Did you know 7 in 10 college students take out loans to pay for school, graduating with an average balance of more than $39,000?
This isn’t exactly the ideal way to start out your professional life. But with skyrocketing tuition costs, many students don’t have a choice. People need to either skip college altogether or take out loans to cover the costs.
While it can take a long time to pay back debt, there is a way to get your balance wiped out all at once: by qualifying for student loan forgiveness. If you work for a certain amount of time in an eligible career or organization, you could get your student loan balance forgiven.
11 jobs that offer loan forgiveness
Student loan forgiveness can come from the federal government, the state government or a private organization. Federal loan forgiveness programs are typically available to professionals who work in public service organizations or high-need areas.
Student loan forgiveness jobs aren’t always the most high-paying, so there’s often a shortage of workers. But what you might sacrifice in income, you could make back with loan forgiveness after a few years.
The other way to get your loan forgiven is with a student loan repayment assistance program (LRAP) from your state, a private group or even a university. Some jobs that offer loan forgiveness through LRAPs include lawyer, doctor, veterinarian and psychologist.
Here’s a list of jobs that offer student loan forgiveness so you can decide if any would be right for you.
Here’s a little-known fact that applies to federal agencies: If they are having a hard time finding new employees to fill open slots, they are allowed to offer student loan repayment assistance.
To qualify, the new employee must sign a contract to work for the federal agency for a minimum of three years. The agency is allowed to pay up to $10,000 per year per employee for federally insured loans, but the total assistance given cannot exceed $60,000 per person.
If you work in a qualifying organization, such as a government agency or nonprofit, you could qualify for loan forgiveness.
Full-time public service employees with Perkins loans can get full cancellation of their loans, as long as they haven’t consolidated them. Some workers who could qualify include family and child services employees, law enforcement and correctional officers, and public defenders.
Public servants with direct loans (also known as Stafford loans) could pursue loan forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. PSLF is available to any worker in a government organization at any level (federal, state, local, etc.), as well as tax-exempt organizations or for-profit organizations with a qualifying service.
In order to receive PSLF as a public servant with a qualifying loan, you need to have made at least 120 qualifying monthly student loan payments. Even if you have reached 120 qualifying payments, PSLF is not guaranteed, and you will still need to apply.
Since PSLF started in 2007, the first applicants became eligible in 2017. Unfortunately, few were expected to receive forgiveness this year, and CNBC has reported that only 96 of 30,000 applicants have received forgiveness so far, so it’s unclear how many borrowers will actually benefit from this program. Although PSLF remains intact for now, it’s also uncertain whether the program will be around in 10 years.
That said, PSLF has a unique perk over some of the other loan forgiveness programs. Any debt forgiven through the PSLF program is not considered taxable income, so you won’t have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount. Once your balance is discharged, you shouldn’t have to pay another cent on your student loans.
There are several options for doctors in need of student loan repayment help. The Association of American Medical Colleges maintains a list of loan assistance programs for doctors by state.
Additionally, medical professionals who serve in the military have access to forgiveness programs as well. For example, through the Navy Financial Assistance Program (FAP), medical residents receive an annual grant of $45,000 on top of residency income, which can be put toward medical school debt.
Check out our full guide to student loan repayment for doctors for more options.
In addition to public service forgiveness options targeted specifically at graduates working in law, there are some other sources of loan repayment help that lawyers can take advantage of.
For instance, every spring, the Department of Justice opens up its Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP) to help recruit and retain new talent. Justice Department employees must have at least $10,000 in federal student loans to qualify.
For those who want to work as public defenders, the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program provides loan assistance of varying amounts, depending on where you live.
Any automotive aftermarket industry manufacturer who is an employee of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) can apply for the SEMA Loan Forgiveness Program.
The SEMA program awarded $160,000 to 60 winners in 2017 in scholarships and loan forgiveness. To be eligible to apply for the program, you must have been a SEMA employee for at least a year, hold a degree or certificate of completion from a college or technical school, and have graduated with at least a 2.5 GPA.
