For some reason we always end up in this circular argument when someone asks something like this. It goes like this:
OP: I’m going to have a lot of debt.
#1: Don’t join. It’s dumb to join for the money.
#2: That’s not true. That’s a lot of debt. You can’t just blow it off.
#1: Nah, you can pay that off. You’ll make a lot of money.
#2: yeah but it’s super hard.
Here’s the thing, it all depends upon a ton of factors. Some of those factors you know now. Others you won’t know until you’re done with school. It’s a lot of money. You need to consider it. You need to put it on the scale, and you need to counter balance it with the number of cons (and pros) inherent to military medicine.
The problem that I think people have on the “don’t do it for the money” side is that it is generally far easier to see the pros of military medicine at the top of the slide, whereas they have either been down the slide already, or are currently sliding, and they’ve seen how many cons just aren’t readily apparent when you’re deciding whether to join. So what they really mean to say is that the weight you’re adding to the scale that says “$” may not by as heavy as you think it is. I doubt (hope) that they aren’t just ignoring the validity of debt as a deciding factor altogether. It’s just very hard to explain all of the possible pitfalls of military medicine without actually experiencing it. And as we have all said many, many times how many pitfalls you experience is so very much up to chance. It’s really difficult to express all of the variables.
So you need to weigh debt against where you’ll do residency, whether you’ll do GMO, where you’ll be stationed, whether you’ll be deployed, what specialty you match in to (because I have to agree if you end up in Ortho doing joints, $500,000 out of residency is extremely manageable, but if you’re a family doc it’ll suck a lot more). Lots of factors.
On the other hand, if you were $1,000,000 in debt (I’m just picking an unrealistically high number), then really nothing else matters, you’ve painted yourself in to a corner. I think most people would say “well, I hope it doesn’t suck too much for you, man, because you don’t have a choice.”
So like most people you’re in that gray area where your debt might be a big deal or it might be a manageable amount. Depends upon a lot of things.
Everyone says they have a desire to serve. That’s an important weight for the scale too. But it only weighs so much. Look through the forum more, read about experiences. Just be as prepared as you can be, and be very wary of anything your recruiter says.