Student Loan Forgiveness by Profession

College tuition costs have gotten so expensive, that the majority of college students take out loans to fund for their education. Approximately seven out of ten college students take out loans to pay for college, subsequently dragging an average of $39,000 of student loan debt with them to their first job. 

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While this doesn’t sound like an ideal situation, many students don’t have a choice. It’s no secret that the financial burden of being in debt adds a significant amount of stress to our lives, but what if there was a way to clear it all? It’s true: student loan forgiveness programs exist for people working in select fields.

If you spend a certain amount of time working in an eligible career field or organization, you could have your student loan debt forgiven. Keep reading to learn more about student loan forgiveness, find out about the different types of professions that offer it, and how you can apply. 

Federal agency employee

This federal student loan repayment program was a created as a method to attract highly qualified candidates to work in the public sector. Some federal agencies will even offer this to their employees as an incentive when they are having trouble filling a position. 

Eligible employees can get up to $60,000 in repayment assistance over a span of six years. The federal employee student loan repayment plan is only for borrowers of federal loans. While borrowers of private loans are ineligible, mom and dad could have something to celebrate: borrowers of Parent PLUS loans can reap the benefits of this program as well. 

By now, you’re probably thinking that this repayment program sounds to good to be true, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • A decent amount of federal funding is going toward this program, but unfortunately, not every government employee will be able to get their loans forgiven this way. In order to go through the process, the agency you work for must have a program available and you must be able to meet all of the eligibility requirements. 
  • The student loan repayment assistance funds will be factored in to your gross income on your tax return, which could equate to a loftier tax bill.

Eligibility Requirements

This program only considers candidates who are deemed “highly qualified.” Basically, the federal agency that you are employed at gets to decide what this means as student loan repayment assistance is offered on an individual basis. In many cases, the agency is looking for a candidate with a certain experience or specific degrees relevant to positions that aren’t easy to fill. Eligible candidates must:

  • Be considered highly qualified.
  • Sign a service agreement. 
  • Agree and commit to working for at least three years at the government agency that is offering them the repayment assistance. 
  • Must continue to be exemplary employees and satisfy their duties to their employer’s standards. 

How to apply

Unlike many other student loan forgiveness programs, you can’t actually apply for this one as it is offered as an incentive by federal agencies. If you are interested in working for a federal agency and think you could be a candidate for this program, start by doing some research.

 Look at federal agencies that appeal to you and see if they have any information on their website regarding this program. Consider reaching out and asking what they are looking for in potential candidates. If you are already working in a public sector, talk to your boss and ask if your agency offers this program. Remember—this program is not available to all employees, and may only be offered to eligible candidates of hard-to-fill positions.

Public Service Worker

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is less about what type of work you do and more about the organization you are working for. Borrowers employed full-time by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or non-profit organization could be eligible to apply for the PSLF program. 

Sadly, very few applicants have been able to receive forgiveness through PSLF. Of the 30,000 workers who applied in 2018, only 96 of them were able to receive forgiveness. While it’s hard to say how many people will actually get to benefit from this program, don’t let those numbers discourage you. One of the advantages setting this program apart from a few of the others is that the program is not considered taxable income, so you will not be paying taxes on the loan balance that gets discharged. 

Eligibility requirements 

The following types of public service workers could qualify for forgiveness through this program:

  • Family and child services employees.
  • Law enforcement officials.
  • Correctional officers.
  • Public defenders.

If you serve full-time in AmeriCorps or Peace Corps, you are also considered a qualified candidate for the PSLF program. To be eligible for the PSLF program, you must: 

  • Be a full-time employee at a qualifying
  •  government agency at any level OR a non-profit organization.
  • Have borrowed from Direct Loans (If you do not have a Direct Loan, you can consolidate your other types of federal loans into a Direct Loan). 
  • Agree to get on an income-driven repayment plan.
  • Make a total of 120 consecutive, on-time payments. 

How to apply

To apply, you must meet all of the qualifications listed above, and since you have to make 120 consecutive payments, it will take at least 10 years before you are eligible for this loan forgiveness program. 

Once you have met the requirement of 120 payments, you can complete the Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Application for Forgiveness (PSLF application).

If you are in the process of completing the 120 required payments, you should fill out and submit the Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Employment Certification Form every year or each time you change employers.

Doctor/physician

After years of schooling to become a doctor, there are many licensed physicians who need help paying back all of their student loans. If this sounds relevant to you and your situation, the Association of American Medical Colleges  keeps a list of all the loan forgiveness programs for doctors in each state. 

There are also forgiveness programs offered to medical professionals who serve in the military as well. For instance, the Navy Financial Assistance Program (FAP) offers medical residents a $45,000 grant every year in addition to their residency salary. This grant can be used to pay off medical school debt. 

Lawyer

There is good news for those who have survived law school, specifically those who had to take out loans to do so. There are several different kinds of student loan forgiveness programs made available for lawyers. 

The Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP), ran by the Department of Justice, is reopened every year in the spring as an incentive to recruit and retain new employees. Attorneys employed of the Department of Justice can request to be in the consideration pool of candidates. If selected, the Department pays off your loans directly. To be eligible, you must agree to work with the Department of Justice for three years. 

There is also the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program for those seeking a position as a public defender. The amount that recipients of this loan assistance program will be granted depends on their area of residency. 

These are only two examples, but dozens of programs exist for lawyers who have student loan debt. 

