepted.
  • 39.4% of those accepted were from out-of-state.

Sources

  1. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), List of Current Digest Tables
  2. U.S. News, 10 Medical Schools With the Most Applicants
  3. Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Table: U.S. Medical School Applications and Matriculations by School
  4. AAMC, Student Debt: Ensuring Medical School Remains Affordable
  5. Swarthmore College, Frequently Asked Questions – Applying to Medical School
  6. CNBC, Here’s How Much Medical Students Are Paying Just to Get Into School
  7. AAMC, An Updated Look at Attendance Cost and Medical Student Debt at U.S. Medical Schools
  8. American College of Physicians, The Doctor is Out: Rising Student Loan Debt and the Decline of the Small Medical Practice
  9. National Library of Medicine (NLM), Effects of Rising Tuition Fees On Medical School Class Composition and Financial Outlook
  10. NLM, A Retrospective Analysis of the Relationship Between Medical Student Debt and Primary Care Practice in the United States
  11. AAMC, Applicant, Matriculant, & Graduation, by Medical School Tables
  12. Calculator.net, Financial Calculators
  13. Inflation Calculator
  14. AAMC, Trends in Cost and Debt at U.S. Medical Schools Using a New Measure of Medical School Cost of Attendance
  15. U.S. Department of Education (ED) Office of Federal Student Aid (OFSA), Understand How Interest is Calculated and What Fees are Associated with Your Federal Student Loan
  16. NLM, Medical Education and Societal Needs: A Planning Report for the Health Professions
  17. AAMC, Matriculating Student Questionnaire, 2019 All School Summary Report