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Is Law School a Better Investment Than Med School?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on December 04, 2015 11:00 AM

Hey lawyers, ever wish you went to med school instead of spending three years and a ton of cash on your J.D.?

Well, you can be happy that you didn't. It turns out, doctors might actually be chumps. A new report suggests that law school has a better return on investment than med school.

Eat It, M.D.'s

The news comes from Credible, an online student loan refinancing company. Credible looked at its data for lawyers, doctors, teachers, and other professions, to find out which degrees had the highest return on investment. That data suggests that a J.D. has a better ROI than an M.D. According to Credible:

Lawyers have a median student debt of $89,926, 90 percent of their median salary ($100K), whereas doctors have a median debt of $130,641, 98 percent of their median salary ($133K). Furthermore, the average starting salary of lawyers in the private sector is $84K, compared to the $55K doctors make in residency.

So, congrats, lawyers. We're financial geniuses!

Don't Get Too Excited Just Yet

There are, of course, a few caveats. (Sorry.) First, there are plenty of J.D.s who don't work as lawyers, or work just long enough to pay off their loans. You don't see many unemployed doctors, however, or M.D.'s who abandoned the career as soon as possible.

Then there's the numbers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, doctors might make a bit more than Credible reports. The annual mean wage for doctors generally is about $195,000 a year. For pediatricians, the median annual wage is $163,000. For surgeons, the mean is $240,440. (We know, mean isn't the same as median, but many doctor salaries are so high that the BLS doesn't bother reporting median wages.) That would make doctor debt a much smaller percentage of income than lawyers'.

But there's no need to tell your hoity-toity doctor friends that when you explain that your degree is more valuable than theirs.

Which Law Schools Pay Off the Most?

Thankfully, some stat geniuses have run the ROI numbers not just on degrees but on specific schools. Last year, U.S. News looked at the salary-to-debt ratio of individual law school grads to find the best ROI. (There are some problems with those numbers too.) Surprisingly, the best investments weren't always the top schools. Here are the best law schools for ROI, as calculated by U.S. News:

  1. Brigham Young University, with a salary-to-debt ratio of 1.784
  2. University of Texas -- Austin, with 1.736
  3. Stanford University, 1.476
  4. Boston University, 1.45
  5. Yale University, 1.429
  6. University of Houston, 1.424
  7. Boston College, 1.41
  8. UCLA, 1.392
  9. University of Michigan -- Ann Arbor, 1.36
  10. Howard University, 1.296

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