December 6, 2023

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Medical school is one of the most expensive degrees one can pursue. It often requires taking out significant amounts of loans to cover tuition, fees, and living expenses. The average debt for medical students in 2016 was staggering, and with the increasing cost of tuition, this number is likely to rise. In this article, we will discuss the average medical school debt in 2016, what options are available for paying off this debt, and frequently asked questions surrounding the topic.

Average Medical School Debt in 2016


According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average debt for medical students who graduated in 2016 was $190,000. This number includes both private and public medical schools and includes federal student loans, private loans, and credit card debt. The amount of debt varies between schools, with some students having higher debt loads due to the cost of living in certain areas and the cost of tuition. In general, students who attended public schools incurred less debt than those who attended private schools.

How Do Medical Students Accumulate So Much Debt?

Medical students accumulate a large amount of debt due to the high cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses. The average cost of tuition and fees for a public medical school in 2019 was $37,556, while private medical schools cost an average of $60,665 per year. In addition to tuition, students also have to pay for room and board, textbooks, medical equipment, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Another factor that contributes to high debt loads is the length of medical school programs. Medical school programs typically take four years to complete, and after that, students must complete a residency program, which can last anywhere from three to seven years. During this time, students are not earning a significant income, and most choose to defer their loans, accruing interest on their debt.

How Do Medical Students Pay off Their Debt?

Medical students have a few options for paying off their debt after graduation. One option is to participate in a loan repayment program through the National Health Service Corps or the military. These programs offer loan forgiveness in exchange for serving in an underserved area or joining the military.

Another option is to refinance their loans to get a lower interest rate. This can save students thousands of dollars over the course of their repayment period. Additionally, some employers offer loan repayment assistance as part of their benefits packages, which can also help alleviate debt.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can medical school debt be discharged in bankruptcy?

Medical school debt is difficult to discharge in bankruptcy. The U.S. Department of Education requires that students prove “undue hardship” in order to have their loans discharged, which is a difficult standard to meet.

2. Are there any repayment plans for medical school debt?

Yes, there are several repayment plans available for medical school debt. The most popular plans are Income-Driven Repayment Plans, like the Income-Based Repayment Plan and the Pay As You Earn Plan. These plans adjust your monthly payments based on your income and family size.

3. Is it better to refinance federal loans or private loans?

It is generally better to refinance private loans since they tend to have higher interest rates. Federal loans often have more favorable repayment options and protections, so it is important to weigh the pros and cons before refinancing.

4. What are the consequences of defaulting on medical school loans?

Defaulting on medical school loans can have serious consequences. The lender can take legal action against you, and your credit score will be negatively affected. Additionally, you may be unable to obtain future loans for things like buying a house or a car.


Medical school debt is a significant burden for many students who choose to pursue a career in medicine. With the average debt load for graduates reaching nearly $200,000 in 2016, it is important for students to consider their options for repayment. Loan forgiveness programs, refinancing, and employer repayment assistance are all viable options for paying off medical school debt. Students should also be aware of the consequences of defaulting on their loans and take steps to avoid this outcome by staying on top of their payments and seeking help when needed.

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Article Summary:

The average debt for medical students who graduated in 2016 was $190,000, including both private and public medical schools and consisting of federal student loans, private loans and credit card debt, said the Association of American Medical Colleges. Students accumulate large amounts of debt due to tuition, fees and living expenses; room and board, textbooks, medical equipment and other miscellaneous expenses all add up. Those aiming for a career in medicine have several options for paying off their massive medical school debt, including loan forgiveness programs, refinancing debt and employer repayment assistance.

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