Medical School Debt

It just keeps on rising . . .

We all know how great and how deep a commitment it takes to go into medicine. After four to five years of pre-med undergraduate work, you face another four years before obtaining a medical degree, and three to seven years of residency, depending on your specific medial specialty. That means it takes a minimum time commitment of some 11 years before doctors become the masters of their own financial universe. For 8 of those 11 years, you are unlikely to be earning any income.

During those eight years of not earning income as an undergraduate and a medical student, you are as a general rule, incurring student debt. While approximately 70% of all four-year- undergraduate program graduates carry debt, an estimated 86% of medical school graduates do so, fairly consistently since 2011, with an estimated 25% carrying total student debt of over $200,000 as of 2016. The official statistics are not out for 2017 as of yet, but the dollar figure is expected to be higher.

That debt does not take into account the average $57,000 that a bachelor degree graduate earns annually – which adds a lost $228,000 in earnings to the cost of attending medical school (although, unlike student loans, this amount is merely lost not owed).

As the cost of medical school has grown, so too has the demand for doctors. The demand is especially focused on primary-care physicians, which pays substantially less than surgical practice areas and some other niche specialties.

If you choose or think you are called to the medical profession, it will pay for you to know what debt you’ll be incurring, the income you’ll forego, and to have a detailed plan in place for repayment of your debt. More than with most professions, medical practitioners must be passionate about their choices – it is not worth it, otherwise.

Eric Rigby, CPA/PFS

PS – Please feel free to email me at with any student debt questions.

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