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This Degree Yields the Greatest Levels of College Loan Debt -- and the Highest ROI

With student loan debt at record levels, it is more important than ever to choose a college degree that will give you the maximum bang for your education buck. Is it possible, you may wonder, to incur hefty levels of college debt and be practically assured of making a very comfortable living?

The answer to that question is a resounding "yes". Medical school is one of the biggest generators of student debt, but a doctor of medicine degree has an amazing return on investment, as well.

A considerable investment in so many ways
Pursuing a medical degree is a grueling experience, requiring a commitment of time, energy, and resources that is practically unrivaled. When you consider that a physician will have completed not only four years of undergraduate work, but an additional four years of graduate education at a medical school, the buildup of debt makes a lot of sense.

How expensive is medical school? According to U.S. News and World Report, the ten colleges producing graduates with the most debt charge between $41,155 for a year at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, to $54,268 combined annual tuition and fees at Pennsylvania's Temple University. Every school on the list graduated future physicians shouldering debt in excess of $200,000.

This may sound outrageous, but for medical school graduates, this situation is commonplace. The Association of American Medical Colleges notes that the average debt load of 2013 med school graduates was a hefty $169,901, while the median level was $175,000. Fully 40% of prospective physicians that graduated last year have accumulated debt of $200,000 or more.

Return on investment: very high
Even with crushing debt levels, doctors of medicine face a bright future, due to the extremely high ROI for this occupational sector. According to, the 5-year return on investment for a medical doctor is an astounding 138% -- a rate outpaced by only four other occupations: two job titles within nursing, and two in marketing.

This means that it takes physicians a little over two years to "break even" – an event hastened, no doubt, by the juicy salary levels medical doctors enjoy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physicians and surgeons made a median wage of more than $187,000 in 2012, and face a period of accelerated job growth through 2022. Indeed, of the 20 highest paying occupations, physicians and surgeons top the list, occupying the first seven slots.

Medical school isn't for everyone, of course. For those who have the interest and the ability to commit several years to hard study and difficult on-the-job training, however, obtaining a medical degree is one of the best investments around.

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Amanda Alix

Foolish financial writer since early 2012, striving to demystify the intriguing field of finance -- which, contrary to popular opinion, is truly what makes the world go 'round.

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