Exactly how much it cost me to become a doctor

Exactly How Much It Cost Me To Become A Doctor

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Medical school is expensive. No surprise there. But exactly how expensive does it get? In this article, I’m going to break down exactly how much it cost me to become a doctor.

I’ll tell you the cost of my entire medical school education from my college days, to trying to get into medical school, up to now that I am just three months away from graduating from residency.

Bonus: Want to learn how I got a 3.9 GPA in med school using a simple-to-follow study strategy? Get access to my exact study method from med school for free here. 

And when I say I’m going to break down everything, I mean everything! All the way from those big expenses like tuition and living costs to those small things such as supplies and resources.

We’ll also get into how much debt I have after going through the entire process and compare that to the typical medical student’s debt.

And at the very end, I will be sharing some things I wish I would have done differently. So make sure you read to the end.

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Let’s get into breaking down exactly how much it cost me to become a doctor here in the US.

College Tuition

Let’s start with my college tuition.

I went to college between the years 2011 and 2014. So these numbers that I will tell you are from back then. I also got my degree in three years to save myself an extra year of tuition.

So my overall cost through my tuition each year was $9,800. If we multiply that by three, we get $29,400, not counting all those fees and extra taxes.

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Now, because I was a first generation college student, both I and my parents were very motivated to apply for as many scholarships as possible for medical school.  And thankfully, we were able to get a good amount.

So out of that entire $29,400, we just paid about $7,500 to $10,000 over the span of three years.

During college, I made a decision to live at home and drive for 30 to 40 minutes each day. The only things I was paying for were books and the cost of transportation.

So we’ll just go ahead and round it all up to $10,000 for the three years of school.

medical school secondary application

Med School Application

Now, let’s transition into actually applying to medical school.

First, we need to talk about taking that dreaded MCAT, which cost about $300, and then an extra $300 for buying books and resources that I used to study for it.

Next is the cost of applying to the schools.

I chose the lazier route because I’m from the state of Texas. I basically said I’m just going to do one application. The state of Texas has decided to have its own. And so for me, the entire cost of application to the schools in the state, they were about nine to ten, was about $300.

But most students choose to apply in all of the schools or at least nationwide through the AAMC website. And that costs usually about $170 initially plus $40 for each school.

So the typical cost for another student can be much higher. It’s anywhere from $500 to $700.

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Medical School

Now that we have college out of the way, we have to transition to the actual cost of medical school.

Unfortunately, there was no medical school close to where my family was living. So I did have to make the decision to move to another nearby school in the same state.

And so I went to the medical school at UT Southwestern in Dallas, Texas where the cost of tuition was about $21,000. Currently, I think it’s about $25,000.

I multiplied that by four years, which gives $84,000.

I also made the decision to apply for scholarships, but it is a lot harder in medical school to get a significant amount of money from scholarships. So the total amount that I got is about $6000 to $7,000, which I was definitely thankful for.

And so the total cost of my medical school tuition is about $78,000.

exactly how much it cost me to become a doctor (3)

Living Expenses

Because living at home was no longer an option, this was the first four years of my life where I started to live by myself.

So I got a one-bedroom apartment that was subsidized by the school. I lived there all four years. The cost of rent is about $990, plus internet and utilities, which gives a monthly cost of $1,110.

And so the total cost of medical school over four years was about $53,280. That just makes me sad.

We’ll come back to the living cost at the end of the article, to talk about a few things that I would have done differently.

Bonus: Want to learn how I got a 3.9 GPA in med school using a simple-to-follow study strategy? Get access to my exact study method from med school for free here. 

Food

But one of the things where I think I did well was my food cost, which was about $250 to $300 on a monthly basis.

Typically, I spent about $30 to $50 on a grocery trip, and maybe eat out once or twice a month.

And so the total cost for a year was about $3000. Multiply that by four years and that is about $12,000, which is not the worst for somebody who is on a budget.

how much it cost me to become a doctor - transportation

Transportation

Next up, we’ll talk about transportation. Thankfully, I lived very close to school, maybe about one to two miles away. And I had a car of my own, which was fully paid for.

