Getting your student loans forgiven would be a dream come true, but federal programs have strict requirements about who can qualify.
For instance, only those who work in public service can apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, while other popular programs exist for teachers and nurses.
But as it turns out, even if you don’t work in one of these careers, you could still get relief from a student loan repayment assistance program (LRAP).
Often provided by a state or university, LRAPs award workers in a range of professions, from mental health counselors to engineers.
If you work (or are planning to work) in any of these six jobs, check to see if you could be eligible for assistance toward paying back your student loans.
As a physical therapist, you help your patients recover from injuries. This important healing work could make you eligible for a “student loan cure” from an LRAP, especially if you ply your trade in a high-need or underserved area.
The New Mexico Allied Health Loan For Service Program, for example, provides up to $12,000 per year to physical therapists who work in a high-need area. Likewise, the Iowa Health Professional Recruitment Program offers up to $12,500 to graduates of Des Moines University who work for four years in the state’s Health Professional Recruitment Program, and Alaska offers up to $27,000 through its SHARP-II program.
This assistance could make a big difference, considering many physical therapists take on a lot of debt to earn their degree. According to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, the median cost of a physical therapy degree is $58,074 for a public in-state program and $105,817 in a private program. To cover costs, the average physical therapist takes on $83,138 in student loans, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.
Depending on where you live and practice, you could get a large chunk of this debt paid off in one fell swoop.
Psychologists are another group that often have to take on a huge amount of student debt before starting their practice. According to a study by the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students, PhD students owed a median $75,000 — and even more for PsyD students, who left school with debt owed a median of $200,000.
With median starting salaries between $55,000 and $65,000, this kind of debt can be really tough to pay back. Fortunately, there are some LRAPs for psychologists, too.
The Rhode Island Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program, for example, offers aid to health service psychologists who practice half- or full-time at an eligible site. This program also provides repayment assistance to qualifying social workers, psychiatric nurse specialists, mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists.
The Michigan State Loan Repayment Program similarly provides student loan help to psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors and marriage and family therapists. If you work in psychology or mental health, you could get significant assistance paying off your school debt.
Dental hygienists don’t have to deal with the same massive amount of debt that dentists do, but they still face significant costs on the road to earning their degree. According to the American Dental Education Society, the average cost of a bachelor’s degree for dental hygienists is $36,382, while for a master’s it’s $30,421.
Dental hygienists go on to make a median $74,070 per year, but it could take years of practice before you reach that income level. In the meantime, find out if your state offers assistance toward your student loan debt.
The Rhode Island program mentioned in the previous section, for example, offers aid to registered clinical dental hygienists in exchange for working part- or full-time at an eligible site. And the Colorado Dental Loan Repayment Program grants between $6,000 and $12,000 to dental hygienists who care for underserved patients for two years.
As a veterinarian, you have a passion for working with animals, but you’re probably not so psyched about the student loan debt that comes with this career choice.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, vets take on an average of nearly $144,000 in student loans to earn their degree, and more than 20% of veterinary school graduates owe more than $200,000. Even though they go on to relatively high-paying careers — the median salary is $90,420, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — this amount of debt is still extremely tough to pay off.
But depending on where you practice and live, you could get a big chunk of those loans taken care of. The Wyoming Veterinary Loan Repayment Program offers up to $30,000 per year for a three-year contract. Meanwhile, the North Dakota Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program can provide up to $80,000, and the Minnesota Rural Veterinarian Loan Forgiveness Program awards up to $75,000 over five years.
Many of these programs award vets who work with “food animals” in rural areas. If this describes you (or if you’re open to the idea), spending a year or two on this path could be a big help toward getting rid of your student loans.
Just like doctors, lawyers and dentists, pharmacists must take on a lot of student debt to earn their degree, which typically requires four additional years of schooling after their undergraduate work.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the average college debt among pharmacists who borrowed student loans was $163,494. If you’re looking for a prescription for your student loans, find out if your state has an LRAP.
Arizona, Colorado, California, Kentucky and Rhode Island are just a few places that award loan assistance to qualifying pharmacists. Check with your state to find out if you could get help conquering your pharmacy school debt.
If you studied science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) in college, you might have noticed a multitude of scholarships aimed at STEM students. The financial assistance could continue after graduation, too, thanks to repayment assistance programs for engineers and other STEM professionals.
The North Dakota STEM Occupations Student Loan Program, for instance, awards $1,500 annually for up to four years to professionals who studied and now work in STEM in the state. And the Alfond Leaders Program promises up to $60,000 to STEM professionals who live and work in Maine.
Not only could a degree in STEM have a strong return on investment in the form of a high-paying career, but it could also qualify you for serious student loan assistance.
Look to LRAPs for help paying off your student loans
While you might be familiar with federal loan forgiveness programs, make sure you don’t forget that states, private organizations and even some colleges offer loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) to qualifying professionals.
Often, these programs require that you work in a high-need area or with an underserved population. After a year or more, you could gain significant assistance toward your student loans.
Note that the jobs on this list aren’t the only ones that qualify for LRAPs. Lawyers, teachers, doctors, dentists, nurses and those in the military are also commonly eligible, and some programs exist for other occupations too, such as social work. Check out Student Loan Hero’s directory of LRAPs to see what your options are.
And if you’re still planning your career, consider taking a job that would make you eligible for financial assistance. You could work with a population who needs your help most and at the same time get help paying off your student loans ahead of schedule.