Sunday, Aug 13, 2023

How to plan your finances if you are aiming to study medicine in the USA

Be it work-study programmes, textbooks or health insurance, there are several things Indian students need to take care before heading abroad for a medical course.

Things to take care of when heading to US for MBBSBy taking a proactive approach and being mindful of your expenses, you can pursue your dream of studying medicine in the US without unnecessary financial stress. (Representative image. Source: Unsplash)
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How to plan your finances if you are aiming to study medicine in the USA
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— Prabhu Marudheri

Pursuing a medical degree in the United States can burn a deep hole in the pocket if one is aiming to join leading schools of medicine like Harvard University, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, Columbia University, University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Washington. Even those that are not in the same bracket can be relatively expensive for an Indian student. Therefore, what becomes imperative is careful planning of finances.

This article attempts to provide a guide for Indian aspirants on planning their finances effectively for studying medicine in the USA.

Research and understand the costs

Students and parents must strategise for a four-year pre-med programme initially, ensuring financial readiness for at least eight years, including time for USMLE preparation and other requirements such as community service, clinical rotations, research experiences, and elective courses to build a stronger profile.

To become a doctor in the US, a student needs to first complete a 4-year undergraduate programme post their Class 12/ high school. The pre-medical UG programme can cost anywhere between $20,000 on the lower side and a whopping $60,000 on the higher side per year in the USA.

Equally important for all students before joining a school of medicine in the USA is to clear the MCAT, which is a multiple-choice examination where physical science, biology, critical thinking, and verbal skills are tested. Students must crack MCAT before they can be admitted to an American medical school. Once these are cleared, a student can apply for admission into a medical school at the postgraduate level, which offers a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree course that typically lasts 4 years, with expenses for tuition and living ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 or more per year.

How much one would end up spending depends on factors such as a university’s reputation, location, and whether it’s private or public. Usually, public universities are perceived to be less expensive but there are a few where the cost of education is higher than those of a few private universities. So, the students have to do their due diligence in terms of fees and expenses.

Living expenses


The cost of living in the USA also varies based on the city or state you choose to study in. On an average, you should budget around $18,000 to $24,000 per year for accommodation, food, transportation, and other daily expenses. Major cities like New York or San Francisco may have higher living costs compared with smaller towns or suburban areas.

Explore scholarships and financial aid

A range of factors like the applicant’s profile, financial independence, and special achievements are considered while issuing scholarships. For instance, some leading universities offer athletic scholarships. These are offered to students who have demonstrated excellence in sports at the state or the national level. Similarly, there are some universities that provide special scholarships for international candidates. Students are advised to thoroughly research and identify the scholarships and grants that are specifically tailored for Indian aspirants, keep track of application deadlines and the eligibility criteria, and apply for as many scholarships as possible to lessen the financial burden.

Consider education loans

Many Indian banks offer student loans for studying abroad. Find out the different loan options, compare interest rates, repayment terms, and other conditions and then evaluate the loan amount you will need to cover tuition fees and living expenses, keeping in mind your repayment capability after completing your studies.

Explore work-study programmes


Many universities in the US offer work-study programmes for international students. These programmes allow you to work part-time on the campus, helping you gain valuable experience while earning some income to support your expenses. Research the eligibility criteria and available opportunities at your chosen universities.

Healthcare and insurance

For an international student studying medicine in the USA, having health insurance coverage is mandatory. The cost of health insurance can range from $1,500 to $3,000 or more per year, depending on the coverage and the insurance provider. Research and compare different health insurance plans, considering factors such as coverage, premiums, deductibles, and the network of healthcare providers. It is also important to set aside funds for any unforeseen medical expenses that may arise during your studies.

Textbooks and study materials

Budgeting for textbooks and study materials is crucial. While the cost of medical textbooks can vary in the US, allocating approximately $1,000 to $2,000 per year for these expenses is recommended. Consider buying both new and used textbooks by exploring online resources, and utilising library resources to manage costs effectively.

Residency training

The duration of residency training varies depending on the medical specialty chosen. Residency programmes typically span from 3 to 7 years. During residency, students receive a salary, which can range from $50,000 to $70,000 depending on factors such as the location and specialty chosen.

As per the latest data released today by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the United States might experience a projected deficit of physicians, ranging from 54,100 to 139,000, encompassing shortages in primary care as well as specialised medical fields by the year 2033.


By taking a proactive approach and being mindful of your expenses, you can pursue your dream of studying medicine in the US without unnecessary financial stress. Alternatively, Indian students have the option to save time and money by considering a BS+MD programme in the USA or applying to reputed medical schools in the Caribbean. BS+MD programmes offer a streamlined path, eliminating the need for a separate application to a medical school. Additionally, medical schools in the Caribbean often offer a 6.5- year MD programme that is more cost-effective compared with private or public medical schools in the US.

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(The writer is the COO and CFO at Manipal Education Americas)

First published on: 13-08-2023 at 17:12 IST
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