The main thing I was paying for was just gas and maintenance. The car had about 110,000 miles on it by the time I was in medical school. And I was driving back and forth between another city, about three hours away to see my now wife or at that time, fiance.

And so the total cost of transportation over the span of four years, including car repairs, gas, et cetera, is about $5,000.

So far, we’ve only covered the cost of actually getting into a medical school, living nearby it, and transporting back and forth. But the actual cost of being in medicine is a lot more.

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Extra Med School Costs

Extra med school costs include the cost of the stethoscope.

I had to buy a stethoscope twice because I lost it about halfway through. That’s about $150 each time, which is $300 in total.

Now, about laptops.

I’ve made a whole video about the best laptops for med school and mentioned the things you should consider when buying a laptop for medical school.

In the first two years, I made the mistake of buying as cheaply as possible and then finding out that they would break really easily. One literally just cracked in half or was not able to do the functions that I needed.

best 2 in 1 laptops for medical students

I bought three laptops in medical school. The first one’s about $500. The second one is also about $500 because I didn’t learn my lesson.

And then eventually, in my third or fourth year in medical school, I bought the laptop that I still use today, which is about $1,500.

So the total cost of my laptops is right around $2,500.

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Exam Fees

Next, we have to talk about the infamous exam fees.

Obviously, in medical school, you have to take a lot of board or licensure exams. These are tests you have to take to move on to the next part of your journey. And if you don’t pass it, your school won’t allow you to go to the next phase.

When I was in medical school, we had Step 1, which was graded at that time, but now is pass-fail. If you guys need more help on those, here’s a video on how to study for Step 1 [Pass/Fail Full Strategy].

The cost for Step 1 is about $645 to $700.

When To Start AAMC Practice Exams

Step 2 CK, which you typically will take after your third year of medical school right before your fourth year, also has about the same cost, about $600 to $800.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. When I was in medical school (it makes me feel old when I say that), I had to also take Step 2 CS, which is the second part of Step 2.

I had to fly to a different city, thankfully it’s Houston, Texas for me, and take a $1300 to $1,500 exam. That doesn’t include the cost of flying and living over there.

Fortunately now, you don’t have to take Step 2 CS anymore. But before, that was an extra $1,400 added to my budget.

And then in residency, usually during your first or second year, you take Step 3, which is your final licensing exam. That’s $895.

And while all of that feels like a lot, we’re just barely scratching the surface in terms of cost.

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Resources

Next, we’ll talk about the resources to get through medical school.

Ideally, everything your medical school offers within the tuition should be enough to cover everything you need to pass those board exams and to be a good doctor. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

And that varies in terms of what school you go to. I felt like I got a great education, but I still felt at the time that I needed extra resources to do well on my boards.

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These are common resources like OnlineMedEd. I was lucky that my school paid for it for the major rotations that I needed.

I also paid for resources like Firecracker, which was about $300.

Common resources like Pathoma. That was $75.

Next, Sketchy. I shared it with a few friends on one account, so I paid about $50 over the span of several months.

Obviously, I purchased question banks like UWorld, USMLE Rx, as well as Kaplan. All of those combined ended up being anywhere from $800 to $1000 in the span of my stay in medical school.

And then there are extra books. Obviously, I can’t keep track of all of them. Most of them were anywhere from the range of 30 to 60 bucks. I bought some kind of textbook or found a resource online for most of my rotations. So the overall cost of textbooks is anywhere from $500 to $750.

Medical School Interview Outfits (15)

Clothes

Next up, let’s talk about clothes.

As a resident, I can be a little bit laid back and I typically wear scrubs to work on most days as a physician.

But as a medical student, you have to make yourself look really nice and presentable.

And so I would make sure I would have the buttoned-down shirt with a tie, nice shoes, and slacks, and then have a different variation for each day of the week.

Thankfully, I’m pretty frugal and I don’t really care too much about how I look or how many clothes I reuse.

