How the Doctors of Tomorrow Will Pay for Their Degrees

May 24, 2018


For people who want to become an emergency room doctor, cardiologist, or pediatrician, they need to plan on spending at least 8-10 years of advanced training in order to do so. This training doesn’t come cheap either: the average doctor graduates from their formal education with nearly $200,000 in debt. While their income is substantially higher than the average college graduate, that number still represents a hefty initial investment into their future.

So how are future doctors expected to pay for their education? Here are a few of the most common ways.

1. Taking Out a Loan

As with any college student, many pre-med students will turn to either private or government lenders to give them money for school. The problem is that federal student loans have a lending limit which is often exceeded for medical students. This is where private student loans allow doctoral candidates to fund their education.

Private lenders will generally require a higher credit score to release the money than will the federal government. If you have a good score and possibly someone to cosign with you, expect to receive a very good interest rate – somewhere between 4-8% is not uncommon. Still, a standard debt repayment on a loan of $200,000 could take up to ten years, with a couple thousand every month going towards the debt, so the earliest a doctor will be debt-free on that schedule will be almost by the time they’re in their late 30’s. They can always pay that debt off faster, but it’s still a huge amount to pay back.

2. Receive a Grant

Grants and scholarships (discussed below) are very similar in that virtually anyone can apply for them and they don’t have to be paid back at any point. The main difference between grants and scholarships is who is funding them and whether or not the student “earns” them in the first place. Grants generally come from the government – either state or federal – but can also be acquired through various companies or foundations. The downside is that grants are usually hyper-specific to a field, so if you’re planning on going into a very specific type of medicine – such as pediatric cardiology – look into the grants that are available for that line of work.

3. Win a Scholarship

Whereas grants are usually awarded by organizations who hope to fill a hole in the current marketplace by funding students who can fill it, scholarships are more merit-based, which means the student has to earn them before receiving one. Academic scholarships are awarded based on their performance in school, athletic scholarships for their performance on the field, both past and future, and other scholarships can be granted based on race, income level, geography, or a number of other qualifying factors. Like grants, scholarships can also be granted by organizations who want to help people who are striving for a specific industry or even company. If you know what you want to be, look for scholarships with those specifications.

4. Qualify For Loan Forgiveness

To encourage people to work in areas that may or may not be the most ideal locations, either geographically or work-wise, the federal government has offered to forgive loans for people who are willing to fill those vacancies. For instance, the Minnesota Rural Loan Forgiveness Program offers to pay up to $25,000 a year on existing loans (up to three years) for doctors who are willing to work in remote areas of Minnesota. For those who want to avoid the lending route and having to pay the debt back, this can be a great compromise.