Embarking on the path to becoming a medical professional is a journey laden with both academic and financial challenges. For many graduates, the prospect of medical school debt looms large, raising the critical question: How long does it take to pay off these substantial loans?
Depending on various factors, paying off medical school loans might take 10 to 30 years. According to a study from Weatherby Healthcare, 25% of doctors expect to take six to 10 years to pay off their student loan debt, while 34% expect to take at least 10 years to pay off their student loans.
In this article, we’ll explore how to potentially expedite and/or alleviate the repayment process, including understanding the financial landscape, exploring different payment options, and utilizing available resources such as repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs.
The average cost of a medical school education
Beyond the basic tuition and fees of medical school, factors such as living expenses, or whether you’re attending a public or private university can greatly impact the total cost of medical school.
According to Education Data Initiative, the average total cost of medical school is $218,792, with the average yearly cost at $57,574.
Total costs vary by institution type and location, ranging from $159,620 (in-state, public school) to $256,412 (out-of-state, private school). Additionally, the cost of medical school education has risen by almost $1,500 every year since 2015.
Given the increasingly high cost, the majority medical school graduates (73%) come out of school with educational debt and owe four times as much as the average college graduate.
The average medical school graduate owes $250,995 in total student loan debt, according to Education Data Initiative.
Repayment options for medical school debt
Due to the typically high amount of student loan debt incurred, medical professionals often face a unique set of financial challenges as they start their careers. Fortunately, there are various student loan management options – including forgiveness through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)1 and Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) – that may be available to graduates and can help ease the burden of medical school debt. More on that here.
Understanding all of your options will help you tailor your repayment strategy to align with your financial circumstances and career goals. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our student loan specialists or visit these resource collections to learn more about strategies for managing medical debt:
How to calculate your expected repayment length
Calculating your expected repayment length involves considering factors such as your loan type, loan amount, interest rate, and the type of repayment plan chosen.
If you have private student loans, you may want to explore refinancing options to see if there is an opportunity to save money. You can use the refinance calculator below to get a sense of different rates, terms, and potential savings based on how much you owe.
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Shorten your timeline with loan forgiveness programs
If you have federal student loans, you may be eligible for debt relief through federal forgiveness programs, such as PSLF or Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE), the newest IDR plan. You could also be eligible for programs specific to healthcare providers, like the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment program.
For qualifying borrowers, these types of forgiveness programs impact the repayment timeline by providing a potential end date that would be earlier than paying the full balance of the loan.
PSLF for medical professionals
Medical professionals who work in public or nonprofit organizations may have their loans forgiven after making 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan on their federal Direct Loans. Qualifying public service employment includes work in 501(c)(3) nonprofits, government agencies, and/or some other not-for-profit organizations, such as qualifying medical schools and teaching hospitals, employment with AmeriCorps or Peace Corps, military service, public health, and public safety.
IDR for medical professionals
IDR plans such as SAVE calculate your monthly student loan payment amount based on your discretionary income and family size, and unlike PSLF, you’re not required to be employed by the government or a nonprofit to qualify. Generally, IDR can be attractive during residency, however, if your salary rises considerably after residency and fellowship, expect your monthly payment amounts to increase proportionally.
Other forgiveness options
To learn more about potential forgiveness options for doctors in various specialties through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment program, visit the program website. Additionally, certain state governments offer funding to help medical professionals repay their medical school loans. For a comprehensive list of medical student loan repayment assistance programs by state, visit the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website.
To learn more about potential student loan forgivness options and how to qualify, visit our other resources:
Get strategic advice from professionals
Understanding your medical school debt management options and choosing the right path for you can be challenging. Every doctor and medical school graduate has a unique financial situation and career trajectory. It’s important to remember that what’s right for you may look quite different than what’s right for other med school graduates.
For help understanding your potential student loan options – forgiveness, income-driven repayment, and refinancing – our student loan specialists are available and can help put you on the right path. Schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation and discuss your questions.