by Kumail Hussain, MS, MD Candidate, Rosalind Franklin University
In 2020, the debt of graduating medical students averaged around $207,000. With costs for medical education increasing on average from 3-4% annually over the last decade, it’s incredibly important to understand all the expenses associated with being a student. As a current medical student who comes from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background, I wish I took more time to research all the explicit and hidden costs associated with medical school. Talking to current medical students and hearing multiple and diverse perspectives about finances is essential in selecting a school because everyone’s situation is different! To help you on your journey, I’ve outlined a medical school cost breakdown and some money-saving tips.
Everyone knows that medical school isn’t cheap, and that’s mostly attributed to the cost of tuition alone. Tuition varies from institution to institution and is based on factors such as if a school is private or public, if it's MD- or DO-granting, and what its endowment is. Tuition increases annually and tends to be most expensive in your third and fourth years because they are longer, so be sure to account for that when calculating the four-year cost. Tuition helps to pay professors, administration, and faculty and provide the education itself.
To compare medical school tuition fees, check out the AAMC’s report, “Physician Education Debt and the Cost to Attend Medical School: 2020 Update.”
Books and Technology
Like any other program, there will be books and study materials you’ll have to purchase. Third-party resources are also popular among many students. These are usually study materials that were created by other medical professionals, and you can buy whichever products suit you best. You may also need to purchase a laptop or tablet for classes, and you may choose to pay to have your class notes printed or download the files onto your devices. Technology really comes down to personal preference, but I’ve always considered a good set of headphones as a necessary expense for my studies!
Some schools offer on-campus housing, but you can choose to live off campus. Depending on your school’s location, costs will vary; they will be different if you wish to live with a roommate, your partner, or even your family. Additional costs you should budget for include Wi-Fi, utilities, rent, parking, and home repairs. If you wish to own a car during your education, consider the cost of insurance, car repairs, gas, and city stickers.
Additional fees will vary widely among institutions. These can include parking fees, administrative fees, and/or student council fees.
In medical school, you will likely have to go through a background check; make sure your immunizations are up to date; and get regular health screenings, such as the one for tuberculosis. These may be covered by insurance or paid out of pocket. There are also costs associated with medical education itself, such as fees for taking your board exams (i.e., Step 1, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge, Step 2 Clinical Skills, Step 3) and applying to residency interviews that typically occur in your fourth year.
Remember: Every school is different in its cost of attendance breakdown, so your best bet is to check its website or contact its financial aid office. You can also view all of the AAMC’s data on tuition and student fees on its website.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the AAMC or its members.