Financial Preparedness

Medical Student Loan Debt by the Numbers - And What to Do About It

October 01, 2017

medical_student_loan_debt_by_the_numbers.pngTo many, medical students debt is simply part of becoming a physician — but it’s still a costly rite of passage that impacts a physician’s long-term financial goals and lifestyle. Recent medical student debt statistics for 2017 revealed that medical education costs are still on the rise, and graduates must be savvy enough to navigate how best to pay off the debt. 

Medical Student Debt Statistics for the Class of 2016

About 76% of medical students who graduated in 2016 left medical school with some type of student loan debt.1 Of those students, their median level of debt was $190,000.1

However, Class of 2016 medical student graduates are taking advantage of loan forgiveness/repayment programs, with 44% of students planning to enter such programs (an increase of 4% from the Class of 20151,2). These programs can help offset a graduate’s total debt repayment by tens of thousands of dollars.

We know that student loan debt isn’t going away anytime soon as tuition costs increase. For the Class of 2017, the median four-year cost of attendance for medical school is 3% higher than for the Class of 2016, amounting to $240,351 for public schools and $314,203 for private schools.1

Repaying Loans at the Right Time

AMA Insurance’s 2017 Report on U.S. Physicians’ Financial Preparedness Report: Medical Student Segment revealed that 55% of medical student graduates expect to begin paying back loans during their first year of residency.3 

Allan Phillips, a Certified Financial PlannerTM with Taylor Wealth Solutions, urges these graduates to take a closer look at their loan repayment options before paying off medical school debt right away. In fact, most graduates could be better informed about their student loan repayment options. About 56% of medical students said that they are “not very” or “not at all” knowledgeable about their student loan repayment options.3 

“Some people might want to consider thinking outside the box about their careers,” Phillips said. “Loan forgiveness programs—especially if you’re in primary care—can give you up to $50,000 in loan repayment if you commit to two years in a high-need area. The military also can offer loan forgiveness. These options can be great if you’re service-minded.” 

Phillips also said graduates should take advantage of the period they have before loan interest starts accruing. Creating an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses or paying down higher-rate debt, such as car loans or credit card balances, can also help physicians feel more financially prepared.

Helpful Resources are Available

Medical student graduates shouldn’t feel alone in tackling their student debt. In fact, AMA and AMA Insurance offer many programs and resources to help students with their finances:

How do you manage your medical school debt? Tell us below in the comments. 


  1. AAMC Medical Student Education: Debts, Cost, and Loan Repayment Fact Card, 2016 
  2. AAMC Medical Student Education: Debts, Cost, and Loan Repayment Fact Card, 2015 
  3. AMA Insurance 2017 Report on U.S. Physicians’ Financial Preparedness Report: Medical Student Segment

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, Certified Financial Planner™ and CFP® in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

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