BEST OF

9 Best Pharmacy School Loans of August 2021

Government programs can make federal loans the best choice for most pharmacy students.

Ryan LaneJul 28, 2021
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You can get pharmacy school loans from the federal government or private lenders. Most students should opt for federal loans, because government programs like income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness offer greater flexibility post-graduation.

But if you plan to work at a retail chain pharmacy or other for-profit business after earning a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, compare private loans with federal options. You may qualify for a less expensive pharmacy school loan with a private lender if you or a co-signer has excellent credit.

Here are our top picks for pharmacy school loans, plus information on how to get the loans.

Summary of Best Pharmacy School Loans of August 2021

Our pick for

All borrowers as a first option

Federal direct unsubsidized loans should be your top choice if low-cost federal health professions student loans aren’t available for your pharmacy program.

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Min. Credit Score

None

Fixed APR

3.73 - 5.28%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Graduate students qualify for unsubsidized federal loans only.

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.

  • Subsidized loans do not collect interest while in school or during deferment.

  • Lower interest rates compared with private lenders.

Cons

  • You pay an origination fee.

Qualifications

  • No credit check or minimum income is needed to borrow.

  • Loan amounts for undergraduates: $5,500 year one, $6,500 year two, $7,500 year three and thereafter, up to a total of $31,000

  • Independent students and graduate students have higher loan limits.

  • Undergraduate interest rate fixed at 3.73%, while grad students get higher 5.28% rate

Available Term Lengths

10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Manageable payments post-graduation

If you want to ensure your payments are manageable after pharmacy school, you can base them on your salary with a federal income-driven plan.

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Min. Credit Score

None

Fixed APR

6.20 - 6.28%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for graduate students who need to borrow beyond the federal unsubsidized loan limit.

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers compared with private lenders.

  • All borrowers who attend a school authorized to receive federal aid can qualify.

Cons

  • May have higher interest rates compared with private lenders.

  • You pay an origination fee.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Grad PLUS loan borrowers must not have adverse credit history.

  • Borrowers with adverse credit history can still receive a grad PLUS loan by enlisting a co-signer without adverse credit history or documenting extenuating circumstances for their credit history.

  • Loan amounts: Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid.

Available Term Lengths

10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Read Full Review

Our picks for

Borrowers with excellent credit

These lenders don’t have specific pharmacy school loans but may offer the best rate if you or a co-signer has excellent credit.

Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan
Check rate

on Ascent's website

Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

mid-500's

Fixed APR

3.33 - 12.92%

Variable APR

1.84 - 11.07%
Check rate

on Ascent's website


Variable APR

1.84 - 11.07%

Key facts

Best for graduate students who want flexible payment options.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer.

  • Grace period of 9 months is longer than many lenders offer.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Cons

  • You must be enrolled at least half-time to qualify.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not available.

  • Minimum income: Not available.

  • Loan amounts: up to $200,000.

Available Term Lengths

7, 10, 12 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Ascent loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions July apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 07/01/2021 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must have a minimum credit score. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner.

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College Ave Graduate Student Loan
Check rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Graduate Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
College Ave Graduate Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

4.49 - 11.98%

Variable APR

1.99 - 10.97%
Check rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

1.99 - 10.97%

Key facts

Best for graduate students who'll need extra time before starting repayment.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • International students can qualify with a co-signer.

  • Nine-month grace period is longer than other lenders offer.

Cons

  • You must be at least halfway through your repayment term before you can request a co-signer release.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.

  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

5, 8, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 7/22/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

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Our picks for

Private pharmacy school loans

These lenders offer private loans with unique features for pharmacy students, like higher loan limits and letting you defer payments during residency.

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

3.50 - 12.60%

Variable APR

1.13 - 11.23%
Check rate

on Sallie Mae's website


Variable APR

1.13 - 11.23%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Sallie Mae's private student loan. Sallie Mae’s health professionals student loan lets you defer payments for up to four years during a residency or fellowship.

Pros

  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.

  • Borrowers can access online tutoring and free credit score tracking.

  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a U.S. co-signer.

Cons

  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.

Available Term Lengths

10 to 15 years

Disclaimer

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: The borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction benefit. This benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. Payments may be required during the grace/separation period depending on the repayment option selected. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRS assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Advertised APRs are valid as of 07/22/2021. Loan amounts: Loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received, as certified by the school. Sallie Mae reserves the right to approve a lower loan amount than the school-certified amount.

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PNC Private Student Loan

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
PNC Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

4.49 - 9.64%

Variable APR

2.92 - 8.07%

Variable APR

2.92 - 8.07%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for PNC's private student loan. PNC’s health and medical professions student loan may let you defer payments during residency.

Pros

  • Interest rate discount for autopay is larger than most lenders offer.

Cons

  • No formal forbearance options.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $50,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years.

Read Full Review

Citizens Private Student Loan

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Citizens Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

3.49 - 10.95%

Variable APR

1.04 - 10.42%

Variable APR

1.04 - 10.42%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Citizens Bank's private student loan. Doctor of Pharmacy students can take out up to $350,000 with a Citizens health professional student loan.

Pros

  • Six-month grace period extension is available.

  • Loyalty discount for existing Citizens Bank customers.

  • Multiyear loan approval is available.

Cons

  • You must be pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Does not disclose.

