Most students aspiring to attend medical school inevitably wonder “How much does medical school cost?” In addition to medical school tuition, you must consider the application fees, books and tools, living costs, and many other expenditures that add up. While it may not seem like an appealing financial prospect, this blog will tell you what you need to know to help you to absorb the blow, and give some advice on how to get ready to pay for your medical school education.
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Medical school is expensive. Whether you are choosing between DO vs MD or looking to attend the cheapest medical schools in your country, tuition costs are on the rise in both Canada and the US. Today, in-state US medical students spend an average of $37,556 to attend public school, while out-of-state residents pay an average of $62,000. Private medical schools cost an average of $60,000 annually.
In Canada, medical school tuition costs are more affordable than in the United States, but by no means are they cheap. Compared to the rest of the country, Quebec medical schools are particularly affordable for in-province applicants, averaging CAD$4,072. The most expensive in-province medical school tuition of CAD$27,922 is found at McMaster medical school in Ontario. Remember, you will have to borrow at least some money to pay for your tuition costs. When you are calculating total tuition costs, do not forget to factor in loan interest rates.
Average tuition costs: US$53,185
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Cost to Apply
Aside from towering tuition costs, you must also consider the additional costs of applying and attending medical school. You will be faced with impressive fees as soon as you start your application. So, let us examine some of the “hidden costs” of the medical school application process.
Costs of Volunteering and Extracurriculars
You may not suspect this, but even volunteering, shadowing, or extracurriculars for medical school you take on come with costs. While applying to these is usually free, there may be costs associated with travel if you are doing international volunteering, i.e. flights, accommodation, food, and appropriate vaccinations. All these costs can number in the thousands of dollars for even a short two-week trip.
Participating in volunteering or research can also mean forgoing a part-time or full-time job in favor of these important extracurriculars, which can also result in the lost opportunity cost of what you would have earned if you were working. Let’s say you commit to a research project for 3 months. Around 16 weeks of 40 hours of work per week at US$10/hour equals around US$6400 of opportunity cost.
Most medical schools require applicants to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). It is offered multiple times throughout the year in different locations in Canada and the United States. The fee is US$320. For those in need, there are fee assistance programs available. If you cancel the test at least 8 days before the exam, you can get a full refund. International students pay an additional fee of US$115. There may be additional fees for canceling or rescheduling an exam. You can learn more about MCAT payments on the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website.
Also note that if you take the exam more than once, you will pay the entire fee as many times as you take the test. If you want to ace the MCAT in your first try, start getting ready, and read our blog on when to start studying for the MCAT.
Additionally, keep in mind all the study materials and full-length practice tests you will need to purchase to prepare for the MCAT. Not only will the test cost you a substantial amount of money, but so will the preparation materials.
If you want to avoid taking the MCAT exam, see a list of medical schools that don't require the MCAT.
MCAT costs: US$320
The application fees for American and Canadian schools are not cheap, especially considering that you will most likely apply to several schools. The application fees add up. For example, the vast majority of American medical school applicants will submit their applications through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), which requires a US$170 application fee for the first school and an additional US$40 for each medical school application thereafter. There is the AAMC’s fee-assistance program that can help you with funding these expenses. Students’ eligibility will be based on household income.
The Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Services (TMDSAS) require a non-refundable, flat fee of US$185.
The Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS) collects a fee of CAD$220. Additionally, you have to pay an application fee to each university. OMSAS collects these fees and remits them to each school to cover a portion of the costs associated with the admission assessment. The majority of Ontario medical schools ask for CAD$125 per application, except for the University of Toronto Medical School, which asks for CAD$130, and Northern Ontario School of Medicine, which requires CAD$100 fee.
Outside of Ontario, each medical school has their own application process and fee. Check with the schools of your choice how much you have to pay per application. These prices can range from CAD$70, i.e. Dalhousie Medical School, to CAD$150, i.e. University of Manitoba, Max Rady College of Medicine.
The majority of US medical schools will also require secondary application fees which range in cost. The AAMC has a Fee Assistance Program that requires schools to waive the secondary fee for applicants for those who qualify. Check with your schools to find out more details.
Application costs to apply to 15 schools: US$730
Undoubtedly, if you get invited to a medical school interview, you should celebrate! You have come further than the majority of medical school applicants. However, you must keep in mind your travel expenses as it’ll be incredulous if you land an interview in your own city!
If you're lucky enough to attend an interview in your own state or province this may keep costs lower but not necessarily. The cost to fly or drive from one end of a state to the next can still add up quickly. Perhaps it will be possible for you to drive to your interview and get back to your home on the same day, but this is not realistic for most people. Most medical school interviews consist of a full day, including the interview, tour, and presentations. Additionally, many programs have a casual dinner or meet-and-greet the day before the interview or the day of, which necessitates spending one night at the school’s destination.