If you are a registered nurse, an “advanced practice registered nurse” such as a nurse practitioner or a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) facility nurse, you may be eligible for student loan repayment assistance through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program.
The nurses chosen to receive assistance through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program will get 60% of their qualifying student loan balance forgiven, in exchange for a minimum two-year service commitment. Also, qualifying participants may receive an additional 25% off their original loan balance if they complete a third year of service.
Please note that in this program, the full loan award amount is taxable. The amount you’ll pay in taxes will be far less than the amount of the loans, but it’s still a consideration to bear in mind.
If you would like to review the qualifications and fine print of the program, check out the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment program requirements. And for even more options, head to our full guide to student loan forgiveness for nurses.
If you teach in a low-income school district, are special education teacher, or work in an underemployed subject area or in a teacher shortage area, you may qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.
If you qualify, you could receive up to $5,000 or $17,500 in loan forgiveness, depending upon what subject matter you teach and your number of years of service. Note that to qualify, your student loan debt must be from federal direct loans or Stafford loans.
If, however, you have federal Perkins student loans, you could be eligible for the Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation program. Through this program, you could potentially receive cancellation of up to 100% of your Perkins loans. In order to qualify, you need to teach at a low-income school, teach an underemployed subject area or serve as a full-time elementary or secondary school special education teacher.
The cancellation of your student loan debt will come in steps. For the first and second years of teaching, you will receive a 15% cancellation of your loan. For the third and fourth years, you will receive a 20% cancellation of your loan. For the fifth year of teaching, you will receive a 30% cancellation of your loan.
An added bonus is that each amount canceled per year also includes the cancellation of any interest that had accrued through the year.
8. AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and other qualifying volunteer organization workers
Did you know that certain volunteer organizations offer student loan forgiveness opportunities?
Don’t let high student loan debt deter you from taking the opportunity to help others.
Certain volunteer organizations like AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) all have student loan awards or repayment options. You can apply for these after you have completed your term of service with the organization.
The terms and conditions on these programs vary, so visit their websites to learn more about student loan programs for volunteers.
Although dentists tend to make a high income — a median of $158,120, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — they also accrue a huge amount of debt before they start working. The American Dental Education Association found that the average dentist with student loans leaves school owing a whopping $285,184.
Luckily, there are some LRAPs for dentists, such as the Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment Program and Maryland Dent-Care Loan Assistance Repayment Program. Programs such as these offer significant loan assistance to dentists who work in qualifying areas or workplaces.
Like dentists, pharmacists take on a lot of education debt to earn their degrees. According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, pharmacists borrow an average of $157,425 to finance their education.
Here, too, assistance is available: Several national LRAPs provide financial help to health care providers, including pharmacists. Plus, some state programs, such as the California State Loan Repayment Program, will pay back all or a portion of your loans if you establish residency and practice in a qualifying area.
Not only could working with animals be a fulfilling career, but it could also help you get forgiveness for your student loans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers $25,000 per year for three years in student loan repayment assistance to vets who work in underserved areas. Programs such as the North Dakota State Veterinarian Loan Repayment Programhelp veterinarians who agree to work in shortage areas.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 1 in 5 veterinarians leaves school owing more than $200,000 in student loans, while the average debt for graduates in 2016 was $143,758. Any program that offers relief in the form of forgiveness or repayment assistance could be a huge help as you work toward financial independence.
Should you pursue jobs that offer student loan forgiveness?
Student loan forgiveness programs are not like Monopoly. You can’t land on GO and just collect the money. Most student loan programs have strict legal requirements, contracts and a minimum term of employment. Also, you have to be current on your student loan payments — your loans can’t be in default.
Once you meet the requirements, though, you will receive debt repayment, cancellation or forgiveness. Giving just two or three years of your professional life to a qualifying job may be the answer to your student loan problems.
Every student loan repayment and forgiveness program has its own set of qualifications and eligibility requirements, so make sure that you do your research before pursuing any of these or other loan forgiveness programs.
If you do qualify, these programs could be a life-changing way to rid yourself of burdensome student loans.