Pharmacists require specialized training to make sure patients get the correct medications. Most Doctor of Pharmacy programs require you to attend school for four years after completing a course of study as an undergrad.
Getting all this education can be quite expensive, with older data from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy revealing the median amount of money borrowed by Pharm.D. program grads topped $100,000, even for those who attended public institutions.
While pharmacists can make a good living, some pharmacy program grads would prefer to do work that serves the public good, even if it doesn’t pay very much. The good news is, there are loan forgiveness programs available for pharmacists that can enable you to take a job you love regardless of salary.
1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Public Service Loan Forgiveness is available if you work for the government on any level or for a qualifying not-for-profit organization.
Your work must be full time as defined by your employer or you must work at least 30 hours per week in your public service job. During the time you’re working in a qualifying position, you’ll have to make 120 on-time loan payments on an income-driven repayment program.
If you’re still in public service and complete your 120 payments, you can have the remaining balance of Direct Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and/or Direct Consolidation Loans forgiven.
2. Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program
This program was put in place through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) National Health Service Corps to help combat the national opioid crisis. It enables qualifying pharmacists to receive up to $75,000 in repayment assistance for both federal and private student loans. You can qualify for repayment over three years of service at an approved substance abuse treatment site.
Pharmacists can apply online through April 23 and get priority if they are certified in substance use interventions; work in an opioid treatment program; or are able to prescribe narcotics approved for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
3. HRSA’s Faculty Loan Repayment Program
HRSA also offers repayment help to pharmacists and other health professionals who make a two-year service commitment to serve on the faculty of a health professionals school. This program is open only to pharmacists from disadvantaged backgrounds and it provides up to $40,000 in loan repayment assistance.
4. National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs
The National Institutes of Health offer eight different student loan repayment programs, but Pharm.Ds qualify only for the five extramural programs for eligible health professionals not directly employed by the NIH. These programs provide up to $50,000 in annual loan repayment help for pharmacists doing clinical research; health disparities research; clinical research for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds; pediatric research; or contraception and infertility research.
5. Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program
Pharmacists who work serving Alaska Native or American Indian populations can qualify for up to $40,000 for a two-year service commitment. After completing your initial two years, you can extend your contract until the entirety of your student debt has been repaid. You’ll also receive funding to help you defray the federal taxes associated with the repayment help you’re provided.
6. State-specific student loan forgiveness programs
Many states also offer loan forgiveness options for pharmacists.
For example, California offers a State Loan Repayment Program for pharmacists working in dedicated health professional shortage areas. For a two-year service commitment, you can get up to $50,000 repaid with half the funds coming from the program and half from the site where you work. After your initial service commitment, you can extend your contract for up to two additional years and receive a maximum of $60,000 in repayment help.
Other states also operate their own programs, so check with your state’s Department of Education to discover programs in your area.
Read our following guides for student loan forgiveness. Many are eligible for PSLF, but also other loan forgiveness opportunities as well:
If you have high-interest private student loans that don’t qualify for student loan forgiveness, you could also consider refinancing student loans. Refinancing federal student loans means a loss in many irreplaceable benefits, including any student loan forgiveness, any potential loan cancellation proposed by Congress, the ability to make payments based on your income, and generous deferments if you lose your job or have an economic hardship. Refinancing high interest private student loans could potentially lower your interest rate. Consider the pros and cons of refinancing and if it’s right for you. If it is, Credible is a great tool for comparing multiple lenders at once.
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