$68,300: That’s the median private sector salary of a first-year lawyer, according to U.S. News & World Report.
$138,492: That’s the average cost of attending a private law school.
Even though lawyers start out with a decent income and make even more money over time, it pales in comparison to the amount they pay for their degree.
The same goes for several other high-paying careers, including doctors, dentists and veterinarians.
Luckily, many of these successful but indebted professionals can qualify for student loan forgiveness — if they know where to look.
Below are five high-paying careers that come with significant debt and some student loan forgiveness programs and loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) that offer financial relief.
Average Base Pay: $113,749
Law school typically lasts only three years, but tuition costs add up. With the average cost of a law degree well over $100,000, many newly graduated lawyers are years away from a debt-free life.
Instead of putting your whole salary toward steep loan payments, though, you could seek help from a student loan forgiveness program.
If you work for a qualifying employer, such as a nonprofit or government organization, you could be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Although the future of this program is uncertain, it currently offers total student loan discharge after 10 years of service.
PSLF isn’t the only option for lawyers, though. A variety of LRAPs are available across the country for people who practice law. Some are restricted to state residents, but here are three programs available nationwide:
- John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program: up to $10,000 per year for six years for public defenders or state prosecutors who work for three years or more in a state agency.
- Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program: up to $6,000 per year for 10 years for lawyers who work with the Department of Justice.
- Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program: up to $5,600 for approximately 70 attorneys who are selected via a lottery system.
Finally, lawyers should check with their law schools to learn about repayment assistance programs, such as the following two:
- University of Virginia School of Law: This program covers 100 percent of qualifying law school loans for public service lawyers who make less than $55,000 per year. It also offers partial loan forgiveness for public service lawyers who make between $55,000 and $75,000 annually.
- University of Denver Sturm College of Law: This program covers between 15 percent and 75 percent of a lawyer’s student loan payments on certain income-driven repayment plans for up to five years. You must work in public service and make less than $75,000 per year.
As you can see, each program has its own requirements. By learning these rules for eligibility, you can make professional choices that allow you to advance in your career and position yourself for student loan forgiveness.
Average Base Pay: $200,000
Like lawyers, doctors rack up huge bills to pay for medical school. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the median level of debt for new doctors is $190,000.
Plus, many doctors put their loans into deferment during residency, which can cause their balance to balloon from interest.
But doctors who work in public service could be eligible for PSLF after 10 years. Physicians and others who work in healthcare might qualify for three other federal loan forgiveness programs:
- Students to Service Program: gives up to $120,000 to students in their final year of medical school who agree to a three-year contract with a qualifying organization.
- National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program: awards up to $50,000 to health care providers who work for two years at an approved site.
- Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program: offers up to $40,000 to health care providers who serve American Indian or Alaska Native communities for at least two years.
Doctors also might get help from state LRAPs. The Rhode Island Educational Loan Repayment Program for Primary Care Providers, for example, awards up to $80,000 to Rhode Island doctors who provide 32 hours of direct patient care per week.
This program, like many similar LRAPs, doesn’t help only primary care providers. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants also might be eligible, for instance. Whatever your specialty in the healthcare field, you could qualify for significant student loan repayment assistance after a few years of qualifying work.
Average Base Pay: $148,216
Because they’re health care professionals, many dentists are eligible for the same LRAPs as doctors. These programs can be a huge help, as the average dentist with student debt leaves school owing $287,331, according to the American Dental Education Association.
Some states also offer programs specifically for dentists, such as the Maine Dental Education Loan Repayment Program. This program awards up to $80,000 to Maine dentists who work with underserved populations.
Average Base Pay: $97,050
Before you earn your way up to the average base pay for veterinarians, you might have to take on $143,758 in debt for veterinary school, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. What’s more, 20 percent of veterinary school graduates owe more than $200,000 in student loans.
Let’s say this $200,000 debt has a six percent interest rate. Using a student loan calculator, we can estimate monthly payments to be $2,220 on a standard 10-year plan.
But loan assistance for veterinarians can help you speed up the repayment process.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, will pay $25,000 per year for three years to vets who work in underserved areas. And the North Dakota State Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program offers up to $80,000 to three vets each year who agree to work in a shortage area in North Dakota.
If you’re open to where you live and work, you could receive major student loan help in return. Check with your state to find student loan aid programs for people who care for animals.
With pharmacists borrowing an average of $157,425 to finance their degree, according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, they might need a prescription to cure their student loan debt.
Along with national programs for health care providers, state programs offer grants to help pharmacists repay their student loans. The California State Loan Repayment Program, for example, awards $50,000 to licensed pharmacists who practice in California.
Student loan repayment assistance can help pharmacists pay off their debt ahead of schedule. With an average salary of $122,230, according to the BLS, pharmacists can allocate more money toward other goals, including buying a home or saving for retirement.
You can get help with your student debt
Although the careers on this list come with high salaries, they also go hand in hand with significant student loan debt. With the assistance of a student loan forgiveness or repayment program, though, you could conquer your debt sooner rather than later.
Search for state-based and national programs that will help you repay your loans as well as forgiveness from universities, private organizations, and employers. And if you’re having trouble keeping track of all of your payments, consider taking out a consolidation loan to simplify your payments with a single monthly bill.
With the national student debt crisis reaching $1.48 trillion, we’re all in this fight together. Don’t be afraid to seek assistance from a variety of sources to help you pay off your student loans.
Rebecca Safier is a staff writer for Student Loan Hero covering education, careers and other personal finance topics, drawing on her experience as a teacher, tutor and college counselor.