The cost to complete a degree in medicine may make many potential students question, is medical school worth it?
You will invest (and sacrifice) time to reach your dream of becoming a physician. But you know this and are prepared for it.
What you might not be prepared for is the economics of a medical degree. The cost of attending medical school is what I want to look at in this article.
How much does it cost for medical school?
The class of 2013 spent around $280,000 to finish medical school from private institutions and roughly $208,000 to finish from public medical institutions, according to Bloomberg¹.
This total is inclusive of tuition, living expenses, and books for 4 years. Modest living was the basis of calculation, so take or add several thousand dollars to suit your lifestyle.
Loans are the norm for students. Most doctors are saddled with student loans.
Medical school takes 4 years. Although you will get paid during your three years of residency, it can be assumed that no substantial loan repayments are feasible yet.
By the time the a doctor begins medical practice, the total loans will have swelled with accrued interests.
Can a doctor recoup from educational debt?
A real-life calculation was made by a doctor who sought student loans to send himself through medical course, from an article in KevinMd.com².
His computations would show that a $236K loan easily accumulates to $370K by the time the doctor earns his first paycheck as primary care doctor.
The question is this: Can the paycheck of a primary care doctor pay the monster debt?
Repayment of the loan can be spread over 10-15 years with a monthly amortization of around $3,400 or annual amortization of $40,800 if the 15-year repayment period is opted.
A doctor starting out as primary care physician earns an average gross income of $120K to $175K annually.
Add federal taxes, state taxes, Social Security and Medicare contributions and that salary dwindles fast.
Going back to the student loan repayment stated above of $40,800 per year for 15 years, the doctor’s annual salary comes out as a modest $59,200.
Can the doctor recoup from his debt? Yes, the doctor most definitely will be able to reach zero-debt after 15 years.
But living off with a salary barely scratching the minimum earned by sales representatives, will that sustain the doctor for 15 long years?
Will he be as enthusiastic or altruistic after that? What about 20 years? That brings the subject closer to the main question.
Is medical school worth it financially?
A general practitioner, such as the one in the academic illustration, will be older than 45 when he/she has paid the loans.
Only then can the doctor start to be debt-free, enjoy his full salary, and experience the gains from his medical school investment.
For students who are able to finance medical school without educational loans, they are much better off with no debt burden to saddle them upon graduation.
If a doctor remains as a primary care physician, he would be seeing the better part of his career paying off loans.
This is one of the reasons why very few doctors remain in the primary care.
The demand for primary care doctors increases as the population ages. But the demand doesn’t yet translate to financial feasibility.
Medical school graduates are more inclined to pursue higher-paying specialty areas after residency.
Being a doctor certainly seems to be a rewarding profession for those who took the extra mile. And the extra cost, one might add.
Whether medical school is worth it or not, wholly depends on a lot of factors. These are beleaguering factors that are certainly not meant for the faint-hearted, happy-go-lucky student aspiring to become a member of the medical profession.
And to think that we’ve barely scratched on the financial aspect among a myriad of difficult considerations and implications of one’s entry into the medical profession.
Other equally important consequences are a punishing core curriculum, sharp drop in social and leisure time, medico-legal hazards, and long-term financial support.
So take a long hard look about your chosen calling before you embark on a vast journey to the frontiers of medical education. If you want additional career options, consider looking at a list of medical careers.
Lorin, J. Medical School at $278,000 Means Even Bernanke Son Has Debt. Retrieved October 22, 2013. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-11/medical-school-at-278-000-means-even-bernanke-son-carries-debt.html
Hibma, P. Real Life Example of Medical School Debt. Retrieved October 22, 2013. http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/04/real-life-medical-school-debt.html