Financing the thing...

My big worry is financing medical school.

I imagine that many of you have kids and such; how do you plan to have even a semi-normal standard of living while in medical school?

I have just made the decision to follow this dream, so I still have probably two years of pre-reqs, plus the MCAT before I would begin medical school. So I’m probably three years out, and I’m trying to save. But four years of medical school…wow, that’s a long time to not be working. I’m the sole support of my kids, and I’m wondering how I’m going to do it without them feeling like that had four years of no money growing up while dad chased a silly dream.

I want to do rural medicine, and I keep thinking that there might be some financial aid money for that, but I’m wondering what other creative options you guys are finding to possibly give your kids a normal financial life while you’re doing medical school (and then of course residency).

Ideas?? Anybody know of scholarships for older students, or any other kinds of specialized aid money available?

Investigate the National Health Services Corps. In addition to financing your education, you get a stipend during school. Competition for these scholarships is tough and you MUST plan to go into primary care - if you change your mind, you’ll face a stiff payback penalty! But it may be just the ticket for the concerns you describe.

I knew someone who was the sole support of her two teenagers while in med school and that’s how she did it.


Several states have loan forgiveness programs for those going into primary care and rural medicine. You may to examine each states setup for this.

additionally, a few years ago, we had a speaker at an OPM convention, Dr. Bob Bowman, who is a leading educator in rural medicine who I thought was moving to one of the Arizona schools. At any rate, you could write him a note asking for his suggestions. If anyone knows of money/scholarships in this area, he would. If you nudge me by email (see below) I am sure I can dig up his current address.

Bowman’s website

the options… aside from being independently wealthy…

  1. scholarship programs - one reply already mentioned National Health Service. the other possibility is Military - who also will pay your way in exchange for Service. Individual states my also have programs for Primary care esp for people who agree to practice in the local area. Maine has such a program. I don’t known about others.

  2. loans – this is how most people do it. Yo will go in debt up to your ears - probably $150,000 to $200,000 before you finish. Sounds intimidating doesn’t it?

    but remember - salaries in Primary care start around $140,000 and specialties go up from there. Also - esp for primary care there are a LOT of loan repayment programs either through government or private employers. It is pretty much standard to offer loan repayment for starting Physiscians in Primary care now. These are usually done as Start and stay programs - (so much to start and so much per year to stay)

    Off course - this means that once you start you are pretty much committed to staying and finishing because you may find it hard to pay off the loans otherwise, which is why it takes a certain amount of HutzBah to take this on…

    Good luck - hope you find something that works

Whew…scary stuff!

I guess it’s time to start saving as I get these pre-reqs out of the way!

Holy cow, Mary–residencies pay a measly $10 per hour? So it’s not just 4 years of medical school with no income; it’s 4 years of 0 income followed by 3 years of pathetic income! And my guess is that med school debt payments must start within 6 months of graduation, right? That makes for a LONG time of lousy income. Sheesh…sacrifices!

Not quite that bad. Yes, residency pay, if you figure out how much per hour is awful. But you are finally doing what you have worked so hard to do.

And, as to med school loans, most are deferrable until after residency. Just live within your means and you’ll be fine.

Most loans, esp the Fed-based ones, are deferrable w/o too much difficulty, even if you are weird like me & do a long training program - 5 years to be double-boarded. However, private loans - the ones you will have to use when you have to exceed Fed-loan limits - are not so deferment friendly. For folks doing the usual 3yr post-grad programs, which the preponderance of primary care (IM & FP) programs are is not a problem.

But, when your training stretches into 4 & 5 years, they private lender start getting itchy pockets. I had to start making payments on mine during my PGY-4 year. Occassionally, when $$ got real tight, I was able to get a 3 to 6 month economic hardship forebearance - interest continues to acrue, but no payments. I have miled those until after I start my new job.

Let me warn you, Sallie Mae can be a real pain in the butt when you are behind & trying to scrape together a forebearance.

Residents are generally paid a “stipend” (it’s really a salary but there’s some weird reason you can’t call it that) of somewhere in the $45 to $60K per year range.

It’s only when you figure out how many hours per week you are working that you come up with silliness like $10/hr.


Okay, I feel better. Thanks!

  • southpawknuckler Said:
Holy cow, Mary--residencies pay a measly $10 per hour? So it's not just 4 years of medical school with no income; it's 4 years of 0 income followed by 3 years of pathetic income! And my guess is that med school debt payments must start within 6 months of graduation, right? That makes for a LONG time of lousy income. Sheesh...sacrifices!

Just an FYI, I don't know ANY Pathology resident making 10$/hour even after all the hours after 40/week are calculated!

Residency salaries depend on your location, and your year…to give an ex.

2004 PGY1 in Pittsburgh $37k, 2005 PGY2 $39k, & 2006 PGY3 $41k. I think they got another raise overall this past year.

Depending on your current job you may be able to continue to work a little. I was an RN in a past life and was able to work for an agency to work each holiday and summer. During my 3rd & 4th year I was able to work 2 w/e a month - paid my rent, utilities, & a little extra spending $.

I knew fellow students that chose to work at the local Starbucks/…minimum wage but any little bit helps.

Good luck

Rachel Yealy, DO

southpawknuckler, I understand your concerns. I’m not quite sure how to express this, but here goes…Lately, I’ve been struggling with the financial/career aspects of this journey. I could be working 9-5 instead of haphazard/part-time, putting money away for retirement, etc…and some days I feel totally irresponsible and fanciful for spending many hours studying (and away from my daughter) when I could be generating income. I’m not a materialistic gal, but the financial logistics, particularly before one even gets in to med school, are daunting. Where are the SugarDaddies when we need them? (Just kidding. I wouldn’t have the time…)

It helps so much to know that there are other people who are doing this too, and who don’t think I’m crazy for trying. Financing this thing-- figuring it out and makng peace with that-- has been keeping me up at night. I know this is the right path for me, but it isn’t easy…


Keep on keeping on! I remember your story and I was very impressed by what you said, and your level of enthusiasm…in person!

In a lame attempt to quote Harvey Dent from in The Dark Night (I recommend seeing it) :-)…“The night is darkest just before the dawn, but I can assure you, the dawn is coming.”

I’m in a similar boat you are, except I work full time in a very visible role in the high finance world while living a double life as a part time premed student and trying to maintain a wonderfully stable relationship with my terribly supportive wife, and it’s absolutely exhausting.

With that, am an idiot to give up the great salary, career prospects, path, etc. to take on hundereds of thousands of dollars in debt to pursue my dream of living a life as a servant to others in medicine? I don’t think so at all! “I can’t dream myself into a character, I must hammer and forge myself into one.” Your actions are noble and your drive is inspriational. Keep it up!

The beauty of this community is that we’re all here for each other. Best of luck in your journey.

“The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.” -Arthur C. Clarke

check out U of Washington- they have some cool programs that work with rural reimbursement in the western states!

What an awesome post. Very kind. Thanks for the encouragement. For me, these are the middle miles of a marathon, and I sometimes doubt my strength, ability, and resources. It helps so much to know that there are others with me…and that many who have succeeded.

Good luck to everyone doing summer finals