What Is the Average Student Loan Debt for Veterinarians?

Veterinarians in the class of 2019 who took out student loans finished school with an average debt of $183,302.

Ryan LaneAugust 21, 2020
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The average student loan debt for veterinarians is $183,302, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. That average is based on data from class of 2019 vet school graduates surveyed by the AVMA and does not include undergraduate loans.

A veterinarian who owed $183,302 would have monthly payments of more than $2,058 on a standard, 10-year repayment term, assuming a 6.25% interest rate. The total amount repaid would be $246,974.

How much veterinarians owe on average

The cost of vet school typically exceeds $200,000 on average. Eighty-three percent of the class of 2019 took out student loans to help pay for those costs, according to the AVMA.

The average they borrowed — $183,302 — increased only slightly from the class of 2018. Those veterinarians graduated owing $183,014 on average. That marked an increase of almost 10% compared to the class of 2017.

How veterinary school debt compares

The average student loan debt for vets is substantial, but they’re far from the only health professionals who finance a large portion of their education. Here’s how veterinarians’ $183,302 in debt stacks up against other advanced degree holders, based on the latest data available for each:

Sources: American Dental Education Association, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Association of American Medical Colleges, National Center for Education Statistics.

Managing veterinary school loan debt

Most health professionals borrow student loans, but managing debt can be especially difficult for vets because they make less money than those in other medical fields.

For example, pharmacists take on less debt than veterinarians on average. But the median pharmacist salary in 2019 was $128,090, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — about $32,600 more than the median pay for veterinarians of $95,460.

That median salary represents what all vets earn; those just starting out make much less. The AVMA reports an average starting salary for veterinarians of $86,031. Vets struggling with debt because of their salaries should consider these repayment options for vet school loans:

  • Look for loan forgiveness programs. Because vet hospitals are usually privately owned, most veterinarians can’t qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. But those who work for a nonprofit or government entity, such as the USDA, can have their loans forgiven tax-free after 10 years of qualifying payments. Some states offer forgiveness programs as well. For example, Minnesota veterinarians can receive up to $15,000 forgiven annually by working with large animals in rural areas.

  • Enroll in an income-driven repayment plan. Federal loans are typically the best vet school student loan because you can make payments based on your income. For example, under the Revised Pay As You Earn, or REPAYE, income-driven plan, a vet with the average starting salary of $76,633 could expect to pay less than $500 a month. These plans will forgive any remaining debt after 20 or 25 years, but that amount is taxable.

If you feel comfortable with your loan payment — or just want to get rid of vet school debt — you can look for ways to pay off loans faster. For example, depending on your salary structure, you could work more hours or perform additional procedures and put that extra money toward your debt.

If your debt-to-income ratio is manageable, and you don’t need federal loan benefits, refinancing vet school loans could make sense and save you money as well. Generally, refinance lenders look for borrowers with a DTI below 50%.

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