Growing up, Doogie Howser, M.D. inflated my dreams of becoming a doctor. Watching Neil Patrick Harris portray the teen genius made applying to medical school seem obtainable.

Yet, one of the biggest issues the show didn’t tackle were the ways to pay for medical school. True, it was a fictional character living a made up life. But what about the real-life American students are torn between pursuing their M.D. status or avoiding the credit crippling debt awaiting after graduation?

Ways to Pay for Medical School

In the United States, the cost of medical school tuition and fees ranges between $30,000-$60,000. The cost will vary depending on whether the student attends a public or private institution.

But tuition isn’t the only cost to consider. The cost of living which includes bills, books, exams, furniture, food, housing, and licensure can run high.

After totaling all those expenses the question of how to pay for medical school becomes alarming.

But fear not. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Student Loans

The most popular way for American medical students to finance their education is through Student Loans. On average, medical students carried loan debt of $195,000 in 2018. Yet, this figure does not include the cost of pre-med school debt.

But student loans are the most accessible and reliable form of financial aid. The loans are broken down into Federal and Private loans.

The Federal loans available are Unsubsidized and Grad Plus. The interest rates will vary for both types but the interest begins to grow the moment you borrow an Unsubsidized loan.

Once accepted into your medical school schedule an appointment with your financial aid advisor to discuss ways to pay for med school.

During your appointment at the beginning of the school year develop a budget with your advisor. Base the budget on your total amount owed in tuition and fees. Once you have the total you can choose how much you wish to borrow.

It is wise to only borrow what you need because this money needs to be repaid.

Yes, there are consolidation and repayment programs to help the payback process. But if you can keep your loans low you are better off.

Family Assistance

The family assistance option isn’t the most practical but if your family’s ability to help pay for your medical school then take it.

Any free money you receive during your medical school career benefits you and decreases the stress of debt.

Work & Save Before Medical School

Now many people wonder if med school students work. Well, working during medical school is not advised. Not only will you need all your energy for attending classes and studying, but during a hospital, residency shifts can last up to 24 hours and cap out at 80 hours per week.

If you work during your undergraduate years and save this decreases the money needed for expenses like books or food.

To increase money saved even more live at home and attend a community college before transferring to a 4-year-college. Yet, everyone can’t use this option.

Grants & Scholarships

Everyone loves free money for financing medical school. Grants and scholarships offer students payments in return for completing an application process and matching certain criteria.

Researching online and checking with your medical school will provide information on available grants and scholarships. Though it may seem tedious it’s worth the work if you receive the grant or scholarship.

Military Programs 

The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) runs through the Air Force, Army, and Navy. If they are accepted into the program student receive tuition and fees. A monthly living stipend is also awarded.

The scholarships awarded to the 3 branches of the military include:

  • Army- The F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program
  • Air Force- Air Force Medical HPSP
  • Navy- Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) and Health Services Collegiate Program (HSCP)

All 3 branches provide full tuition and fees payments. Plus a monthly stipend and a service requirement after the medical residency ends. But the HPSP for the Navy includes “a sign-on bonus of up to $10,000 for medical school and dental school candidates” according to

Online Fundraisers

Fundraisers people collect money in times of need. Online fundraisers like GoFundMe allow you to set up a fundraiser for a specific purpose. There’s an individual page for Education, Emergency, and Medical just to name a few.

Not only will your loved ones help your cause but concerned strangers donate too.

National Health Service Corps (NHSC)

Since 1974, the National Health Service Corps scholarship provides funding to medical students becoming primary care physicians. The scholarship’s purpose is to address the need in rural America and other underserved areas, by assisting medical students becoming primary care physicians and practicing in those underserved areas.

By 1980 a loan repayment program began. If awarded the scholarship it covers full tuition and fees at any accredited medical school for 1 year up to 4 years. Medical school students must agree to practice in at NHSC site for a minimum of 2 years.

The NHSC scholarship is open to students pursuing a degree in:

  • internal medicine
  • family medicine
  • psychiatry
  • pediatrics
  • OB/GYN

If you switch from internal medicine to another specialty you must repay all the money distributed to you plus any penalties.

Show Me The Money

No one said the road to success would be easy. But now that you know ways to pay for medical school it’s up to you to do the work and trust the process.

Before you know it the money will flow in and your biggest issue won’t be tuition payments, it’ll be passing your med school exams.

For more information complete your own online research to find solutions to your medical school money troubles.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "7 Legitimate Ways to Pay for Medical School," in Medicalopedia, June 12, 2019, [Permalink:].