Paying for medical school

Use a 1-2-3 strategy to help get the money you need for your medical degree.

How much does medical school cost? 

When thinking about how you’ll pay for medical school, make sure you have all the associated costs lined up to know how to budget accordingly.

Since prices can vary depending on the institution type and location of the school, the total cost of medical school can range anywhere from $161,972 for an in-state, public school to $264,704 for an out-of-state, private school.footnote 1 The average total cost of medical school is $235,827 (which typically takes 4 years to complete), with an average yearly cost of $58,968.footnote 1

Beyond the sticker price of school programs there are other costs to consider, such as: application fees, deposit fees to hold accepted students' spots, test fees, interview and travel costs, books, and medical instruments.footnote 1

If you’re overwhelmed looking at the numbers, there are a lot of tools to help you plan and pay for your higher education without getting you into more debt than you can handle. 

Make a plan to pay for medical school

Using a 1-2-3 approach to paying for medical school can help you control costs.

1. Start with money you don’t have to pay back. Apply to scholarships, grants, fellowships, and assistantship positions for medical school to help supplement any savings you want to use.

2. Explore federal student aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) may help you get federal loans and grants for medical school as well as aid from your college and state, if it is available.

3. Consider a private student loan for medical school. If you still need help paying for medical school, you can apply for a private medical school loan to cover those costs.

Compare the Sallie Mae® Medical School Loan to the Federal Direct Grad PLUS Loan. It can be a good alternative and, if you’re highly qualified, you may receive a lower interest rate.footnote 2

Learn about the Sallie Mae® Medical School Loan

Medical students need to keep an eye on their credit
It’s important that medical school candidates keep an eye on their credit score. Although not common, a low credit rating can result in your admission to medical school getting deferred.footnote 3

If you have questions or concerns about your finances after you apply, check with your medical school to see if they have a financial aid advisor. Some have these advisors on campus to specifically help medical students navigate how to pay for their degrees.

1. Start with money you don’t have to pay back

Personal savings

You can use savings to help pay for medical school. To determine how much you can contribute, you may want to create a budget. A budget can help you understand what your monthly expenses are. Make sure that if you use your savings to help pay for medical school you still have money left to pay your bills and cover any unplanned expenses. If you have any questions, talk to a financial advisor.

Medical school-based scholarships, grants, and assistantships
Some medical schools offer need-based grants as well as merit scholarships and assistantships for students. If you had a high GPA in college, you should research what scholarship and assistantship offerings are available to you. Look at the websites of the medical schools you apply to or talk to their financial aid offices to get more details.

Other scholarships and fellowships
Some medical associations and nonprofit organizations offer financial aid, grants, and scholarships for current med students. You can check with them for more information and leads. School department heads may be able to advise you on additional opportunities.

A few of the associations that medical students may find helpful are listed below.

  • American Medical Association: This professional group offers not just scholarship opportunities, but also robust information on how to pay for medical school, how to prepare for residency, and more.
  • American Medical Women’s Association: This association keeps a list of more than a dozen scholarships, awards, and grants that medical students can apply to.
  • American Podiatric Medical Association: Each year, this group’s scholarship fund distributes about $400,000 worth of scholarships and grants to medical students.

You also can search thousands of graduate student scholarships with our free Scholarship Search tool.

Service programs
You may be able to get some of your medical school costs covered in return for working a set number of years for a government or military program. Your eligibility for these opportunities will depend on the area of medicine you choose to study.

Here are a few of the programs that may be available to you:

  • National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship: This Department of Health & Human Services program will cover the cost of tuition, books, and living expenses for medical students studying osteopathic or allopathic medicine for up to four years. In exchange, you must work for one to two years in an approved high-need area, either in a city or rural town.footnote 4 In return for scholarship awards, scholars commit to providing primary care health services in underserved communities. The program provides support to students who seek financial assistance to complete primary care health professions education. The NHSC SP pays for tuition and various other reasonable education-related expenses and also provides a monthly stipend to assist with living expenses in exchange for a minimum of two (2) years of full-time service.
  • Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP): This program is funded by the military—ArmyNavy, and Air Force—for health professions students, including medical students. You can get all your tuition and fees covered, plus a living stipend.footnote 5
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): If you took out federal students loans for medical school, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness if you work for a qualifying organization like a nonprofit organization, government organization, or teaching hospital. Typically, you must have already made 120 consecutive payments toward your loan to qualify.footnote 6

2. Explore federal student aid

To become eligible for federal financial aid to help you pay for medical school, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). The FAFSA could qualify you for the following:

  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Medical students can borrow these loans (sometimes called “Stafford Loans”). Federal Direct Loans are unsubsidized, meaning you’re responsible for paying all the interest on these loans.
  • Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans: You may be able to get a PLUS Loan if you need additional help above and beyond your Federal Direct Loans. PLUS Loans are also unsubsidized. They’re credit-based and usually have a higher interest rate than Federal Direct Loans.
  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Primary Care Loan: This school-based program offers a few types of loans for medical students who demonstrate financial need. Check with your school to see if they participate in it.footnote 7

Your FAFSA application can also qualify you for aid from your state or school, if it is available.