The majority of medical school applicants have to travel far for their interviews, which means extra expenditures. Your flight alone can cost anywhere between US$200 to US$1000 per interview. Remember, if you get invited to an interview, you will not have a year to plan your trip – short notice trips cost a lot more. Unless the school offers you a short-term stay in their residence, you'll likely have to book a hotel for at least the night before your interview, and possibly the night after your interview as well. This can cost between US$80-US$200 depending on location. Each city and town have their own hotel costs, so look into booking a hotel as soon as you start planning a trip to your interview.
Some cost-saving options to consider:
Average interview costs: US$1,000
Cost of Living and Medical Training Fees
You must also be aware of the cost of living in the location where the medical school of your choice is situated. If it is an urban center, your cost of living will be much higher. This is the case with schools in both, Canada and the US. If you are planning to rent an apartment or a house, research the prices and calculate how this will affect your financial needs. You should also consider transportation needs, food, leisure, and study materials. You might have a completely different set of living costs if you have a child. For reference, rent is about $1750 for a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago, IL. In Springfield, IL, rent is about $650 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.
Your moving plans should also take into consideration taxes you will have to pay. For example, while rental prices for apartments in Quebec are quite low, you should keep in mind that you are not exempt from income taxes in Canada as a full-time student. If you have any Canadian-earned income – it is always taxable in Canada. This includes summer jobs, part-time jobs, scholarships, bursaries, or grants. You will need to file an income tax return. As a full-time student, you may be eligible for several deductions that can reduce the amount you owe and may even provide a refund. These may include deductions for tuition, moving expenses, and even childcare, so make sure you keep track of these expenses.
The situation is the same in the United States. If you remain a resident of Canada or any other foreign country, the United States requires you to pay taxes on any employment or business income you may have.
Average rent and utilities/month: US$1,400
Vehicle and Parking costs
Driving may be necessary especially during the clerkship years. You will need a reliable vehicle, which means car payments, gas, and insurance. Parking costs at hospitals can be significant and you may have to drive to work every day during your clerkship years, depending on the location of your medical school. Hospital parking can cost hundreds of dollars, especially in urban centers for downtown hospitals.
Average vehicle and parking costs/month: US$877
Rural and Remote Clerkship Rotation and Electives
Most students need vehicles to go to any rural rotations, and these are becoming more and more common since medical schools like students to have exposure to rural and remote areas. If it’s a core rotation, the school would have to subsidize by giving you a place to live free of rent. However, electives are your choice, so no matter where you go, you need to pay for living there. You will have a minimum of 10 weeks of electives, and you will have to pay for flying there and staying there for a couple weeks at a time, as most electives last between 2-4 weeks.
Average rent and living expenses for 4 weeks: US$1,200
United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) parts 1 and 2 and the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) part 1 come right at the end of your medical school training. USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) will cost $965 for each examination. The fee for Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) will be around $1,600 for each exam registration. The application fee for MCCQUE 1 is CAD$1,305.
Average exam costs: US$1930
Cost of Living and Medical Training Fees:
The Total Average Cost of Attending Medical School Per Year
It is important to understand that the annual cost of attending medical school will vary greatly depending on your geographic location, your housing and transportation preferences, electives and rotations, and personal needs and choices. However, you should have a general idea of your total cost when you are preparing your medical school budget. So, this section of the blog will provide you with the average total annual cost of attending medical school. These calculations are based on the costs associated with living in two North American cities, Philadelphia and Halifax. Attending medical school in small towns or rural areas is indeed cheaper, but the majority of medical schools are located in urban areas. For the most realistic results, let’s focus on costs associated with living in cities.
For Philadelphia costs, I've considered the annual cost of attending the Perelman School of Medicine, commonly known as Penn Med. It is a private institution, so the tuition costs are the same for in- and out-of-state students. The annual tuition is US$65,497 throughout the entire four years of medical school. Additionally, you will be paying for educational expenses like books, equipment, health insurance, and eventually, licensing exams. Annual educational costs range from US$4,016 (1st year) to US$6,038 (3rd year). I've used the highest cost of US$6,038 because it includes your USMLE.
Penn Med is located in the downtown area of Philadelphia. According to statistics, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia is around US$1,150. The average monthly utility bill in Philadelphia is around US$150 and includes electricity, heating, water, and garbage. The monthly cost of food in Philadelphia is around US$425 if you cook your own meals. A monthly transportation pass is US$96. However, as I mentioned previously in the blog, you might want to use a car for traveling to and from your clerkships and electives in the 3rd and 4th years. Your monthly car and parking costs will average around US$700, counting gas, insurance, school, and hospital parking lot fees. Don’t forget to include the cost of living expenses and rent during your elective, which is around US$1,200 if your elective lasts from 4 weeks to a month.
