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As students across America look into education that results in higher-paying opportunities, more and more are choosing to attend medical school. Whether it’s due to their love of medicine, willingness to help others, or simply seeking a well-paying job - the fact is that over the past 20 years, the number of medical school students in the US has doubled.

As the number of students in medical school continues to increase, so too does the tuition each student pays. Since 2013, the average medical school tuition has increased by $1,500 each year. With the average total cost now eclipsing $200,000, paying for school is difficult. Loans are one of the most common methods of paying for medical school, and luckily for students - there are many options to help pay tuition.

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What is a medical school loan?

A medical school loan is a type of financial assistance specifically designed to help students cover the costs associated with attending medical school. Medical school can be quite expensive, and many students require additional funding beyond scholarships, grants, and personal savings. Medical school loans provide students with the necessary funds to pay for tuition, fees, textbooks, living expenses, and other educational-related costs throughout their medical education.

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How do medical school loans work?

Medical school loans work the same as any other educational loan. The main difference is that for medical school, you will likely need much more money to be able to pay all of your expenses.

We’ll cover the details of federal vs. private student loans in the next section, but here are the basics of how they work.

A federal loan all begins with the student filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. Once that process has been completed, the school you are attending will provide you with information on all available financial aid, including scholarships, grants, and federal loans. Once you have accepted the loan and begin school, all payments will go directly to the school for any necessary expenses. Any leftover money will be sent to you for spending on meals, off-campus housing, and supplies.

Private loans are paid out the same way, with the money going first to your school and the remainder to you. The biggest difference lies in the application process. A private loan will involve a credit check and a check of your finances. If your finances are not good enough, you will need a cosigner to receive a loan.

Types of Medical School Loans

In the United States, undergraduate students have the option of receiving loans from the federal government, private lenders, or both. Medical school students have the same options, however, they are more limited in the types of loans they can receive.

Here's a breakdown of each type:

  1. Federal Loans: Federal loans are offered by the U.S. Department of Education. They provide various benefits and protections to borrowers. The key federal loan options for medical students include:a. Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students, including medical students. Interest accrues while in school, and repayment typically begins after graduation.b. Direct PLUS Loans: These loans are available to graduate or professional students, including medical students. They require a credit check and may require a co-signer. Interest accrues while in school, and repayment begins after graduation.
  2. Private Loans: Private loans are offered by banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. They are not government-funded and often require a credit check. Private loans may have different interest rates, repayment terms, and eligibility requirements compared to federal loans. Some private lenders offer specific medical school loan programs tailored to the needs of medical students.

Pros and cons of medical school loans

Going to medical school is often one’s dream since they were young. Even so, the financial burden of attending is enormous, and taking out loans should be considered carefully. Here are the pros and cons of medical school loans.


  • High Earning Potential - Medical school graduates average over $200,000 in salary, making it one of the highest-earning professions.
  • Potential Loan Forgiveness - Many government programs offer loan forgiveness in exchange for your service in in-need areas.
  • Strong Job Outlook - The medical field is more in demand than it ever has been. And with a growing population, the outlook is strong for doctors.


  • Expensive - There’s no sugarcoating it - medical school is incredibly expensive. Finances should be considered strongly.
  • Long Repayment - With such a high amount borrowed, it often takes many years to pay off medical school loans.
  • Fewer Benefits for Private Loans - Private loans have fewer benefits and no potential loan forgiveness from the government.

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What is the average debt for a medical loan student?

While the cost of medical school varies widely depending on where you go to school, what scholarships you receive, etc. - the average debt is still an astounding number.

For the graduating class of 2020, the average medical school debt was over $215,000. When cumulative education debt is considered (undergrad and other schooling), the average overall debt for medical students is over $240,000.

On average, it takes students 13 years to pay off their medical school debt. This is even with an average salary of $218,000 for those with a medical degree.

How much can you borrow for medical school?

The amount you can borrow for medical school depends on what loans you receive and what school you go to.

The only loan with a hard dollar limit attached to it is the federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan. Medical school students can only borrow a maximum of $20,500 per year, and a total maximum of $138,500.

For federal PLUS loans, the maximum you can borrow is the cost of attendance minus any other financial aid received. This is usually also true for private loans. The school will determine the cost of attendance and relay that info to the government or lender who will then determine how much you can borrow.

Can International students apply for a medical school loan?

International students are not allowed to receive any federal or state funds, making them ineligible for either Direct Unsubsidized or Direct PLUS federal loans.

Certain private lenders do allow international students to take out loans, but not all of them do. There are many scholarships and grants often available to international students, so be sure to max out those options before borrowing money.

What Is The Average Cost of Medical School?

The average cost of medical school can vary widely depending on factors such as the type of institution (public or private), geographical location, and whether the student is an in-state or out-of-state resident. Additionally, the duration of the program and individual choices regarding housing, books, and personal expenses can also impact the overall cost.

As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the AAMC reports that the average cost of attending a public medical school for in-state students during the 2020-2021 academic year was approximately $41,438 per year for tuition and fees. For out-of-state students attending public medical schools, the average cost increased to around $58,246 per year.

Private medical schools generally have higher tuition costs. The average tuition and fees for private medical schools in the 2020-2021 academic year were approximately $61,089 per year.