I tend to be on the lengthier side and I couldn’t really always find the right clothes for my size. I would typically go for places like Ross, T.J. Maxx, or Marshalls. These are high fashion brands and the cost would be from 17 to 20 bucks for a set of nice button-down shirts.

In my entire stay in medical school, I probably spent about $500 to $750 on clothes. I still keep most of the shirts that I have to this day.

And thankfully, I’ve never been that big into clothes, so I feel like what I have has gotten me through it all.

So far, those are what I would consider a pretty complete list of the cost of medical school and college this far.

But unfortunately, that doesn’t end there.

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Residency Application

Next, we will talk about the actual application process for getting into residency.

If you’re not familiar with residency, it is where you’re training for your specialization. If you want to be an orthopedic surgeon, you would spend about five to seven years in that field. If you want to be an internal medicine doctor like myself, it’s three years after medical school.

We’ll talk about salary in those years a little bit later. But there is a process to get into residency.

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First, we will talk about the actual cost of applying for residency.

Fortunately, for me, I had an idea of where I wanted to go and where I didn’t. So I didn’t apply to as many schools as most students do.

The cost is about $99 for your first 10 applications or 10 different programs and then anywhere from $17 to $19 for each program after that.

And then once it reaches about 20, the cost gets a little bit less.

Personally, I only applied to 20 programs. So that put my cost right under $300.

But that’s actually pretty abnormal. Most students will apply to anywhere from 30 to 50 programs and that can easily put your application costs to a thousand.

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You might be interested in how to do well in prepping for residency and you don’t want to apply to 50 programs. Make sure you check out this video on how to increase your chances of getting into residency.

Regardless of how many programs you apply to, once you get interviews, you also have to pay for the cost of travel flights, hotels, and lodging.

You will usually spend about $1500 to $2,000, depending on how many programs you apply to and how many interviews you go to.

Thankfully, I didn’t apply to as many programs and most of them are in the states. So I would drive to most of the locations.

I also had a lot of credit card points. The places that I went outside of the state were places that I wanted to either visit or go on vacation with my now wife.

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Overall, in addition to the credit card points that I had racked up over the first four years of medical school, I had spent about $500 on the cost of travel and lodging. So that’s not too crazy.

You would think at this point that that’s pretty much it, they’ve had enough of my money. But no. Even before I got into residency, they still required me to pay an extra $200 to do this physician-in-training license or application in the state of Texas.

I’m not sure if it’s included in other states, but I had to pay to basically say that I could train in the state of Texas, even though I got into residency there.

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Total Cost

There are still a lot of little hooplas, and I’m sure I missed something there. I may be off by a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, depending on which estimate I took.

Adding everything up, the entire cost of my medical school journey is $169,390. That includes the cost of college medical school, applying to residency, all applications, exams, boards, and stuff that I had to do.

Now, what that $169,000 doesn’t include is the cost of interest over those four years of medical school. So my ultimate medical school debt by the time I graduated was right about $192,000 to $196,000.

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And as I’ve learned the hard way on my medical journey, the costs never stopped coming. In fact, in residency, I probably spent anywhere from $4000 to $5,000 on registering for board exams.

This includes the USMLE, as well as in my internal medicine boards, which I’ll take in a few months, as well as just applying to have my license in the state of Texas, and having things like my DEA license.

Those costs accumulate into $5000 to $6,000 of extra cost.

So if you sum that up with my medical school debt, that is a total cost of right around $200,000.

Now I don’t know about you, but I may have to pause just to have a breath of fresh air and get away from that number.

why is medical school so expensive

Cost Comparison

Now let’s compare my number of $200,000 to that of the typical graduate’s med school cost

The numbers will obviously vary depending on your source. Here’s one article that I actually enjoy: Average Cost of Medical School [2022]: Yearly + Total Costs. It breaks down the cost every year and also at different medical schools.

In that article, the estimate after just four years of graduating from medical school, which doesn’t include the cost of college, is about $241,600.

