We’re all friends here, so let’s be real. Medical school is expensive. Like, really expensive. The cost is a big reason that a lot of folks, no matter their background, hesitate to consider it as an option. According to the AAMC’s report, in 2017-2018 the median annual tuition was $32,072 for public schools and $54,240 for private schools. That’s not even counting additional costs like insurance and fees (trust me, they add up really fast…all that lab equipment doesn’t pay for itself!). Also keep in mind that if you are doing additional coursework or a post-bacc program beforehand, you’re also responsible for those costs as well.
The cost of medical school, however, is more than offset by the potential earning power you have as a practicing physician. However, given the magnitude of the cost of medical school, the prospect of paying for even one year can be intimidating for anyone, let alone most veterans who haven’t ever had to worry about paying for education in the past. Trust me, I get it–I went to West Point first, where my undergraduate was free (not just free…they PAID me to be there) and I was able to complete a Master’s degree later on with tuition assistance from the Army. My post-bacc set me back over $30,000 for one year of schooling and the prospect of paying $58,000+ per year for four years was nauseating. Add to that any additional additional commitments you have to your family–spouse, children, and other dependents–and it becomes downright terrifying.
As a veteran, however, there are a wealth of resources at your disposal to help offset some of the cost. The GI Bill, for one, whether you have full or partial benefits can be a huge help. Veterans are also privy to the Yellow Ribbon Program at participating schools–this can also help to offset some (or even all) of tuition and fees.
As a medical student in a four-year degree program, you are also eligible for financial aid through Federal Student Aid. Federal aid will cover some or all of your tuition and fees and is eligible for deferment during residency.
Other things to consider…
- Public vs Private. Many state medical schools are, like other colleges and universities, less expensive to state residents…often significantly less expensive. Even if you are a non-resident for the first year, it is often possible to be eligible for in-state tuition rates for the second, third, and fourth years if medical school if you are able to become a resident of that particular state. If you apply to any public medical schools, be sure to check on their state residence requirements.
- Consider Your Future Specialty. It’s still early, and you shouldn’t feel any pressure to know exactly what specialty you want to go into right now…however, it’s worth considering that there’s a good deal of range when it comes to average earnings across medical specialties. For example, in 2017, specialists made 46% more than those in primary care. Also, while earning more often means more training–for example, orthopedic and plastic surgeons average almost $500,000 per year but also have some of the longest residencies and fellowship pipelines–some specialties like anesthesia, dermatology, and emergency medicine have short-to-average length residencies and average well over $300,000 per year. This obviously assumes you are able to be smart with your money and pay back any loans responsibly, but we’d be lying if we said that a little extra cash every month didn’t make life a little easier.
- Outside Scholarships. It’s amazing how many scholarships–large and small–are out there for those pursuing medical school. The best place to start, honestly, is a Google search for “Your Home State + Medical School Scholarship.” Everything from Rotary Clubs to Girl/Boy Scouts to state government-sponsored scholarships exist for medical students. Not all of them will cover an entire year’s tuition, let alone a four-year medical program, but the small stuff adds up. If you are a member of a particular minority or ethnic group, there are a ton of scholarships and fellowships available from national and state-level foundations representing you. A number of scholarship programs also exist–again at both national and state level–for those hoping to go into primary care specialties, as this is an area of great need across the country. I will be writing at length about this particular niche, but at the moment I’ll give a shout-out to National Health Service Corps.
- Tuition-Free Medical Schools. They exist! Case Western Reserve offers tuition-free education to its medical students. And while I know the point of this site is to provide advice and resources to those LEAVING the military, it is worth mentioning that the Uniformed University of the Health Sciences offers tuition-free medical education as well for an ADSO agreement to serve as a military physician (all services may participate).