Distribution of Medical Education Debt by Specialty, 2010-2016

In JAMA Internal Medicine, Justin Grischkan and colleagues, including Krisda Chaiyachati and David A. Asch, analyze trends in the distribution of medical education debt. The increasing amount of graduate medical education debt is well known, yet a quieter upward trend in the number of graduates without debt also persists in the data.

The authors analyzed figures of self-reported debt from the 2010-2016 Association of American Medical Colleges Graduation Questionnaire. They find that the mean amount of debt increased from $161,739 in 2010 to $179,068 in 2016, and that the percentage of graduates without debt increased from 16.1% in 2010 to 26.9% in 2016. In addition, they find that the increase in graduates without debt is greater in specialties such as radiology and dermatology than in primary care-oriented specialties. While the factors that influence a graduate’s level of debt, such as specialty choice and income, remain challenging to disentangle, the new analysis suggests that the percentage of students without debt is increasing, that medical education debt is concentrated among fewer individuals, and that the increase in the proportion of students without debt varies by specialty.