(HealthDay News) – For medical school graduates with median levels of educational debt, a career in primary care is financially viable, according to a study published online Nov. 16 in Academic Medicine.

James A. Youngclaus, from the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, DC, and colleagues used published data from federal and local agencies, real estate sources, and national organizations to develop financial planning software modeling the annual finances for a fictional physician’s household. Various debt levels, repayment plans, and living expenses were compared across three specialties.

The researchers found that, in all specialties, physicians can repay the current level of education debt without incurring additional debt. However, in scenarios involving higher borrowing levels, trade-offs and compromises are required. For extended repayment plans, large increases in the total amount of interest repaid and the number of repayment years are required, whereas a service obligation such as working at a nonprofit or practicing in a medically underserved area may be required for use of a federal loan forgiveness/repayment program.

“Our economic modeling of a physician’s household income and expenses across a range of medical school borrowing levels in high- and moderate-cost living areas shows that physicians in all specialties, including primary care, can repay the current median level of education debt,” the authors write. “Our findings are important because, regardless of the degree to which education debt and/or income expectations influence specialty choice, medical students and new physicians should understand the long-term financial implications of their career choices.”

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