Automotive professionals: SEMA Loan Forgiveness Program 

If you are an automotive professional, you may have heard of the SEMA Loan Forgiveness Program. In order to be eligible for this program, you must be an automotive aftermarket industry manufacturer and employed by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). 

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for this Loan Forgiveness program, you must:

  • Be a SEMA employee.
  • Have a college degree or certificate from a U.S. college, university, or technical school. 
  • Have graduated with at least a 2.5 GPA. 
  • Be able to show that you are passionate about automotive. 

How to apply

Not everyone who applies for this program will be granted loan forgiveness, but you can make your application stand out by demonstrating your passion for your career. Here’s how to apply for the program:

  1. Submit your unofficial transcripts or technical training progress reports. 
  2. Ask a teacher, employer or mentor to recommend you by requesting an online recommendation. 
  3. Be able to answer select questions by displaying passion for the automotive industry. 
  4. Write a personal statement in 500 words or less. 

Nurse

A loan forgiveness program, Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program, exists for registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) facility nurses. 

If you are chosen as a recipient of this program, you will benefit from having 60% of your qualifying student loan amount forgive, along with the possibility of receiving an extra 25% off your loan balance for serving an additional year. 

It’s important to note that while the full loan forgiveness sum is taxable through this program, the amount you will owe in taxes is much less than you would owe in student loan debt. 

Eligibility requirements

In order to be eligible for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program, candidates must:

  • Be a licensed RN (registered nurse). 
  • Have attended a nursing program at an accredited U.S. school. 
  • Serve a minimum of two years at a Critical shortage Facility (CFSs). 

Visit the Health Resources & Services Administration page for more details on eligibility requirements. If you decide that you want to apply, take a look at the Application and Program Guidance page to access information related to your application. 

Once you complete your application, you will submit it through the Bureau Health Workforce (BHW) Customer Service Portal. 

Teacher

Student loan borrowers who chose the teaching profession also get to benefit from a loan forgiveness program. Special education teachers, teachers who are employed full-time at a low-income school district, teach a high-need subject area, or work in a teacher shortage area may be eligible to receive forgiveness from the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. 

To receive loan forgiveness by this program, you must teach in a qualifying school district for five full, back-to-back years.

Qualifying applicants can receive anywhere from $5,000 to $17,500 in loan forgiveness, depending on a number of factors including what they teach and how long they have been serving. This program is only available to borrowers of Direct Loans or Stafford loans. 

See the Federal Student Aid page for detailed information on eligibility requirements and how to apply. 

AmeriCorps, Peace Corps & other qualifying volunteer organization workers

If the burden of student loan debt is weighing you down and dissuading you from serving in a volunteer organization, you might want to reconsider. 

Some major volunteer organizations such as AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and Volunteers in Service to America. (VISTA) all offer repayment programs or student loan awards to help you get rid of your student loan debt. 

Once you have completed your service to term, you can apply for one of the programs. Each program comes with a different set of rules and qualification requirements, so you will want to check the website of the organization you are working with for specific information. 

Dentist

Dentists earn a pretty decent amount of money once they finish all their schooling, but if they used loans to fund their education, they most likely accrued a large amount of student loan debt before even getting their foot in the door. 

There are several different types of student loan repayment programs for dentists. To name a couple, there is:

Eligibility Requirements

The Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment Program was created to recruit talent to areas of Ohio that are designated as having a shortage of dentists. Qualifying applicants must:

  • Be dental students completing their last year of dental school; or
  • Dental residents in their final year of residency; or
  • General or pediatric dentists who are already practicing.

The Maryland Dent-Care Loan Assistance Repayment Program is a loan forgiveness program exclusively for dentists who are currently practicing. To be eligible for this program, you must:

  • Live in Maryland. 
  • Have graduated from a dental program at a U.S. accredited school.
  • Obtain a valid, unrestricted Maryland dental license.
  • Be employed full-time as a dentist in Maryland and providing service to patients receiving Maryland Medical Assistance Program (MMAP) benefits (must make up 30% of your total patient population). 

Visit the Maryland Higher Education Commission for more details on eligibility requirements and how to apply

Pharmacist

Pharmacy school doesn’t come cheap. Just like doctors and dentists, some pharmacists enter the profession with a couple hundred dollars in debt. Don’t fret pharmacists: Assistance does exist for you, too. There are dozens of national loan forgiveness programs to help pharmacists pay back their debts. One program, the California State Loan Repayment Program, may cover all or some of your loans so long as you take up residency and practice in an area of need. 

For practicing pharmacists who do not live in California, do some research and look for a loan forgiveness program in your state. Just like with other health professionals, many states offer loan repayment assistant programs to health professionals who agree to practice in high-need areas. 

Veterinarian 

If you are a doctor caring for our furry friends, you are also eligible to receive student loan forgiveness to assist you with the years of debt accrued for your education. Like with other health professions, veterinarians can seek out state-specific loan forgiveness programs in high-need areas. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has a sweet deal up for grabs for qualifying applicants: $25,000 per year in loan forgiveness in exchange for three years of service in underserved areas. While this is a great option for veterinarians with loads of student loan debt, the lengthy list of eligibility requirements is thorough and detailed. See the USDA website for more information on qualifications for this program and how you can apply. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there is a wide variety of student loan forgiveness plans available to people of all career types. A lot of these are great options for people who are struggling to make payments on their student debt. If you qualify for loan forgiveness, many of the programs discussed above will clear your debt directly with your student loan servicer so that you won’t have to fuss with doing it yourself.  

If you are considering a loan repayment program, think long and hard about what your obligations will be and whether or not you feel ready to commit to them.