The total cost of attending Perelman School of Medicine in 3rd year is over US$100,000 without adding the cost of an annual transit pass. Since you will be using a car as your main means of transportation to and from clerkships, we can eliminate the transit pass expense from the cost of your 3rd medical school year. However, if you would like to keep a public transit pass, the cost would increase to US$102,987. Remember, this calculation includes only one elective, but you will most likely take more than one in your 3rd and 4th years.
Attending medical school in Halifax will be significantly cheaper, especially due to the vast difference in medical school tuition costs. Dalhousie tuition and school fees average around CAD$23,000. Your tuition fee includes health and dental insurance, union fees, and the bus pass. Additionally, you will be paying around CAD$1,350 for books and equipment annually. At the end of your medical school training, you will be required to take the MCCQUE Part 1, which costs CAD$1,305.
Monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Halifax is around CAD$1,412. Utilities will cost around CAD$158, including electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage. You will spend around CAD$450 for groceries per month if you choose to cook your meals at home. A bus pass is included in your tuition fee, but if you choose to drive a car in Halifax your monthly cost will be around CAD$500 including gas, insurance, and parking. Remember, if you are driving far for electives or clerkships, this average could be higher. Additionally, let’s calculate the cost of living expenses and rent during your elective, which is around CAD$1,600 if your elective lasts 4 weeks to a month.
This is your baseline number – only the necessities are included. Additionally, you will need to calculate your personal expenses like clothes, entertainment, leisure travel, and items like phone, cable, and internet. Mobile plans and entertainment costs vary widely across the US and Canada, so you can estimate your own annual expenses based on your hobbies and personal preferences. Don't forget, I included the licensing exam and elective cost in this estimation, so this cost represents the last two years of medical school. The first two pre-clerkship years are typically cheaper.
I want to emphasize one more time that these calculations are estimates of the average costs in these two cities. Depending on your choices, your annual cost can be much higher or lower than what has been calculated. For example, you may choose to forgo living in a one-bedroom apartment by yourself, choosing to live with roommates. This will cut down your housing and utilities costs, and maybe even grocery expenses. Instead of using a car to get to your rotations and electives, you may choose to take public transit. Instead of renting a room or an apartment during your elective in a different city, you may live with relatives or friends. However, beware that medical school comes with high costs and you need to have a realistic expectation of how much money you will be spending annually.
How to Pay for Medical School
Choosing to attend medical school is a big financial commitment. You must plan ahead how to pay for medical school. To make your medical education costs manageable, keep your outstanding debts low. Try to pay off any of your undergraduate loans and credit card balances before going to medical school. Let’s look at some options to help you pay for your medical education.
School’s Financial Aid Office
Taking out educational loans to fund medical school is inevitable, so it's essential to research funding options available to you. If you have applied for financial aid and credit lines in your undergraduate degree, some of these procedures may be familiar to you. You must take time to learn about all your financial needs and options before you apply to medical school.
Start by becoming familiar with your school’s financial aid website. Most likely, the website will give you contact information of the school’s financial aid office. Be sure to contact them as they are there to help you through all four years of your medical education. Financial aid advisors will be able to offer you information about the different types of funding available. They can also help you access different application forms and information booklets on where, how, and when you can apply for financial support. When you look for options, be sure to always check if you’re an eligible candidate.
Once you receive extensive financial aid information from advisors, you can start planning which schools you can afford. Start by looking into federal aid. Typically, the first step to applying for federal financial aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once you complete the FAFSA, you will receive a financial aid offer from each school listed on the FAFSA and you can compare the offers you receive. Once you have the federal aid offer and the knowledge of funding options from schools you contacted, there are some things you should consider:
- Are there schools that offer you free money (i.e. grants or scholarships), or are you borrowing this money and eventually need to pay these loans back?
- What are the conditions of federal loans and institution loans?
- When will you need to pay back your loans?
- What are the interest rates associated with each loan you have been offered?
- Are there any interest-free periods available?
- Can you pay your loans off quicker than the agreed-upon term without penalty?
- Is there a fee deferral option if you can't afford to make payments right away?
- Is there an option to have part of your loan forgiven if you participate in public service after graduation and residency training?