Learn more about applying for graduate financial aid.

3. Consider a private student loan for medical school

Private student loans for medical school are typically available through banks or credit unions.

The interest rate for these loans are based on your credit history and other factors. Many private student loans offer both fixed and variable interest rates.

For example, the Sallie Mae® Medical School Loan is available with the option of either a fixed or variable interest rate. To help you focus on your medical career, the loan offers a 20-year repayment periodfootnote 8 and the ability to defer your loans during residency (for up to a total of 48 months).footnote 9 It also gives you the choice to make monthly interest payments or a $25 fixed payment each monthfootnote 8 while in school or to defer payments until after school.footnote 10 As with federal student loans, you’ll have to pay back the money you borrowed, plus interest.

When it comes time to start your residency, you may also be eligible for a residency and relocation loan like the Sallie Mae® Medical Residency and Relocation Loan. This loan can help pay for interview and moving costs.

Deferring undergraduate student loans
If you have private or federal student loans from your undergraduate degree, you can consider deferring them while you’re in medical school. Contact your loan servicer to find out what options you have. Be aware that although you may not have to make monthly payments on these loans while you’re studying, the loans will likely still accrue interest.

Learn more about graduate student loans.

How to borrow responsibly

Borrowing is often a necessary part of getting the education you need to begin your medical career. But it’s important to borrow responsibly so you can pay back your loans on time after you earn your degree. Limit your borrowing to the amount you’ll need for the cost of tuition and related expenses. Evaluate what your anticipated monthly loan payments might be versus how much you expect to earn as a medical professional. You can research your potential salary through professional associations and the U.S. Department of Labor, which lists the median pay for many fields.

Related topics

footnote 1.  This information was gathered on 1/30/2024 from

footnote 2. Explore federal loans and compare to make sure you understand the terms and features. Sallie Mae Medical School loans that have variable rates can go up over the life of the loan. Federal student loans are required by law to provide a range of flexible repayment options, including, but not limited to, income-based repayment and income-contingent repayment plans, and loan forgiveness and deferment benefits, which other student loans are not required to provide. Federal loans generally have origination fees, but are available to students regardless of income.

footnote 3. This information was gathered on 8/28/23 from

footnote 4. This information was gathered on 7/10/23 from

footnote 5. This information was gathered on 7/10/23 from, and

footnote 6. This information was gathered on 7/10/23 from

footnote 7. This information was gathered on 7/10/23 from

footnote 8. Example of a typical transaction for a $10,000 Medical School Loan with the most common fixed rate, Fixed Repayment Option, and two disbursements. For borrowers with a 81-month in-school and separation period, it works out to 10.71% fixed APR, 81 payments of $25.00, 238 payments of $175.31 and one payment of $89.74, for a total loan cost of $43,838.52. Loans that are subject to a $50 minimum principal and interest payment amount may receive a loan term that is less than 20 years. A variable APR may increase over the life of the loan. A fixed APR will not.

footnote 9. To apply for this deferment, customers and an official from the internship, clerkship, fellowship, or residency program must complete and submit a deferment form  to us for consideration. If approved, deferment periods are issued in up to 12-month increments. Customers can apply for and receive a maximum of four 12-month deferment periods. Interest is charged during the deferment period and Unpaid Interest may be added to the Current Principal at the end of each deferment period, which will increase the Total Loan Cost.

footnote 10. Advertised APRs for Medical School Loan and Dental School Loan assume a $10,000 loan with a 4-year in-school period. Interest rates for variable rate loans may increase or decrease over the life of the loan based on changes to the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent.  Advertised variable rates are the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. To receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate discount, the borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae. The discount applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

footnote Information advertised valid as of 6/21/2024.

footnote External links and third party references are provided for informational purposes only. Sallie Mae cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by any third parties and assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions contained therein. Any copyrights, trademarks and/or service marks used in these materials are the property of their respective owners.

footnote FAFSA® is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid.