BEST OF

10 Best Medical School Loans of February 2023

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

By Cecilia Clark 

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There are two main types of medical school loans: federal and private. In general, use federal student loans for medical school first because they have benefits private loans for medical school lack, including access to income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.

The following lenders offer student loans specifically designed for medical students and other graduate-level health professionals. Compare specific lenders below — see which let you postpone payments in residency under Key Facts — and keep reading to learn more about the differences between federal and private student loans.

Best Medical School Loans

Our pick for

All borrowers as a first option

Start with federal direct unsubsidized loans if low-cost federal health professions student loans aren’t available for medical school.

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

4.99-6.54%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best first option for all student loan borrowers.

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.

  • Subsidized loans do not collect interest while in school or during deferment.

  • Lower interest rates compared with private lenders.

Cons

  • You pay an origination fee.

Qualifications

  • No credit check or minimum income is needed to borrow.

  • Loan amounts for undergraduates: $5,500 year one, $6,500 year two, $7,500 year three and thereafter, up to a total of $31,000

  • Independent students and graduate students have higher loan limits.

  • Undergraduate interest rate fixed at 3.73%, while grad students get higher 5.28% rate

Available Term Lengths

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

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Manageable payments post-graduation

Federal benefits like student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment can make grad PLUS loans a better option than private student loans for medical school.

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

7.54-7.54%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

You can postpone payments in residency.

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers compared with private lenders.

  • All borrowers who attend a school authorized to receive federal aid can qualify.

Cons

  • May have higher interest rates compared with private lenders.

  • You pay an origination fee.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.

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.

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Private loans for medical school

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

4.50-14.83%

Variable APR

5.37-15.70%
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Variable APR

5.37-15.70%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Sallie Mae's private student loan. You can postpone payments in residency for up to four years.

Pros

  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.

  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a U.S. co-signer.

Cons

  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.

Available Term Lengths

10 to 15 years

Disclaimer

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit. Advertised APRs for undergraduate students assume a $10,000 loan to a student who attends school for 4 years and has no prior Sallie Mae-serviced loans. Interest rates for variable rate loans may increase or decrease over the life of the loan based on changes to the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent. Advertised variable rates are the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. To receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate discount, the borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae. The discount 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. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment. Advertised APRs are valid as of 1/25/2023. Loan amounts: 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. Examples of typical costs for a $10,000 Smart Option Student Loan with the most common fixed rate, fixed repayment option, 6-month separation period, and two disbursements: For a borrower with no prior loans and a 4-year in-school period, it works out to a 10.28% fixed APR, 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $182.67 and one payment of $121.71, for a Total Loan Cost of $23,134.44. For a borrower with $20,000 in prior loans and a 2-year in-school period, it works out to a 10.78% fixed APR, 27 payments of $25.00, 179 payments of $132.53 and one payment of $40.35 for a total loan cost of $24,438.22. Loans that are subject to a $50 minimum principal and interest payment amount may receive a loan term that is less than 10 years.

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Ascent Medical Student Loan
Check rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Medical Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Ascent Medical Student Loan

Min. credit score

Varies

Fixed APR

5.44-16.16%

Variable APR

6.32-15.76%
Check rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

6.32-15.76%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Ascent's private student loan. Ascent's medical school loan lets you defer payments for up to 36 months after you finish school.

Pros

  • Among the best for payment flexibility.

  • Grace period of 36 months is longer than many lenders offer.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Stands out for features that enable faster loan repayment.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not available.

  • Minimum income: Not available.

  • Loan amounts: up to $400,000.

Available Term Lengths

7, 10, 12, 15 or 20 years

Disclaimer

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 2/1/2023 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.

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College Ave Medical Student Loan
Check rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Medical Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
College Ave Medical Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

4.49-13.99%

Variable APR

4.49-13.99%
Check rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

4.49-13.99%

Key facts

Best for med students who'll need extra time before starting repayment.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • International students can qualify with a co-signer.

  • You can defer payments up to an additional 48 months during fellowship after your grace period.

Cons

  • You must be at least halfway through your repayment term before you can request a co-signer release.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.

  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

5, 8, 10, 15 or 20 years

Disclaimer

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 2/1/2023. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

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Nelnet Bank Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

Pros

  • Offers 13 options for flexible post-graduation repayment, which is more than most lenders.

  • Provides rate offer with soft credit check.