Compare each aid package that has been offered to you with the cost of attendance at the school. Calculate what part of your education costs this amount will cover. Be aware that most schools will require you to accept their financial aid offer, but you do not have to accept the full amount. If you are offered more aid than you need, think about declining it or decreasing the offer. Generally, if you decide later that you need more money, you can request it again. This is why planning ahead and estimating your costs is crucial – do not take any offers lightly. Remember, this is the money you will eventually have to pay back. The more you take, the more you will need to return.
Join the Military
Becoming a military doctor is another option for financing your medical school education. While serving in the army is not for everyone, joining the military can alleviate the burden of medical school costs and help you pursue the career of your dreams. There is typically a service commitment you must agree to when you join, so make sure to review those conditions carefully.
In the US, you have several options when it comes to financing your medical school education through the military. Firstly, you can research the Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP). This scholarship allows students to attend civilian allopathic or osteopathic schools while the Military pays for their medical school expenses. If you receive HPSP, your educational experience will not be much different from your civilian peers, but you will go through some military training during those four years of medical school. Plus, you will be eligible for residency positions in military medicine.
Otherwise, you can attend the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), a medical school specifically designed to prepare medical officers. If you become a USUHS student, you will be expected to combine military training with the rigors of the medical school curriculum, as well as wear your uniform to class.
The National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program is available for prospective medical school students pursuing primary care specialties. To get a full year of financial support, you must commit to a minimum of two years of full-time service in Health Professional Shortage Areas. Essentially, you will commit to providing healthcare in NHSC-approved areas with underserved populations. The number of years you must serve in these designated areas will depend on the number of years of financial support you received from the NHSC.
To be eligible for the NHSC, you must be enrolled in a medical school program or a program that may lead to a primary care health profession degree, i.e., nursing, dentistry, physician assistant program, etc. The NHSC funding can last up to four years and includes payments for tuition and fees, an annual payment for other reasonable educational costs, and a monthly stipend to help you with living costs.
How to Pay Back Your Loans
First of all, you will need the contact information for each of your federal loan services. This can be found by visiting the Federal Student Aid website.
Federal loans tend to have a grace period after students complete their educational programs. During this time, no payments are required. After the grace period ends you will either want to continue postponing payments or select a payment plan. The servicer of the loan oversees all the aspects of your loan once it is granted. If you match to a residency right after medical school, you will want to speak directly with the servicer about your payment options. Your payments will most likely be postponed.
You can choose to postpone payments even if you graduate without a residency match. In this case, you can obtain a deferment or a forbearance which requires no payments and any subsidized debt will not accrue interest. However, it is quite difficult to get a deferment due to strict eligibility requirements. Alternatively, seek forbearance. Contact your servicer to discuss your options.
The payment procedure for private loans will be different. Contact your loan granter(s) and find out the appropriate course of action.
Line of credit can also be a great option. Once you have an acceptance letter from medical school, many financial institutions will offer students a large line of credit (up to $150,000). A line of credit is something you can have on hand to use if needed, but just accepting the offer does not mean you need to pay it all back. You only need to pay back what you have actually spent. Any money that is taken out of your line of credit needs to be paid back with interest, so be careful and use this for emergencies only. A line of credit is an option to consider having on hand as the interest rates are much lower than credit cards, so in an emergency, they would be a better option.
Live Within Your Means
This advice may seem trivial, but it will save you a substantial amount of money later. While you’re a medical student, keep your spending to a minimum. You will need to learn how to live frugally and budget your expenditures. This can be as simple as choosing to stay in and cook a meal for your family and friends, rather than going out to a restaurant every week. Brew your own coffee, rather than spending several dollars a day for a take-out. Try to be aware of how much money you spend on your credit cards. These actions may seem inconsequential at the moment, but this money will add up. All these little considerations will save you cash.
Getting in the practice of preparing your own food will be critical later in medical school. During clerkship and residency, you may be working well upwards of 40 hours a week – more like 60-100 hours a week, so you may not have much time and energy to cook and the lure of takeout will become much stronger. Ensure you think ahead to this time and live well within your means during the pre-clerkship years of medical school and allow yourself some wiggle room later in your studies.
Keep Track of Your Expenses
Medical school forces you to become incredibly financially responsible. There are different software programs and applications that can help you keep track of your expenditures, loans, pay-backs, and more. Also, online banking keeps track of your expenses and breaks them into digestible charts and graphs so you can see which categories you are spending appropriately, such as housing costs, and which areas you are overspending, such as entertainment and travel.
Conclusion: Medical School is a Life Investment
With all this information, you might be wondering “Is medical school worth it?” Yes, medical school is expensive. You must know that upon graduating medical school you will have substantial debt. There’s no denying it. However, you must consider your medical school education as an investment. Being a physician is one of the toughest, yet one of the most rewarding careers in the world. Medical school is your chance to join a rare group of individuals that changes people’s lives daily. So, you try to be open to your costs vs. your gains.