What is the average interest rate on a medical school loan?

Medical school loan interest rates can vary depending on the type of loan and whether it is a federal or private loan. For federal loans, such as Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans, the interest rates are set by the U.S. Department of Education. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the interest rate for Direct Unsubsidized Loans for graduate or professional students is 5.28%, while Direct PLUS Loans have an interest rate of 6.28%. These rates are fixed and remain the same throughout the life of the loan.

On the other hand, private medical school loans are offered by various lenders, and the interest rates for these loans are determined by the lender. Private loan interest rates can vary based on factors such as the borrower's creditworthiness, market conditions, and the terms set by the lender. Private loan interest rates can be either fixed or variable, with variable rates being subject to change over time. It's crucial for students considering private loans to shop around, compare offers from different lenders, and carefully review the terms and conditions, including the interest rate, to find the most favorable option for their situation.

Will I need a cosigner to qualify for a medical school loan?

Depending on which loans you are taking out and what your financial situation is, you may require a cosigner to take out a loan.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized loans do not require a cosigner. This is because your financial situation is not taken into account. Everyone is eligible for these loans.

Federal PLUS loans and private loans do require a credit and financial check. While this doesn’t mean you need a cosigner, it means you need to have a decent credit score and a good financial picture to receive favorable terms. If you have no credit history or a very low score, you will likely be required to have a cosigner to receive one of these loans.

Can a medical school loan be used to pay living expenses?

Yes, medical school loans can be used for living expenses. They are intended to be used for all educational expenses including:

  • Tuition
  • Food
  • Housing
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Travel (for educational purposes)

Can medical school loans be refinanced?

Yes, medical school loans can be refinanced, just like other types of student loans. Refinancing involves obtaining a new loan with better terms and using it to pay off the existing loans. Here are a few key points to consider about refinancing medical school loans:

  1. Refinancing with Private Lenders: Medical school loans, both federal and private, can be refinanced through private lenders. Private refinancing allows borrowers to potentially secure a lower interest rate, adjust their repayment terms, and consolidate multiple loans into a single loan.
  2. Potential Benefits of Refinancing: By refinancing medical school loans, borrowers may benefit from a lower interest rate, which can lead to significant savings over the life of the loan. Refinancing can also provide the opportunity to switch from variable interest rates to fixed rates, making monthly payments more predictable. Additionally, refinancing allows borrowers to consolidate multiple loans into one, simplifying the repayment process.
  3. Considerations Before Refinancing: Before deciding to refinance medical school loans, borrowers should evaluate their individual circumstances. It's important to assess the potential savings, understand the impact on any existing borrower benefits or repayment options associated with federal loans, and consider the eligibility criteria and terms offered by private lenders. It's advisable to compare offers from multiple lenders and consider factors such as interest rates, repayment terms, borrower benefits, and any potential fees associated with refinancing.
  4. Eligibility for Refinancing: Eligibility requirements for refinancing medical school loans can vary between lenders. Factors such as credit history, income, debt-to-income ratio, and employment status may be considered by lenders when evaluating refinancing applications. Borrowers with a strong credit profile and stable income are typically more likely to qualify for competitive refinancing options.

What minimum credit score do I need to qualify for a medical school loan?

The specific minimum credit score required to qualify for a medical school loan can vary depending on the lender and the type of loan. Both federal and private lenders have their own eligibility criteria, and credit score requirements may differ between them. If you're interested in obtaining a medical school loan, it's recommended to research different lenders, review their terms and conditions in more detail when making your decision.

What is the best type of loan for medical school?

Determining the "best" loan for medical school is subjective and depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Here are a few factors to consider when evaluating loan options:

  1. Interest Rates: Compare the interest rates offered by different lenders. Lower interest rates can save you money over the life of the loan.
  2. Repayment Terms: Look at the repayment terms, including the length of the repayment period and any flexibility offered, such as deferment or income-driven repayment plans.
  3. Borrower Benefits: Some loans may offer borrower benefits like interest rate reductions for automatic payments or loan forgiveness options for certain professions or underserved areas.
  4. Federal Loan Protections: Federal loans often come with borrower protections, such as deferment, forbearance, and loan forgiveness programs. These protections can provide financial flexibility and peace of mind.
  5. Private Loan Terms: If considering private loans, compare the terms and conditions offered by different lenders, including repayment options, fees, and eligibility requirements.

How to apply for a medical student loan

Applying for a medical student loan involves a few key steps. First, complete the FAFSA form to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. Review and accept any federal loan offers provided in your financial aid package. If federal loans don't cover all your expenses, research private loan options and apply directly with the lender of your choice. Gather the necessary documents, such as identification, proof of enrollment, and income verification, and complete the loan application form accurately. Carefully review and sign the loan agreement, ensuring you understand the terms and conditions. The lender will disburse the loan funds to your school, and you should start preparing to repay the loan according to the specified terms after graduation or the designated repayment period.

In summary, to apply for a medical student loan, complete the FAFSA, explore federal and private loan options, gather required documents, fill out the loan application, review and sign the loan agreement, and prepare for loan repayment. It's crucial to stay organized, understand the loan terms, and make timely payments to manage your student loan responsibly.

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