  • Borrowers enrolled less than half-time can qualify.

Cons

  • Does not disclose full underwriting requirements.

  • Borrowers may not know what to expect with hardship forbearance as it is granted case-by-case.

  • Does not allow bi-weekly payments via autopay.

Read full review
Earnest Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Earnest's website

Earnest Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Earnest Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

650

Fixed APR

4.79-13.70%

Variable APR

4.79-13.50%
Check rate

on Earnest's website


Variable APR

4.79-13.50%

Key facts

An option for borrowers who want flexible repayment.

Pros

  • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

  • No late fees.

  • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

Cons

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 758.

  • Minimum income: $35,000.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to your total cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 5.04% APR to 14.10% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 5.04% APR to 13.75% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan origination loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

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Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Education Loan Finance's website

Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

680

Fixed APR

3.98-11.99%

Variable APR

3.98-11.99%
Check rate

on Education Loan Finance's website


Variable APR

3.98-11.99%

Key facts

Best for borrowers with a significant funding gap.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • You are assigned a student loan advisor.

Cons

  • Minimum loan amount is larger than other private lenders.

  • No co-signer release available.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not available.

  • Minimum income: $35,000.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to your total cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10 or 15 years.

Read Full Review

Our pick for

International medical students

International students without an eligible co-signer have fewer options to get a student loan for medical school.

MPOWER Private Student Loan
Check rate

on MPOWER's website

MPOWER Private Student Loan

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
MPOWER Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

N/A

Fixed APR

13.72-15.01%

Variable APR

N/A
Check rate

on MPOWER's website


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for international students and students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status.

Pros

  • Offers a hard-to-find option: non-co-signed student loans for international and DACA students.

  • Borrowers are assigned a dedicated student loan advisor.

  • Borrowers can request forbearance of up to 24 months, which is longer than many lenders offer.

Cons

  • Payment required while in school and during the grace period.

  • Offers only one repayment term: 10 years.

Qualifications

  • MPOWER considers future income potential but does not factor in credit scores.

  • Loan amounts: Minimum $2,001. Maximum loan is $100,000, limited to $25,000 per academic period.

Available Term Lengths

10 years

Disclaimer

Note: Our loan does not support Canadian citizens studying in Canada. Canadian Permanent Residents and U.S. citizens are considered “international” when studying in Canada. International students, U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, and DACA recipients in the U.S. or Canada. ‘International’ means you are a non-U.S. citizen or U.S. non-permanent resident studying at a university in the U.S., or you are a non-Canadian citizen or Canadian non-permanent resident studying at a university in Canada. ‘DACA’ means the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals Program initiated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012. In order to qualify as a DACA Student, you must have applied for, and been granted, DACA status by USCIS. As a graduate student, you can borrow with a fixed interest rate of 12.99% (13.98% APR¹). This is the maximum rate and will not increase. However, MPOWER offers borrowers a way to qualify for a discount; a 0.25% rate discount is possible by making your loan payments through automatic withdrawal from your bank account. If you qualify for this discount, your rate will be 12.74% (13.72% APR²). ¹[International graduate student with regular interest rate] The APR is calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of US$10,000 with a 5% origination fee of US$500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. Payments will be interest only until graduation, plus an additional 6-month grace period. The remaining months of repayment are calculated using a 120-month amortization schedule. All payments are made on-time, a forbearance is never utilized, and there is no pre-payment of any principal. At an APR of 13.98%, the monthly payment amount is US$113.66 for the first 30 months. For the next 120 months, the monthly payment amount is about $156.71. ²[International graduate student with discounted interest rate] The APRs with discounts are calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of $10,000 with a 5% origination fee of US$500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. The borrower signs up for automatic debit immediately after the loan is disbursed and remains on it for the life of the loan, which reduces the rate by 0.25%. At an APR of 13.72%, the monthly payment is US$111.47 for the first 30 months. For the last 120 payments, the monthly amount is US$155.17. Undergraduate Students in the U.S. or Canada Note: Our loan does not support Canadian citizens studying in Canada. Canadian Permanent Residents and U.S. citizens are considered “international” when studying in Canada. International students, U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, and DACA recipients in the U.S. or Canada. ‘International’ means you are a non-U.S. citizen or U.S. non-permanent resident studying at a university in the U.S., or you are a non-Canadian citizen or Canadian non-permanent resident studying at a university in Canada. ‘DACA’ means the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals Program initiated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012. In order to qualify as a DACA Student, you must have applied for, and been granted, DACA status by USCIS. As an undergraduate student, you can borrow with a fixed interest rate of 13.99% (15.01% APR³). This is the maximum rate and will never increase. However, MPOWER offers borrowers a way to qualify for a discount; a 0.25% rate discount is possible by making your loan payments through automatic withdrawal from your bank account. If you qualify for this discount, your rate will be 13.74% (14.75% APR⁴). ³[International undergraduate student with regular interest rate] The APR is calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of $10,000 with a 5% origination fee of $500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. Payments will be interest only until graduation plus an additional 6-month grace period. The remaining months of repayment are calculated using a 120-month amortization schedule. All payments are made on-time, a forbearance is never utilized, and there is no pre-payment of any principal. At an APR of 15.01%, the monthly payment amount is $122.41 for the first 30 months. For the next 120 months, the monthly payment amount is $162.97. ⁴[International undergraduate student with discounted interest rate] The APRs with discounts are calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of US$10,000 with a 5% origination fee of US$500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. The borrower signs up for automatic debit immediately after the loan is disbursed and remains on it for the life of the loan, which reduces the rate by 0.25%. A forbearance is never utilized and there is no prepayment of any principal. At an APR of 14.75%, the monthly payment is US$120.22 for the first 30 payments. For the last 120 payments, the monthly amount is US$161.39.

