Best of

Medical School Loans: 5 Federal and Private Options

Teddy NykielJuly 16, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Benefits like student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment make federal student loans a better option than private student loans for medical school.

Our pick for

All borrowers as a first option

Benefits like student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment make federal student loans a better option than private student loans for medical school.

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Fixed APR

6.08-6.08%

Min. Credit Score

None

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.
  • All borrowers attending a Title IV school qualify.

Cons

  • Higher interest rates compared with other lenders.
  • You pay an origination fee.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Grad PLUS loan borrowers must not have adverse credit history.
  • Borrowers with adverse credit history can still receive a Grad PLUS loan by enlisting a co-signer without adverse credit history or documenting extenuating circumstances for their credit history.
  • Loan amounts: Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid.

Available Term Lengths

  • 10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Our picks for

Borrowers who have good credit

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Fixed APR

5.49-11.85%

Variable APR

4.25-11.35%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Pros

  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.
  • Borrowers can access online tutoring and free credit score tracking.
  • Provides above-average customer support compared with other lenders.

Cons

  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • Information not available on minimum qualifying credit scores or income.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 748.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.

Available Term Lengths

  • 5 to 15 years

Disclaimer: 1 Lowest rates shown include the auto debit discount. Interest rates for Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options are higher than interest rates for the Interest Repayment Option. You’re charged interest starting at disbursement, while in school, during your separation/grace period, and until the loan is paid in full. The repayment option that is selected will apply during the in-school and separation/grace periods. When you enter principal and interest repayment, Unpaid Interest will be added to your loan’s Current Principal. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRs are valid as of 05/28/2019 and assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae. The rate reduction benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. This benefit may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. 2 Loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received as certified by the school. Sallie Mae reserves the right to approve a lower loan amount than the school-certified amount. 3 This repayment example is based on a typical Smart Option Student Loan made to a freshman borrower who chooses a fixed rate and the Fixed Repayment Option for a $10,000 loan, with two disbursements, and a 8.88% fixed APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $162.06 and one payment of $120.23, for a Total Loan Cost of $20,680.37.

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

Fixed APR

5.94-11.96%

Variable APR

5.04-10.93%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Pros

  • You are assigned a dedicated student loan advisor.
  • One of the few lenders to offer loans to borrowers enrolled less than half-time.
  • More payment reduction options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.

Cons

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • Forbearance of 6 months is less than most lenders.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.
  • Minimum income: No minimum.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $120,000

Available Term Lengths

  • 15 years
Citizens One Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Fixed APR

4.90-12.19%

Variable APR

3.89-11.76%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Pros

  • International students can qualify with a co-signer.
  • Above-average customer support compared with other lenders.
  • Loyalty discount for existing Citizens Bank customers.

Cons

  • You must be pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 690 or higher.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $150,000.

Available Term Lengths

  • 5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of July 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.40%. Variable interest rates range from 3.89%-11.76% (3.89%-11.61% APR)  and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.90%-12.19% (4.90% - 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens One is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

PNC Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on PNC's website

Check Rate

on PNC's website

Fixed APR

5.61-11.79%

Variable APR

5.15-11.30%

Min. Credit Score

730

Pros

  • Interest rate discount for autopay is larger than most lenders offer.

Cons

  • Fewer repayment term lengths than other lenders offer.
  • Forbearance policy is more restrictive than most lenders.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 786 for approved co-signers.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $40,000.

Available Term Lengths

  • 15 years

Summary of Medical School Loans: 5 Federal and Private Options

LenderFixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

6.08-6.08%

N/A

None

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

5.49-11.85%

4.25-11.35%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

5.94-11.96%

5.04-10.93%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

4.90-12.19%

3.89-11.76%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

PNC Private Student Loan

PNC Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on PNC's website

5.61-11.79%

5.15-11.30%

730

Check Rate

on PNC's website

LenderFixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

6.08-6.08%

N/A

None

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

5.49-11.85%

4.25-11.35%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

5.94-11.96%

5.04-10.93%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Wells Fargo's website

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

4.90-12.19%

3.89-11.76%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

PNC Private Student Loan

PNC Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on PNC's website

5.61-11.79%

5.15-11.30%

730

Check Rate

on PNC's website

Federal loans for medical school

There are two types of federal loans available for medical students:

  • Federal direct unsubsidized loans: Max out these loans first because they have lower interest rates and fees than PLUS loans. You can borrow up to $20,500 per year and $138,500 total.
  • Federal PLUS loans: Take out PLUS loans if you've maxed out unsubsidized loans and you can't get a lower rate with a private loan. PLUS loan interest rates are 7% for the 2017-18 school year and there's a 4.26% loan fee.

To apply for both types of federal loans, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — this FAFSA guide can help. Most borrowers qualify for both federal direct unsubsidized loans and federal PLUS loans — there's no financial need requirement.

There's no credit check required for direct unsubsidized loans. There is a credit check required for PLUS loans, but you don't necessarily need good credit to qualify — you just can't have adverse credit history or negative marks on your credit.

» MORE: Compare medical school loan refinancing options

Private medical school loans

If you have excellent credit and don't plan to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may be better off with private medical student loans. Unlike federal loans, which have the same fixed rates for all borrowers, private loans have lower rates for borrowers with good credit, and they typically don't have fees.

Before approving you, the lender will do a hard credit pull to check your credit history. The interest rate you get will depend on your credit, the loan term and whether you choose a fixed or variable rate.

Other medical student loan questions

Going to medical school means taking on a lot of medical school loans. The average medical school debt among the class of 2018 was $196,520. Here are some common questions medical students have about managing this debt.

How should I pay off medical school debt?

There are many tactics for paying off medical school debt, including refinancing medical school loans, seeking loan forgiveness for doctors and making payments on an income-driven repayment plan. The best strategy for you depends on factors including the types of loans you have — federal or private — and your career goals.

Is doctor loan forgiveness right for me?

Loan forgiveness for doctors typically requires that you practice in the public sector or in an underserved area for a certain period of time. If your career plans align with a program’s requirements, forgiveness may be worth pursuing.

How can I get medical school loan forgiveness?

There are several federal and state medical school loan forgiveness programs. The best program for you depends on your career plans and whether your have federal or private student loans.

Last updated on July 16, 2019

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Medical School Loans: 5 Federal and Private Options