Entering the medical field for economic reasons is insufficient, even though physicians in the US make no less than $208,000 annually and considerably more for some specialties. If your objective is making money – the medical field is not right for you. There are many more ways to earn cash, which are faster and less stressful than going to medical school. You will not survive the daily grind of medical school education if all you have to keep you going is the promise of a paycheck.
A physician’s paycheck will also not satisfy the pains of surviving the rigors of the medical school application procedure, medical clerkships, residency, and licensing. Even if you pull through, you will get bored of your new Ferrari and that brand-new condo in Florida while working as a physician. At some point, you will have to face that medicine and patient care is your life. Being a physician is a vocation, not just a part-time job.
If you are serious about being a doctor and attending medical school, you will eventually get to enjoy the process of medical education, research, and clinical exposure. Your job and your patients will become an inspiration for you. It is worth spending money for a meaningful life.
1. What do tuition costs include?
Typically, tuition costs include the basic cost of attendance, as well as fees like healthcare services, insurance, and technology (i.e. your school email service). Some schools also include transportation costs by providing a public transit pass as part of your tuition.
2. What is the total cost of applying to medical school?
You will spend a minimum of $2,000 on the application process, the MCAT, and the interview.
3. What is the median total cost of attending medical school per year?
Your costs will greatly depend on many factors, including where you live, how much you drive, where you park, where you take your electives, etc. You can expect to be paying around $4,165 per month during your clerkship years, excluding tuition. This will include the cost of rent in the area where you live and where you take the elective, driving, parking, food, and other expenditures. During pre-clerkship years, your expenses will be smaller, as you will not be travelling for electives or parking at expensive hospital parking lots.
4. What is the national average graduating debt at medical schools?
In the US, the national average graduating debt is around $200,000. In Canada, the average debt for medical school graduates is around CND$100,000, with 42% of students reporting debt of CND$120,000 or more, according to the Association of Faculties of Medicine Canada.
5. Are there any other fees that I may not be aware of?
Unfortunately, yes. There are always unexpected fees involved in medical school applications. For example, you may be required to pay a fee for a committee letter from your undergraduate college. Remember, many medical schools do not require this type of recommendation letter, so avoid this fee if you can. Check with your school of choice to make sure.
If your program of choice requires CASPer test scores, then you will also have to pay extra to take the test and send the test to the schools to which you are applying. Check out a list of medical schools that require CASPer.
Transcript request fees may also apply. Your undergraduate college probably charges you to send a copy of your transcript to the medical school, so you will have to pay the fee for each transcript you order.
If you get invited to an interview, perhaps you will also need to consider buying medical school interview attire. For men, it is highly recommended to wear a suit. This should include wearing a tie. Men’s suits are an expensive luxury, costing anywhere between $200 to $5000. Women should also look professional and tidy. Perhaps you will choose to buy a new blouse or a pantsuit. All these expenses will add up.
6. My school offered me an aid package. How do I know it’s good?
You should look at the aid package in relation to the cost of attendance and the total amount of money you will need to meet your needs and expenses. You will need to also consider what kind of money you are being offered, i.e. scholarships, grants, or loans.
7. What is the difference between grants and loans?
Grants and scholarships are generally free money that does not need to be repaid to the school or the government. Some of this money may have qualifying terms and conditions. Be sure to understand the conditions.
Loans are offered on conditions of repayment, possibly with interest. Loans can be obtained from a variety of lenders including federal and state governments, schools, private persons, or institutions. Make sure you understand the conditions of a loan before you obtain one.
8. Is there any way to earn money during medical school?
During your pre-clerkship years, it may be possible to continue to make money by having a part-time job on evenings or weekends. You may also have summers off during your pre-clerkship years, allowing you to get a paid position, including in areas that contribute to your medical career (for example, a research assistant position). However, do remember that your studies are your priority and you should not over-extend yourself.
Working during the clerkship years will be extremely difficult, since you are essentially working upwards of 60 hours a week during your core rotations.
Studying at a three-year medical school like the University of Calgary or McMaster University will make having a paid position much more challenging, since the curriculum is compressed, and you typically do not have large breaks in the summer.
Some schools provide a stipend during the clerkship years. For example, in Alberta, for one clerkship year, a token stipend is provided to the clerks. This is in no way a salary and is intended to cover the costs of purchasing food at the hospital during call shifts and the expensive parking at Alberta hospitals. This stipend is around $400 a month. You should check with your schools of choice whether any of your costs will be covered by the program during clerkships.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo
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