Want Your Student Loan Forgiven? Get One of These Jobs
Joy Wallet is advertiser-supported: we may earn compensation from the products and offers mentioned in this article. However, any expressed opinions are our own and aren't influenced by compensation.
Other than home loans, student loans account for more debt in the U.S. than any other form of debt.
The average student loan debt in America is $35,397 according to the most recent data from December 2019 from the Department of Education.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Your credit card bill or any other form of debt, other than buying a house, will likely never be as large as a student loan. That can mean years to pay it off.
One solution is for federal student loan borrowers to take advantage of various student loan forgiveness programs. By working as a teacher or in public service, borrowers can have all of most of their student loans paid off for them.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
Started in the fall of 2017, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, or PSLF, was established by the federal government to allow people who receive a Direct Loan, which is a federal student loan, to have their balance forgiven.
Borrowers who make 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan, while working full-time for a qualifying employer, can have the remainder of their loan forgiven.
That’s 10 years of working for a qualifying nonprofit or government agency and making loan payments before the loan can be forgiven. The payments don’t have to be consecutive, but you have to work in a qualifying job for 10 years overall.
Few people apply for the PSLF program, and few are approved. This could be because they don’t know about the program, or those that do don’t meet the first requirement of having 10 years of already making loan payments. Others may fill out the form incorrectly or not submit the employer certification form.
Other federal, state and private organizations offer student loan forgiveness for certain jobs. Most are in the public sector or are in high-need areas, and the loan forgiveness programs are an incentive to attract highly qualified workers.
What might be sacrificed in income by the workers is made up in debt repayment or forgiveness.
Here are some careers that offer student loan forgiveness or repayment:
Public Service Employee
This is a broad category that includes government and nonprofit work. PSLF is available to any worker at any level of government: federal, state or local, and for nonprofit work.
These jobs include public teaching, military service, social work, public safety, law enforcement, public health services and public library services.
Another program is available to federal employees, called the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program.
It requires working at a federal agency for at least three years. Up to $10,000 is paid per year toward a new hire’s federal student loans, up to $60,000 total.
This can be a lot better than being in the PSLF program. If you owe $60,000 or less, your entire balance could be erased without making any payments yourself or waiting 10 years for the balance to be forgiven. You can also leave the job in as few as three years, or up to six to pay off the largest loan allowed.
All federal agencies are eligible to offer the program. You could work for the FBI, Secret Service or in any other federal job.
Teachers can go on to earn masters and doctorate degrees, adding to their student debt in a profession that doesn’t typically pay well in the early years of a career.
They can qualify for the PSLF program by working full-time at a public or nonprofit school or college.
However, the program has come under scrutiny. The American Federation of Teachers Union filed a lawsuit in July 2019 against the Department of Education, saying that the program wasn’t working as planned and that some teachers weren’t having their loans forgiven.
Another program is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program for teachers in a low-income school district or an area where there’s a shortage of teachers.
From $5,000 to $17,500 of debt is forgiven, depending on the subject taught and years of service. The highest amount is available only to math, science and special education teachers.
States and cities have loan forgiveness programs specific to their areas for teachers, and can be found by searching the American Federation of Teachers directory.
Doctor or Nurse
Doctors can expect to earn a high income, but they’ll likely take on much more debt than the average college graduate to get there.
The PSLF program is just one of the many student loan forgiveness options they have.
The National Health Service Corps, or NHSC, offers up to $50,000 in student loan repayment to physicians, nurses and other health care professionals through its loan repayment program.
Grads must work full-time in an NHSC-approved shortage area for two years. The payments are tax-free and are given immediately when starting work. After the first two years the contracts can be renewed annually to receive continued payment help.
The NHSC also has loan repayment programs to help healthcare providers in rural areas, for medical students completing their last year of school, and for working in a substance use disorder treatment center.
A degree in veterinary medicine cost students an average of $143,758 in loans, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Vets can also qualify for PSLF and other programs, including the USDA Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program for up to $75,000 toward student loans. The amount is paid at $25,000 per year of work in a region designed as a shortage area. The money can be used toward private and federal student loan debt.
Some volunteer organizations offer repayment assistance, though you may have to be a full-time volunteer.
Fulfilling a one-year term of service for the VISTA program, which is sponsored by AmeriCorps, earns you the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. It provides up to $6,195 to pay educational costs at eligible post-secondary institutions or repay qualified student loans.
Service in the Peace Corps allows volunteers to defer their student loans, and their service can count toward PSLF.
At the end of the program volunteers are given $10,000 to use however they want, including paying their student loans.
Those are just some of the student loan forgiveness or repayment assistance programs, and careers they apply to, that can help ease college debt.
It could take a few years of being in the new job for the loans to be completely forgiven, but it can be a life-changing way to relieve a student debt burden.