And then, if you assume that you never paid any type of interest or anything on your loan, then after three years of residency, you’re about $289,546 in debt. That’s just insane.

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And depending on how familiar you are with the education track of being a doctor, you may think that’s not terrible because you’re going to make six figures anyway. But no.

First of all, that’s a lot of money, regardless of how much money you make.

And second, unfortunately, you have to go through residency after graduating from medical school here in the United States. For me, that’s only three years. But for some people, residency can be up to seven years.

That amount doesn’t even include things like fellowships. If you’re trying to be a cardiologist, oncologist, or specialist in orthopedic surgery, that requires more years.

The average salary for me in residency was about $59,000. If you multiply that by three years, my total salary (pretax) is $177,000.

And so if you compare that to the overall debt or just the $40,000 of interest gained over three years of residency, it does start to take an impact.

My Med School Debt

How Long Does It Take To Pay Off Debt?

I was interested in how long it takes the average doctor or somebody who graduates from medical school to pay off their debt.

After doing a lot of research, I really couldn’t find a straightforward answer.

In fact, I just found that the number varies depending on your tuition, where you live, your situation, whether you have a family or not, what specialty you go into. And it makes sense.

And so, I had to rely on a bunch of Reddit and Quora posts. I found that the average was anywhere from about 10 to 12 years after graduating from residency.

Typically, people will finish and get their first doctor job at about 30 to 33 year old, and most people were getting their loans paid off by their early forties or late forties.

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But I was finding some scary stories, like this one in Quora, where somebody was graduating from medical school with $500,000 in debt. Even with a six-figure salary, most doctors don’t make more than $200,000 to $300,000.

Obviously, some specialists will get into the higher range. But that is still a lot of money to pay off.

And if you add in the cost of other living expenses, such as paying your mortgage or just saving for a house, or paying tuition for your kids, that is stressful.

But again, how long it takes to pay off the debt varies.

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Personally, I hope it doesn’t take me 10 years. In fact, and as I get my job in just a few months, I hope my wife and I can sit down and have a plan or understanding about what our financial goals are, as well as paying off this debt.

And so maybe in the next three to five years, that debt will be off our balance sheet. But we’ll see. That will be an update that I’ll have for you guys as I go through this journey!

How Many Hours Of Volunteering Are Required For Medical School (8)

Things I Would Have Done Differently

The last but probably the most important part of this article are the things I would have done differently.

My number, $200,000, is nice. It was kind of scary for me to go through that. But hopefully, it gives you a little bit of light on the different costs and things that you would have to consider.

And I will argue that the cost of my medical school education compared to others is a lot cheaper. I went to a state school, I lived at home, I had some scholarships, and things worked in my favor.  And that may not be your case.

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So you might want to apply to more residencies because being accepted to med school might be a little bit harder. The board exams might not go your way. You may have gone to a mid or low-tier institution, which means you just have to apply to more programs.

So just keep that in mind. Look at the estimated cost.

If you’re living in an area that has a higher cost of living like the Northeast or on the west coast, like California, then the cost will definitely be higher.

So make sure to check out those numbers, you may use the data from this blog post to get those numbers yourself.

But let’s go ahead and talk about some of the things that I would’ve done differently.

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Tip #1 Buy Less Resources

First, I definitely would have bought fewer resources until definitely pressed to do so.

The cost of resources probably wasn’t a big portion of the total cost of medical school. We’ll get into that in a second.

One thing I did feel the worst was when I bought a resource, even if it was just $300, but I didn’t end up using it.

And I feel like I did not gain from the money I spent, especially since I’m paying for the loan later. You have to remember the rule that if you borrow a dollar, you typically will pay about $2 back for each one.

So get a resource, get a book, get something because you think it’s going to help you in medical school. Hopefully, TheMDJourney helps you realize that more resources don’t necessarily mean better results.

If you’re interested, here are free resources to help you understand how to actually get better results:

Bonus: Want better grades with more free time (and less stress)? Get access to our free 3-step study system here to see what other top students do that you may not be doing!

