Does Medical School Pay Off? A Look at What It's Really Like

It’s common knowledge that if you want a secure career with a good paycheck, becoming a doctor isn’t a bad way to go. But wait a minute — becoming a doctor requires four years of college, four years of medical school, internships, a residency and possibly more schooling if you’re going into a specialty field. Along with lots of studying, all that schooling also requires a lot of money. In addition to the high debt that many people rack up getting their undergraduate degree, U.S. News & World Report shows that a medical degree, with room and board, will cost you more than $140,000.  Plus, what are all these rumors of burnout and professional dissatisfaction among medical professionals?

If you’re thinking about going to medical school but can’t decide if it’s right for you, we’ll show you what it takes — and then you can decide if it’ll pay off — for you.

The High Price for Education

According to data collected by the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), the average medical graduate in 2009 carried a whopping $130,000 debt load. Loan re-payment can typically take between five and thirty years: yikes. And according to Liana Smith, Assistant Director of Pre-Health Mentoring at Emory, “there are plenty of jobs where students can help other people without going to medical school and students need to really be sure of their reasons before jumping into medical school.”

But if you decide that you love medicine, it’s not like you’ll be living in a cardboard box for the rest of your life. Though your salary depends on a variety of factors, the average starting salary for Internal Medicine in 2009, first year post residency, was $170,000. Also, according to Smith, around 92% of medical students take advantage of some sort of financial aid or scholarship to help cover costs. There’s a reason that the stereotype of the starving doctor isn’t as popular as that of the starving artist.