Grad at Grad

AACOM survey shows debt doesn’t dictate students’ specialty choices

The 2015-2016 Graduating Seniors Survey is a snapshot of life at the end of medical school.

A new survey from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) finds fourth-year osteopathic medical students are more likely to choose their specialty based on intellectual content rather than their level of student debt.

About 77% of nearly 5,500 students surveyed responded, giving insight into their post-graduation plans, the financial burden of medical school and satisfaction levels with their education.

Post-graduation plans

Contrary to popular belief, the levels of student loan debt reported in the survey don’t seem to play a role in students’ specialty choice, with one-third choosing primary care specialties.

The survey reports that “debt level,” “prestige/income potential” and “opportunity for research/creativity” were the lowest three factors considered in choosing a specialty. The biggest factor students considered in choosing a residency was the “intellectual content of the specialty.”

Student debt

The survey found that 86% of osteopathic medical students are leaving medical school in debt. The average student will graduate with $240,331 in loans, up 4.5% from last year, due in part from a 51% decrease in students who received subsidized Stafford loans.

“Student debt impacts every aspect of life for a newly minted physician,” says Angelo Mascia, OMS IV, Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents national chair. “It raises questions of when and how to start a family, afford a home, purchase a vehicle, and how to work on a basic budget.”

Satisfaction levels

Aside from the financial burden of medical school, over 75% of graduating seniors reported they are satisfied or very satisfied with their osteopathic medical training.

“Overall the experience has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my entire life,” says Mascia. “Nothing compares to the feeling towards the end of medical school that you will be bestowed with the honor of taking care of individuals in their greatest time of need.”

View all of the survey results from AACOM here.


  1. Expect the average student loan debt to continue rising at the same or an accelerated rate. Schools like to preach professionalism and integrity, but these principles do not apply in regards to to tuition. Medical school curriculum does not change very much, each year the same classes and information is taught, and many 3/4 year students are responsible for setting up their own rotations while the school collects over $100,000 during these years and the preceptors receive nothing.

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