What I’ve learned from experience is that even if I hadn’t bought the $300 resource, I probably would have still done well in the test. I should have asked myself, would I pay $600 for that resource? If the answer is no, I should not have bought it.

That would have helped me with any book, any type of resource, any type of question bank. First, will I use it? And second, is it worth double the price?

And if my answer is no, then I probably would have held off buying it until I say yes to both questions later on.

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Tip #2 Decrease Living Costs

I would also consider decreasing my living cost.

Because I would have never lived on my own and I tried to figure out how to balance living with a roommate, I just made a decision to live by myself at least in my first year of med school.

And I think I got comfortable despite the cost of my rent, which arguably was pretty low at $900 in central Dallas, Texas. Even in the year 2015, that was pretty low.

But I had great relationships and friendships in the span of my second and third year of medical school.

I could have easily found somebody to live with and find a good situation where the rent is even lower, from $900 to $700. That would have saved me thousands of dollars over the four years of medical school and in my med school debt.

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Do I think that living by myself gave me that much more compared to $20,000 to $30,000 that I could have? You know, living by myself is where TheMDJourney started, where I was able to do all of this video and podcasting.

So maybe it was worth the extra cost. Honestly, I don’t know. But that is something I considered giving you as food for thought when you’re making that same decision.

Shall I live by myself or shall I live with a roommate? Maybe find a roommate, and if you can’t bear them try to find another roommate until you say, I have to live by myself.

how to get a full ride to medical school

Tip #3 Go To A Cheaper Medical School

Number three is to consider going to a cheaper medical school.

If two institutions are roughly similar, one even a tad bit worse, consider going to the cheaper option knowing that you can work your butt off and overcome the difference.

If one option is going to help you achieve your goals, then go for it. Let’s say you want to become a surgeon general in the United States and you’re thinking of getting into Harvard or another mid-tier med school, then obviously, go to the school that will help you with your goal.

But if you’re not quite sure what your goal is going to be then choose the cheaper option.

Let’s say, you just want to be a good family medicine doctor, then you can pick a school that is closer to your home, or where the tuition’s cheaper, or a school in a fancy area. 

You’ll definitely save tens of thousands of dollars over the span of four years with all the interest that you’ll incur.

how can i get a scholarship for medical school

Tip #4 Look For More Scholarships

And finally, my reflection number four is to look for more scholarships. This became a priority for me when I started to see my med school debt building up in my third and fourth year.

As I’ve learned the hard way, it is hard to make a dent in your medical school education with just one or two scholarships, unless they’re really big.

It’s sometimes much easier to find a few smaller scholarships. You just have to allot time and effort for that before getting into medical school.

Ideally, your institution gives you some educational scholarships and then you just keep doing the process every year and try to see if you can just make some kind of small dent over the span of four years. Overall, that’s going to be a big dent.

I was grateful to get about $7,000, which is still a good chunk. But I’m pretty sure that if I decided to be a little bit more proactive, I could have found more money so I would have to pay less debt at the moment.

Bonus: Want to learn how I got a 3.9 GPA in med school using a simple-to-follow study strategy? Get access to my exact study method from med school for free here. 

That is my entire breakdown of how much it cost me to become a doctor here in the United States.

I’m not yet done with paying my debts. I know that even as I’m becoming a doctor, I would have to keep paying for more and more. But hopefully, this gives you a nice overview of the entire journey.

Again, my numbers don’t necessarily mean these will also be your numbers. In fact, you probably should overestimate whatever I have given in this article.

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Consider checking our Med School Success Handbook. This is a 6,000-word handbook with lessons and tips that I have gotten throughout my medical school experience that will definitely help you make the experience a lot easier.

Medical school is definitely hard. It doesn’t have to be as hard as we all make it. So if you want my favorite tips and strategies, then go ahead and check them out here.

I’m always updating it because I remember new nuggets and experiences from students that I work with.

If you enjoyed reading this article, then go ahead and check out other related articles:

Thanks for being a part of my journey. Hopefully, I was a little help to you on yours.

Until the next one, my friend…

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