Becoming a pharmacist is a stable career choice, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts an increase in demand over the next eight years. Additionally, there are many options to assist qualifying pharmacists with paying off their student loans.
Average pharmacy school debt
The average student loan debt for 2019 pharmacy school graduates is $172,329, according to a 2019 survey released by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP). This is a significant amount of debt to pay off, even though pharmacist salaries are relatively high.
u003cstrongu003eWhat’s the average cost of pharmacy school?u003c/strongu003e
The type of school that you choose can affect your cost. The AACP reports annual tuition and fees range from around $5,400 at in-state public universities to over $78,500 at private universities.
Repayment assistance programs for pharmacy school debt
Luckily, there are programs available that can help qualifying students pay off their pharmacy school debt.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
- Amount: Remaining balance on a federal Direct Loan after 120 qualifying payments
Eligible for federal student loans only, Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a program through the federal government. If you're planning on working as a pharmacist in the public sector, you could have your remaining federal student loan debt wiped away after 120 qualifying payments.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Faculty Loan Repayment Program
- Amount: Up to $40,000
To encourage students to pursue faculty careers within their profession, HRSA created the faculty loan repayment program. To qualify you must submit documentation proving that you come from a disadvantaged background. The loan repayment funds can be used for both federal and private loans as long as they were used to fund your pharmacy degree.
State-based loan repayment programs
- Amount: Varies by state
- California offers up to $110,000 for a full-time six-year service agreement
- Arizona offers up to $76,000 for a full-time six-year service agreement
In an attempt to help curb the opioid epidemic, the National Health Service Corps is offering loan forgiveness to health professionals who are willing to work in substance use disorder treatment centers. Priority is given to healthcare professionals who have served in an opioid treatment program or are licensed or certified in substance use disorder interventions.
5 tips to pay back pharmacy school debt
If you're unable to qualify for any of the loan repayment assistance programs, there are still ways to pay off your debt sooner.
- Pay your debt during residency. During residency your loans will mostly be unsubsidized federal or private loans. This means they accrue interest and continue growing. Even though you might be allowed to defer payments during residency, try to avoid it.
- Refinance your private student loans. If you have private loans with high interest rates, refinancing could help lower your payment and allow you to put more towards principal each month. Keep in mind refinancing federal loans would mean losing out on federal repayment benefits.
- Make biweekly payments. This strategy is simple, but effective. Instead of making one payment a month, you make half of your payment biweekly. This equates to a full additional payment each year.
- Continue living like a resident — even when you’re done with training. Keep your expenses low even once you have additional income. Put the extra money towards your loan payments.
- Apply your signing bonus to your student debt. It's common for pharmacists to receive a signing bonus, especially if you're willing to work in a less desirable area. Putting your signing bonus towards your student loans can make a huge impact.
Compare student loan refinancing offers
Looking to get a better rate on your private loans? Compare these lenders and find out what types of offers you might qualify for.
How long does it take to pay back Pharmacy school debt?
It would take 10 years to pay back the $172,329 average graduate debt, making standard repayments on an unsubsidized federal loan at the 2019 to 2020 4.53% rate. If you can find a way to reduce that amount of time it can significantly lessen the amount you pay in interest.
Calculate your pharmacy school loan repayments
Get an estimate of your monthly repayments by using our calculator.
Student loan repayment calculator
|Loan terms (in years)|
Top 5 states for highest pharmacy salaries
Another option is to seek out jobs in the states where you can make the most money. According to the BLS, the top five states for highest pharmacy salaries in 2019 were:
Don’t forget to calculate the cost of living expenses in any state that you consider.
Paying off student loan debt can be a challenge, even for a high-paid pharmacist. But there are ways to make the process easier. For additional information on loan repayment or refinancing read our guide to student loans.
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