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Nearly Two-Thirds of Physicians Still Carry Debt from Medical School, Survey Finds

According to a new study by Weatherby Healthcare, nearly two-thirds of actively practicing physicians are still…

  • August 26, 2019

According to a new study by Weatherby Healthcare, nearly two-thirds of actively practicing physicians are still carrying debt from medical school, and of that group, 32 percent had more than $250,000 in remaining debt.

The study found that the high cost of medical school student loans weighs heavily on new doctors. One-quarter of respondents reported repaying student loans for six or more years after graduation.

Respondents also offered advice to other physicians hoping to pay off debt more quickly.

The most common advice provided was to live as frugally as possible, which includes living below your means, putting any extra income toward debt and pursuing additional work through locum tenens or picking up extra shifts.

“We work every day with physicians who are struggling to repay medical school debt,” says Bill Heller, president of Weatherby Healthcare. “We’re pleased that many physicians use locum tenens to pay off their debt faster, and that they recommend this option to other physicians as a way to decrease debt.”

Additional findings from the study include:

Physicians are struggling under the weight of debt: One-third of respondents (34%) expect to take at least 10 years to pay off their student loans. Many physicians are further burdened with additional debt from buying a home (60%) or raising a family (50%).

When considering ways to reduce debt, respondents indicated they’re interested in loan forgiveness programs, loan consolidation and refinancing, learning how to budget and working locum tenens.

Strategies for successfully paying off student loans: More than one-third of respondents (35%) had paid off their student loans, with nearly half (47%) clearing their loans within two years of graduating.

To achieve this, doctors emphasized a blend of strategies, including managing finances, pursuing additional work and consolidating debt. A third of respondents (34%) reported working locum tenens or taking extra shifts to reduce debt.

Additional advice for eliminating debt: The study included an open-ended question asking doctors how they would advise physicians and medical students wanting to pay off debt faster.

By far the largest grouping of advice was simply to live as frugally as possible until the debt was paid off. Making smarter decisions up front like not borrowing more than necessary and selecting less expensive state schools were other compelling responses.

Established in 1995, Weatherby Healthcare specializes in providing locum tenens physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners to hospitals and healthcare facilities.