  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $100,000.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Student Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.04%-11.02% (1.04%-10.42% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.49%-11.70% (3.49% - 10.95% APR).

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Our pick for

International pharmacy students

International students without an eligible co-signer have few options to get a student loan for pharmacy school.

Prodigy Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Prodigy Private Student Loan

Min. Credit Score

N/A

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

7.52 - 12.00%

Variable APR

7.52 - 12.00%

Pros

  • Offers a hard-to-find option: non-co-signed student loans for international students.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Cons

  • No fixed interest rates.

  • Not available to borrowers in all 50 states including: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.

Qualifications

  • Prodigy Finance considers future income, rather than current income or credit score.

  • Loan amounts: $15,000 to $220,000.

Available Term Lengths

7, 10, 15 or 20 years

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Income share agreements

A pharmacist’s earning potential may make an income share agreement, or ISA, less risky than it would be for other professions.

Stride Funding Income Share Agreement
Check rate

on Stride's website

Stride Funding Income Share Agreement

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Stride Funding Income Share Agreement

Min. Credit Score

None

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A
Check rate

on Stride's website


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for health care and STEM students who’ll pay less than with a private student loan.

Pros

  • Payments aren’t due if you’re unemployed.

  • Lending decisions are not based on your credit score.

  • You receive free career services, including job placement support.

Cons

  • There’s no discount for paying off your agreement early like some lenders offer.

  • Funding may not be available based on your school or major.

  • Not available in South Carolina.

Qualifications

  • Eligibility is based on factors like academic program and projected salary, not credit score.

  • Loan amounts: $3,000 to $25,000 annually; $50,000 lifetime maximum.

  • Payment cap: Two times the amount borrowed.

  • Income share percentages: Typically 6% to 9%; lifetime max is 20%.

Available Term Lengths

5 years, but can extend to up to 10 years.

Read Full Review

What is the best pharmacy school student loan?

1. Health Professions Student Loans

You may be able to receive a health professions student loan for pharmacy school from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. These loans have a fixed 5% interest rate and don’t accrue interest while you’re in school or during a 12-month grace period, making them the only subsidized loan for graduate students.

You must demonstrate financial need to get a health professions student loan, and not all schools participate in the HRSA’s loan program. Funding amounts vary, so you may need to take on additional debt to pay for your Doctor of Pharmacy, or Pharm.D., degree.

2. Federal Graduate Student Loans

Pharmacy students are eligible for two types of federal student loans.

  • Federal unsubsidized loans. Unsubsidized loans have lower interest rates and fees than PLUS loans, so max these out first. You can get up to $20,500 annually.

  • Federal graduate PLUS loans. If unsubsidized loans won’t cover all your costs, you can take out up to your cost of attendance, minus other aid received, in PLUS loans.

All government loans — including those from the HRSA — can qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Roughly 30% of pharmacists in the class of 2020 plan to work for an employer that could qualify for PSLF, such as a hospital or university, based on data from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Stick with federal loans if you’ll be among them.

Federal loans also offer income-driven repayment plans that tie payments to a percentage of your discretionary income, typically 10%. This option can be useful during periods in which your salary might be low, like if you plan to do a one- or two-year post-graduate residency.

If you don’t need federal loan benefits, you can refinance pharmacy school loans with a private lender to save money when you start working.

3. Sallie Mae Health Professions Student Loan

Sallie Mae offers a specific private loan for aspiring health professionals such as pharmacy students. Citizens, PNC and Discover also have similar products.

Sallie Mae’s health professions loan stands out because it offers options that future pharmacists may value. For example, you can defer payments during residency. You can also apply to remove the co-signer from your loan after making 12 on-time payments, which is faster than the other lenders allow.

4. Ascent Graduate Student Loan

Ascent’s graduate student loan isn’t just for health professionals, but it sets itself apart from other graduate loans by offering more forbearance (24 months) and a longer grace period (nine months). Those benefits may come in handy when repaying pharmacy school loans.

Consider private loans if you don’t need federal benefits and you or a co-signer has excellent credit. You may qualify for a lower rate than the government offers on PLUS loans. Most private lenders also don’t have origination fees, while PLUS loans charge over 4%.

If you don’t need the features of a private health professions loan, shop around to find the least expensive loan possible. Many lenders offer graduate student loans, including College Ave and SoFi.

5. Stride Funding Income Share Agreement

Stride Funding offers income share agreements, or ISAs, to graduate students, particularly those in health care fields.

ISAs aren't student loans. With an ISA, you agree to repay a portion of your salary for a set term in exchange for upfront funding. Be sure to estimate how much you would pay based on pharmacist salary data before taking on an ISA. You may pay more or less than you would with a pharmacy school loan.

How to get student loans for pharmacy school

  • Complete the FAFSA to get federal student loans. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the gateway to most types of federal student aid, including unsubsidized loans, graduate PLUS loans and, typically, health professions student loans.

  • Submit any paperwork for federal health professions loans. If your school participates in the HRSA loan programs, it may require a different application form than the FAFSA. Contact your school’s financial aid office to ask about its process.

  • Apply directly with a lender to get private loans. If you’re considering a private pharmacy school loan, look for lenders that let you prequalify. That way you can compare rates without affecting your credit. Once you’ve found the best option, you’ll likely be able to start the application process on the lender’s website.

Last updated on July 28, 2021

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Pharmacy School Loans of August 2021