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How can I complete medical school while working?

I want to be a doctor, but worry about the financial burden of undergraduate and medical school. I am an independent student financially supporting myself. I am looking for tips on how to find a job with flexible hours and navigating school requirements.

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Richard’s Answer

Working during medical school is all but impossible. Most students take out loans.

I only knew 2 students who worked. One was a tax accountant before medical school and worked in April of our 1st and 2nd year preparing taxes. The other worked in valet parking and combined his workout with his job by running between cars while parking.

A job would interfere with your education and lower your grades.

If you can keep your expenses down (live with parents, attend community college which can be free in some cities, complete your degree at an inexpensive public institution etc) debt doesn't have to be out of control. However the typical student does not do everything they can to decrease expenses then has to be stressed during their first years of practice.
Another unfortunate consequence of debt is limiting the student's choices after graduation. If a student has a passion for pediatrics, but crippling debt, they may be forced to apply to residencies with higher future earning potential.
A typical experience would be to complete residency and become an employee of a group. You aren't able to pay down your debt much because you are saving to become a partner. You buy into the group and then start making partnership money. That's when you are able to really tackle that debt.
So the answer depends on 1) how much debt 2) what specialty and 3) how long it takes to become partner.
But typically you are looking at 10-15 years to pay back your student debt.

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Christopher’s Answer

It would be extremely uncommon for someone to work part-time while enrolled in medical school. This is largely due to the time demands of the curriculum.

As a 3rd and 4th year student there is almost no time to do so with 50-80+hrs/wk of clinical duties, studying, etc. some people continue to do things like work for test prep companies and I knew one person who held their bartending job the first few months but it’s very rare. The financial concern is legitimate and a common one among all students, particularly with rising debt loads. That said, your job as a medical student is to excel in your studies. You can make informed financial decisions to minimize your expenses as much as feasible. That said, the reason banks are willing to loan such vast sums to medical students is because the rate of default is so low.

There are many options to mitigate repayment, including loan forgiveness programs. Too varied to detail in brief here but the bottom line is one way or another you are indebted, either in terms of money (loans) or service in specific region (usphs, military, underserved loan forgiveness).

Christopher recommends the following next steps:

Try researching here, can’t vouch for accuracy but the general summary of options appears on point. https://www.magnifymoney.com/blog/college-students-and-recent-grads/loan-forgiveness-programs-doctors636267564/
Here is the American association of medical colleges resource. https://services.aamc.org/fed_loan_pub/index.cfm?fuseaction=public.welcome

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Estelle’s Answer

You really cannot work a lot, because med school is so time consuming and often has an unpredictable schedule. Some med students in my class were able to do work-study. One of my classmates was a pharmacist, and he did some work on the side.
If you live frugally, paying back loans can be done quickly--I have many friends who paid off the loans within the first year of practice after residency.