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Our pick for

Borrowers from Texas

Brazos Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Brazos' website

Brazos Private Student Loan

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Brazos Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

680

Fixed APR

2.84-7.27%

Variable APR

4.09-8.52%
Check rate

on Brazos' website


Variable APR

4.09-8.52%

Key facts

Best for Texas residents with strong financials or a qualified co-signer.

Pros

  • May offer lower rates for graduate students than what are available through the federal government.

  • Applies extra payments to the loan principal by default.

  • Offers five loan terms, which is more than most lenders.

Cons

  • Not available to borrowers enrolled in two year programs at community colleges.

  • Not available to borrowers who are not Texas residents.

  • Biweekly payments via autopay is not available.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years

Read Full Review

Federal loans for medical school

There are multiple types of federal loans for medical school. Consider them in this order:

  • Federal health professions student loans. These loans have interest subsidies and lower interest rates than other federal loans. But they're only available to borrowers who demonstrate financial need and attend participating schools. Ask your school about its application process to see if you qualify.

  • Federal direct unsubsidized loans. These loans aren't based on financial need, and medical students should max out these loans before PLUS loans because they have lower interest rates and fees. You can borrow up to $20,500 per year and $138,500 total, including any undergraduate loans.

  • Federal PLUS loans. Consider PLUS loans after you've exhausted other federal loans for medical school. PLUS loan interest rates are 7.54% for the 2022-23 school year, which may be close to the rate you'd get with a private loan. But PLUS loans come with a 4.228% fee that most private lenders don't charge.

To get federal loans for medical school, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — this FAFSA guide can help. If your school participates in the health professions student loan program, you may need to fill out a different application.

There's no credit check for direct unsubsidized loans. There is a credit check 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.

Private medical school loans

Private medical school loans can make sense if you have excellent credit and don't plan to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness. 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 factors like your credit, the loan term and whether you choose a fixed or variable rate.

Many lenders — including Ascent, Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo — offer private medical school loans with specific benefits for aspiring health professionals, like the ability to postpone or make reduced payments during residency. Weigh such features vs. getting the lowest interest rate possible.

Medical school loans for international students

International students aren't eligible for federal student loans. But they may be able to qualify for a private medical school loan with an eligible co-signer.

If you're an international medical student without a credit history or co-signer, you'll have fewer options.

MPOWER lends to international students, but caps loan amounts at $50,000 annually, which may not be enough to cover med school. Prodigy Finance offers higher loan limits ($220,000) but isn't available in every state.

Managing medical school loans

Going to medical school means taking on a lot of medical school loans. The average medical school debt among the class of 2019 was $201,490.

Explore tactics for paying off medical school debt before you borrow. Depending on your career goals and the type of loans you have, the best strategy may be refinancing medical school loans during or after your residency, seeking loan forgiveness for doctors or riding out an an income-driven repayment plan.

STUDENT LOAN RATINGS METHODOLOGY

Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

We consider 40 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

Last updated on December 12, 2022

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Medical School Loans of February 2023

Frequently asked questions